Early season is about quiet wonder – and great rates!
Like so many people who love the rugged and wild landscape of Denali National Park, Christopher Hudson is chomping at the bit. In only a few more weeks, he’ll be heading into the Denali Backcountry Lodge, deep in the heart of the national park, to start getting operations ready for summer.
The lodge opens June 4. Christopher promises a few weeks of stellar early season adventures for those keen to come during June. He says late spring is a quieter and quite magical season in Denali.
Tip: Expect crisp morning during June in Denali. Lots of sunshine means it’ll warm up fast. But you definitely always want to bring a rain jacket, rain pants and sturdy pair of hiking boots. And spring foliage can be dense – lots of low trees and brushes require gaiters as well.
Driving Deep into Denali
After being in the city for the winter, Christopher says he’s looking forward to the remoteness of the Denali backcountry. Last year, he was the first one to drive the 92 miles down the restricted-access Denali Park Road to the lodge. He stopped at the Mile 30 gate, unlocked it and then locked it behind him. After that, it was just him for 70 miles.
“You really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “It’s an incredible draw.”
Christopher adores the drive into the Denali Backcountry Lodge. The Stony Hill Overlook and the Eielson Visitor Center – which both have amazing views of the Central Alaska Range – are his favorite spots to stop en route. Because of the winter snow that’s still on the mountain, he says the mountain looks clearer and more defined in spring.
“Every time I do the drive, it feels new,” he says.
June a Time of Wonder and Quiet
Guests can expect June in Denali to be a time of wonder and quiet. The air is still crisp and clear, and the snowy peaks of the Alaska Range – still covered in snow – make for outstanding photos.
Warm sun brings a lushness to the tundra. It’s a dramatic season. Foliage changes from brown to green. And the transitions can be quick. Hudson says you can head out in the morning on a hike only to discover new blooms by the time you get back. New flora is appearing almost daily.
Tip: In spring, Denali welcomes scores of migratory birds back from their winter ‘retreat’ down south. Like bears, they’re hungry. Here in Denali they’ll feast on mosquitos, an essential part of the Denali ecosystem.
Wildlife Waking Up
Late spring is a busy time of year for wildlife in the park. It’s possible to see moose calves, many just born in May ‘wobbling around on their skinny legs’ as well as wolf pups and bear cubs making their first forages into the world.
Great early season hikes include McKinley Bar, which offers great views of Denali, and the demanding Triple Lakes Trail that winds through taiga forests where tiny pearl-colored pasque flowers bloom in spring. But, it can be muddy in spring. Be sure to bring the right footwear and gaiters.
Tip: Bears will have recently emerged from the dens in the springtime. They’re active and hungry, so just like any other season in Denali, be sure you are bear aware and know how to travel safely in bear country.
Basecamp at the Cabins
By early June, the action will be in full-swing at communities around the Denali National Park entrance. Denali Cabins is a great basecamp for loads of activities – whitewater rafting, helitours, flightseeing, ATV tours, ziplining, biking and hiking, just to name some. In June, it’s great for people looking for an experience more varied than remote hiking. Guides will be keen and crowds minimal – another great reason to head to Denali in spring!
There’s still at least a month to go before breakup is complete and the roads are cleared into the backcountry. Hudson and his team are counting down the days.
Both Denali Backcountry Lodge and Denali Cabins (opens May 20) offer great early-season rates for June. Check it out!