ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog Arctic & Northern Books About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

















Save on Patagonia at Altrec

















Flightseeing Mt. McKinley & Denali National Park, Alaska


Aviation in the North

A Guide to Denali National Park and Area



Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it

 

Aerial view of Denali National Park, Alaska Man, I LOVE flying!! But the reality of guiding tours is that the free time needed to go flightseeing doesn't come very often, and it almost never comes when the weather is good enough to justify spending a few hundred dollars on the flight.

On August 27, 2002, though, everything lined up and while my group was out on the Tundra Wilderness Tour into the park, I drove down to Denali Air's gravel strip along the Parks Highway just south of the park gates.

The first photo was shot just after takeoff, at 10:55am.

Aerial view of Denali National Park, Alaska Once I reached Denali Air, it didn't take long to get everyone aboard N6620L, a twin-engined 1969 Piper PA-31-310 Navaho. It carries 7 passengers plus the pilot.

We began our flight by going southwest up Riley Creek into the wilderness to stay away from the Denali park road. A large and fairly detailed map on the NPS site will give you a good idea of what the route looks like.

Aerial view of the Sanctuary River - Denali National Park, Alaska The Sanctuary River at 11:00am. Carrying a GPS, or better yet getting a camera with a GPS geo-tagging system, would sure be nice on a flight like this! Most of the photos that follow don't have the location noted because I unfortunately haven't figured it out, but I've noted the times they were shot so you can see how fast things changed. The detailed maps in the Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer helped me track much of the route, though.
Flying over the East Fork of the Toklat River - Denali National Park, Alaska This photo of the East Fork of the Toklat River was shot at 11:01am.
Flying over the East Fork of the Toklat River - Denali National Park, Alaska Passing the East Fork of the Toklat River at 11:02am.
Flying over the Toklat River - Denali National Park, Alaska The main channel of the Toklat River at 11:04am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:05am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:10am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:10am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:11am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska Mount McKinley, or Denali as she's known in Alaska, is a stunning sight. The tallest mountain in North America at 20,237 feet (6,168 meters), she towers far above all the surrounding mountains and is visible from both Anchorage and Fairbanks on clear days. This photo was shot at 11:11am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:14am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:17am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska The Muldrow Glacier, looking north at 11:18am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:18am.
Flightseeing at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:18am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:20am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:20am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska Getting in tight to Denali's cliffs like this, you really have to trust your pilot, even on a crystal-clear day like this. This photo was shot at 11:23am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:23am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:24am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:26am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska Several massive glaciers flow from the south slopes of the Alaska Range - see this topographical map. This photo shows the view looking down the 36-mile-long Kahiltna Glacier, at 11:27am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:28am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:30am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:30am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska At 11:31am, even the pilot was taking pictures.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:32am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:36am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:39am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska Another plane can be seen far below us, just over the wing, at 11:41am.
Scenic flying at Sable Pass - Denali National Park, Alaska The park road can be seen here at Sable Pass at 11:41am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:43am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:44am.
Scenic flying at Denali National Park, Alaska This photo was shot at 11:50am as we dropped back into the Nenana River valley.
Alaska's Nenana River from the air The Nenana River, the George Parks Highway and, directly above the wing, the airstrip, at 11:52.
Alaska's Nenana River valley from the air Looking north down the valley, with the George Parks Highway at the lower part of the photo, and the Alaska Railroad across the middle.
Alaska's Nenana River from the air The Nenana River twists around so much here that it runs parallel to itself in opposite directions for a few hundred yards. The lowest hotel complex in the photo is the McKinley Village, with Denali River Cabins and Cedars Lodge above that and Denali Grizzly Bear Resort on the other side of the highway.
Denali Air pilot and a happy passenger A final photo with the pilot, shot right at noon. It was only an hour, but a truly incredible hour!



Home Page About ExploreNorth Contact Us Advertise Here Add Your Site Search This Site