The Heartland of AlaskaIn Alaska’s heartland, you’ll see the continent’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley, and wide expanses of tundra. The forests are teeming with wildlife and bird life ranging from the formidable grizzly to stately herds of caribou to the state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan. Experience summer’s midnight sun or the winter’s northern lights. Wildlife can be seen on the highway that runs by Denali National Park, carrying visitors to and from Anchorage and Fairbanks. Interior is the original home of Alaska’s Athabascan Indians. Gold miners, farmers and fur trappers later discovered the riches of this region.
As visitors head north via the Alaska Highway, the first town encountered is Tok. Located between the Tanana River and the Alaska Range, Tok is a trade center for several Athabascan Native villages. While in Tok, visit the Tok Public Lands Information Center for museum displays, a wildlife film and trip-planning information. The Tok Chamber of Commerce “Main Street Alaska” Visitors Center also provides helpful advice for accessing local hiking, fishing, flightseeing and bicycling attractions. Take the Taylor Highway north to visit the gold rush transportation center of Eagle and park headquarters for the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. From Eagle, you can take a weeklong float trip down the Yukon River to Circle or take a cruise to Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The Alaska Highway officially ends in Delta Junction. From here you can arrange to visit glaciers, pick wild berries, fish for Arctic grayling or even observe a head of American bison at the Delta Bison Range East of town, the Clearwater State Recreation Site offers fishing, camping and boat access to the Tanana and Goodpaster rivers.
Cool video of Denali National Park
Fairbanks – Gateway to the Interior, Arctic and Far North:
In 1902, Felix Pedro found gold in the region and thousands of prospectors swarmed to the area in search of the “Mother lode.” Nearly a century later, Fairbanks (population 30,244) is the trade and transportation center for Interior and Far North Alaska. From mid-May through July, visitors can enjoy more than 20 hours of sunlight a day.
Mt. McKinley & Denali National Park and Preserve:
From Nenana, continue south to Mt. McKinley and Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali is the Athabascan name for Mt. McKinley, meaning “the high one.” The area offers hotels, campgrounds and many other visitor services. Recreational opportunities include hiking, rock and ice climbing, photography, wildlife viewing, nature walks, horseback treks and river excursions.
Shuttle bus service and guided tours into the park’s wilderness are offered, as private vehicles are not permitted within the National Park. The 91-mile road traverses the park offering views of Wonder Lake, Savage River, Polychrome Pass, the Outer Range, Sanctuary River, Muldrow Glacier and the Kantishna mining district. While traveling on the busses, visitors have an opportunity to see caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, moose, Dall sheep, lynx, marmots, fox and snowshoe hares. Many of the park’s birds visit during the summer months, but year-round residents include ravens, great horned owls and three species of ptarmigan.
To the southeast of the national park, visit Denali State Park for its famous panoramic views of Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range.
The Denali Highway takes you just south of the Alaska Range, From Cantwell at the edge of Denali National Park to Paxson. Just east of Paxson lies the Gulkana River, where spawning salmon can be seen from mid to late summer. These salmon are protected, but the region offers other excellent fishing opportunities for trout and grayling.