Denali Biosphere Reserve and National Park is situated in south-central Alaska centered on the Alaska Range which separates the coastal lowland from the interior. Denali comprises Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America towering 4,800 meters above the surrounding landscape as well as Denali fault system, the largest crustal break in North America.


Declaration Date: 1976
Surface Area: 782,000 ha
Administrative Division: Alaska

Human Activities

  • Resource management activities
  • Research, including inventory and monitoring of resources
  • Visitor activities (458,307 visitors in 2007): shuttle buses or tour buses traveling on the 148-km park road; back country hiking, camping, or travel by dog team (winter)
  • Mountaineering (1218 attempted to climb Mt McKinley in 2008)
  • Traditional subsistence activities, e.g., hunting, trapping, gathering firewood (new park and preserve, for those who qualify)
  • Concessioner-guided activities
  • Sport hunting (preserve only)
  • Professional photography (with permit)

Ecological Characteristics

The landscapes and ecosystems of Denali National Park and Preserve are influenced by geological history, earth movements, climate, the advance and retreat of glaciers, permafrost, wildland fire, and water flow.

One of the major influences on Denali’s ecosystems is the Alaska Range, the massive wall of rock, glacial ice, and snow running from southwest to northeast across the Park’s 2.4 million hectares.

It towers above and separates the Kuskokwim and Tanana river basins to the north from the Susitna River lowlands to the south. This mountain barrier creates two major climate zones in the Park and dramatic elevation differences.

Denali is located within the northern boreal forest biome. The park’s ecosystems range from lowlands with taiga forests, braided glacial stream floodplains, and meandering sloughs; to subalpine woodlands, meadows, and scrub tundra (willow, alder, and dwarf birch); to alpine low-shrub tundra slopes and unvegetated steep peaks, including Denali (Mt. McKinley) at 6,194 meters.

Nearly one third of Denali is made up of high, glaciated mountains and bare rock outcrops. The upper limit of plant growth is about 2290 meters. Species of vertebrates: 39 mammals, including grizzly (brown) bear, gray wolf, caribou, moose, and Dall’s sheep; 168 birds (116 documented breeding); 14 fish; 0 reptiles; and 1 amphibian (wood frog). Species of plants: 754 vascular plants (8 tree species), and approximately 600 species of mosses, lichens, and liverworts.

Protection Classifications

~1/3 area established as park, wilderness, and wildlife “refuge” in 1917 (as Mount McKinley National Park). Area added in 1980 (as Denali National Park and Preserve).

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                                                                                      Last updated : November 2015

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