Alaska National Parks
One-half of all U.S. national park land is in Alaska! It's easy to see what the appeal is.
Denali National Park
It's more than a mountain. Denali National Park & Preserve features North America's highest mountain, 20,320-foot tall Mount McKinley. The Alaska Range also includes countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. Denali's more than 6 million acres also encompass a complete sub-arctic eco-system with large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose. The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917. The original park was designated a wilderness area and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The Park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976.
Today the park accommodates a wide variety of visitor use including wildlife viewing, mountaineering, and backpacking. It continues to provide a laboratory for research in the natural sciences.
Gates of the Arctic National Park
By establishing Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve (GAAR) in Alaska's Brooks Range, Congress has reserved a vast and essentially untouched area of superlative natural beauty and exceptional scientific value - a maze of glaciated valleys and gaunt, rugged mountains covered with boreal forest and arctic tundra vegetation, cut by wild rivers, and inhabited by far-ranging populations of caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and bears (barren-ground grizzlies and black bears). Congress recognized that a special value of the Park and Preserve is its wild and undeveloped character, and the opportunities it affords for solitude, wilderness travel, and adventure. Gates of the Arctic encompasses several congressionally recognized elements, including the national park, national preserve, wilderness, six Wild Rivers and two National Natural Landmarks. The National Park Service is entrusted to manage this area to protect its physical resources and to maintain the intangible qualities of the wilderness and the opportunity it provides for people to learn and renew its values.
The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for adventure, a living laboratory for observing the ebb and flow of glaciers, and a chance to study life as it returns in the wake of retreating ice. Amidst majestic scenery, Glacier Bay offers us now, and for all time, a connection to a powerful and wild landscape. The park has snow-capped mountain ranges rising to over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, and freshwater lakes. These diverse land and seascapes host a mosaic of plant communities ranging from pioneer species in areas recently exposed by receding glaciers, to climax communities in older coastal and alpine ecosystems. Diverse habitats support a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife, with opportunities for viewing and research that allow us to learn more about the natural world.
Katmai is famous for volcanoes, brown bears, fish, and rugged wilderness and is also the site of the Brooks River National Historic Landmark with North America's highest concentration of prehistoric human dwellings (about 900). Katmai National Monument was created to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a spectacular forty square mile, 100 to 700 foot deep, pyroclastic ash flow deposited by Novarupta Volcano.
There are at least fourteen volcanoes in Katmai considered "active", none of which are currently erupting.
Brown bear and salmon are very active in Katmai. The number of brown bears has grown to more than 2,000. During the peak of the world's largest sockeye salmon run each July, and during return of the "spawned out" salmon in September, forty to sixty bears congregate in Brooks Camp along the Brooks River and the Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake shorelines. Brown bears along the 480 mile Katmai Coast also enjoy clams, crabs, and an occasional whale carcass.
A rich variety of other wildlife is found in the Park as well.
There is plenty room for great diversity of wildlife in Katmai which encompasses millions of acres of pristine wilderness, with wild rivers and streams, rugged coastlines, broad green glacial hewn valleys, active glaciers and volcanoes, and Naknek Lake.
Sweeping from rocky coastline to glacier-crowned peaks, Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses 607,805 acres of unspoiled wilderness on the southeast coast of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The park is capped by the Harding Icefield, a relic from past ice-ages and the largest icefield entirely within U.S. borders.
Visitors witness a landscape continuously shaped by glaciers, earthquakes, and storms. Orcas, otters, puffins, bear, moose and mountain goats are just a few of the numerous animals that make their home in this ever-changing place where mountains, ice and ocean meet.
The Park offers a range of opportunities for visitors, students and scientists to explore, study and enjoy this special piece of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.
Kobuk Valley National Park is encircled by the Baird and Waring mountain ranges. The park povides protection for several important geographic features, including the central portion of the Kobuk River, the 25-sqaure-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, and the Little Kobuk and Hunt River dunes.
Sand created by the grinding action of ancient glaciers has been carried to the Kobuk Valley by both wind and water. Dunes now cover much of the southern portion of the Kobuk Valley, where they are naturally stabilized by vegetation. River bluffs, composed of sand and standing as high as 150 feet, hold permafrost ice wedges and the fossils of Ice Age mammals.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a composite of ecosystems representative of many regions of Alaska. The spectacular scenery stretches from the shores of Cook Inlet, across the Chigmit Mountains, to the tundra covered hills of the western interior. The Chigmits, where the Alaska and Aleutian Ranges meet, are an awesome, jagged array of mountains and glaciers which include two active volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna. Lake Clark, 40 miles long, and many other lakes and rivers within the park are critical salmon habitat to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, one of the largest sockeye salmon fishing grounds in the world. Numerous lake and river systems in the park and preserve offer excellent fishing and wildlife viewing.
Wrangell Saint Elias
The Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias mountain ranges converge here in what is often referred to as the "mountain kingdom of North America." The largest unit of the National Park System and a day's drive east of Anchorage, this spectacular park includes the continent's largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in the United States.
Adjacent to Canada's Kluane National Park, the site is characterized by remote mountains, sweeping valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife.
Proclaimed as Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument Dec. 1, 1978; established as a national park and preserve Dec. 2, 1980. Wilderness designated Dec. 2, 1980. Designated a World Heritage Site Oct. 24, 1979.