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Best Places to Get Amazing Views of Denali (Mt. McKinley)

Best Places to Get Amazing Views of Denali (Mt. McKinley)

For most people, a trip to Alaska isn’t complete without getting a few amazing views of Denali (Mt. McKinley), and with good reason—North America’s tallest peak (20,320 feet), commonly called Denali, is beautiful. From afar, it’s massive. And up close, the sheer granite walls, alpine glaciers, and pillowing snow cornices are otherworldly.

But getting to see the mountain can be difficult; Denali is so big it makes its own weather, and it’s completely shrouded by clouds roughly 1/3 of the time. Still, with clouds, storms, fog, and sunny high-pressure systems all battling it out around Denali, the peak can appear at any moment. And you can even see it from Anchorage, 125 miles away! You might see it from downtown, from a river rafting trip outside Talkeetna, driving the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks, or while on a flightseeing trip or Alaska Railroad tour.

There are several excellent opportunities for Denali viewing and photo shoots during a typical Denali Southside River Guides raft or kayak tour assuming the weather to cooperates!

Talkeetna Denali Overview and Ski Loop Pull Out

Talkeetna views of Denali at the Overlook

Just 1 mile south of Talkeetna you’ll get your first glimpse of Denali (Mt. McKinley). Across from the entrance to the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, there’s a pull-out on the left with wonderful Denali views with the Susitna River and foothills in the foreground.  The foothills are 3,000–4,000 feet high and behind them looms Denali, five times as high!

A 1.5-mile-long ski loop begins at the pullout that also makes for a nice summertime walk. Halfway through the loop, this trail follows a ridge above the Susitna River with views of Denali and the Alaska Range. You can find the trailhead at the south end of the Mt. McKinley Scenic Overlook parking lot. Walk south about 100 yards uphill and you’ll see a trail access sign off to the right. This loop is quite hilly and can be muddy in the Spring or during wet weather.

Talkeetna Alaska Lodge

Views of Denali from the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge

Built atop a high bluff, the lodge overlooks the Susitna River Valley and surveys the entire Alaska Range, with Denali (Mt. McKinley) right in the middle. Sip a local Alaskan microbrew on a huge deck overlooking rolling green lawns, forest, rivers, tundra, foothills, and Denali rising in the background. The lodge is near the airport, and the planes in the foreground really put the mountain in perspective. A sign tells you which peak is which.

Many of our customers stay at the lodge so their raft or kayak trip begins here.

Byers Lake

Amazing views of denali from byers lake

Byers Lake is the largest lake in Denali State Park. It is located at Mile 146.5 of the Parks Highway in the heart of Denali State Park and offers incredible lake kayaking. Kayaking or canoeing on Byers Lake is a terrific opportunity to get out of town and break away from the crowds of people and tourist traps and immerse yourself in Alaskan nature.

This lake is closed to boats with gasoline-operated motors and aircraft to ensure the tranquility of the area. Glide through peaceful waters on single or tandem sit-on-top kayaks that can be rented at the lake.

From this vantage point not only do you get breathtaking views of Denali and the Alaska Mountain Range but you’ll also have a chance to see resident trumpeter swans, loons, and beavers or paddle over pools of spawning salmon while looking for the bears and eagles that come to feed on them.

Denali Kayak Tour

Denali Southside River Guides Talkeetna rafting kayaking boating Alaska

Come see the beauty of Byers Lake with Denali as a backdrop as you glide through tranquil waters on single or tandem sit-on-top kayaks. Tours start with brief and easy paddle instructions then embark for one of the most beautiful experiences in Alaska with spectacular Denali and wildlife vistas.

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Watch for resident trumpeter swans, loons and beavers. Paddle over pools of spawning salmon. Look for the bears and eagles that come to feed on them. Take pictures of the breathtaking views of Denali and the Alaska Mountain Range. Don’t worry about your gear — we will provide you with rain pants and jackets, boots or crocs, and dry bags for cameras.

Mary Carey’s McKinley View Lodge

views of denali from Mary Carey's Mckinley view lodge

This lodge is located a short distance from towns and off the beaten path giving you the advantage of Denali viewing with less competition for the best seat while you eat. Mary’s McKinley View Lodge is located at 134.5 on the George Parks Highway. This locally owned and operated lodge was homesteaded by author Mary Carey in 1962 and is now run by her daughter Jean Carey. On clear days, a magnificent view of Mt. McKinley can be seen from all motel rooms, the cafe dining area, and the parking lot. With full-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner you can dine with spectacular views of Denali (Mount McKinley) any time of the day.

A warm lunch at this historic lodge is included in the Full Day Denali Raft & Kayak Excursion offered by Denali Southside River Guides.

The Chulitna River

views of denali from the big susitna river

Exploring Denali State Park, wildlife, and pristine landscape by floating its waterways is an incredible experience. This is your best chance to leave the crowded highways, bus seats, restaurants and noisy motors behind and escape into the natural beauty.

Denali Southside river Guides offers a half day Chulitna River Float trip with a peaceful, scenic, 19-mile float through the stunning Chulitna Canyon ending at the confluence of three rivers (Chulitna, Susitna, and Talkeetna) in the village of Talkeetna. The full day combination Raft & Kayak guided trip will give you both the Byer’s Lake and the Chulitna River views of Denali and the Alaska Range, as well as the Talkeetna Mountains.

Talkeetna Riverfront Park

Views of Denali from talkeetna riverfront park

Your guided float trip ends here. at the end of Main Street in Talkeetna where you’ll find yourself at the confluence of three wild rivers, overlooking the 20,000-foot peak. Just a short walk to downtown, this large, river-centered park offers wide open, untouched spaces, along with great panoramic views of Denali and the Alaska Range.

Here you’ll see the mingling of 3 swift glacial rivers: the Talkeetna, Susitna, and Chulitna. If you look closely you can see a slightly different color of water flowing from each of the three rivers that join to form the “Big Susitna River.”

Walk along the water’s edge, or take a romantic stroll on the gravelly, scenic sand bars. You might see people enjoying a campfire while sitting on huge, fallen cottonwood trees; other rafters floating by after a day on the river; or jet boat drivers speeding by in the broad expanse of water.

Kesugi Ridge Trail System

views of denali from kesugi ridge

For hikers and backpackers, the Kesugi trail system is famous for fantastic views of Denali and the Alaska Range from the alpine areas of Kesugi Ridge. With over 27 miles to explore the trail system is rated as “moderate” and winds through varied terrain and climbs 6700 feet. Once you get above the tree line the official ridge hike starts. If you’re lucky, the weather will cooperate and Denali will be visible. You will walk with your head fixed on the view, gaping in amazement at the panoramic beauty. Denali (McKinley), Hunter, Foraker, Moose’s Tooth, several small lakes and the braided Chulitna River are all visible from this ridge.

There are four trail access points on the Alaska Hwy. Mile 137.6 at the Upper Troublesome Creek Trailhead. Mile 147.0 at Byers Lake Campground, Ermine Hill Trailhead at Mile 156.5 and Little Coal Creek Trailhead at Mile 163.9. We offer shuttle services to and from each of these trailheads and the McKinley Princess Lodge in Talkeetna or Byer’s Lake.

 

The Beauty of Byers Lake. A Gem You Don’t Want to Miss!

The Beauty of Byers Lake. A Gem You Don’t Want to Miss!

Alaska is a place full of breathtaking sights, clean air, and undeniable beauty. It’s easy to see why artist Sydney Laurence made it his home and never left. A vacation to the last frontier will leave you with an unforgettable experience. In a state over twice the size of Texas, the travel options might seem overwhelming. Alaska has mountain ranges, glaciers, tundra, abundant wildlife, and oh yeah ­ the northern lights. The entire landscape is amazing but you would be missing out if you didn’t visit Byers Lake in Denali State Park. The lake and the surrounding wilderness are a fantastic place to experience nature without busloads of camera-toting, selfie-­snapping tourists.

Byers Lake is a dream for campers, kayakers, hikers, and all outdoors enthusiasts. The panorama doesn’t fail to please. Tree­-lined­-views, crystal clear lake shores, distant mountain ranges, beautiful skies, and Denali (Mount McKinley) cap off the view. Denali Southside River Guides offers kayak and canoe rentals and the lake’s sole boat dock gives you an easy place to launch. Gas powered motors aren’t allowed on the lake, so the peaceful surroundings aren’t disturbed by roaring engines. This is a place where you can commune with nature. Keep reading to learn more about why you need to visit Byers Lake.

Byers Lake Campground

The campground at Byers Lake offers a few amenities. Already mentioned are the canoe and kayak rentals but you can also book a 1/2 day guided kayak tour of the lake with guides experienced in Alaskan wildlife, nature and local living. Consider making the tour a full day and add a raft excursion down the scenic, glacial fed Chulitna River.

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There is also firewood for purchase, which can be a welcome addition on cold nights. The amenities aren’t the reason you come to Byers Lake campground, though; you come for scenery, nature and an authentic Alaskan experience. In this respect, the lake delivers. A common misperception is that Alaska is perpetually buried under a blanket of snow, but the greenery of Byers Lake campground is abundant and widespread. The variety of flowers and natural berries around the lake will please most plant lovers.

The park is open year round but summer and fall are the best seasons for greenery and outdoor activity. The campground entrance fee is $5. A negligible trade for the amount of entertainment you can get from this beautiful area. There are 73 campsites to choose from with a $15 fee. Nature feels uninterrupted here, even though there are well-traveled trails around the lake, and the wildlife seems to agree.

The Alaska Veteran’s Memorial

The Alaska Veteran’s Memorial is also located within the Byers Lake Campground. The memorial consists of five 20-foot tall concrete panels, one each to represent the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, arranged in a semi-circle. A statue of two Alaska Territorial Guards, carved by Canadian sculptor George Pratt, great you at the entrance. On each panel is a short history of that branch’s contribution to Alaska.

Public Use Cabins

Whether you are staying with a group of friends, don’t have a tent or other camping gear, or just feel more comfortable inside four walls, Byers Lake Campground has three public use cabins available. The cabins are available for $70 during peak times. Because there are only three, you will need to reserve yours several months in advance.

These are rustic, minimalist cabins in the woods, not ski lodges decked out to look like cabins. Don’t expect a TV and refrigerator, in fact, don’t expect a toilet in these cabins (the toilet is nearby, though!). Each cabin has a wood stove to help manage the cooler weather, sleeping platforms, a food­-prep counter, fire ring, and picnic table. As mentioned above, you can rent firewood to burn from the campground host. While all three cabins have slightly different layouts, each max out at six guests and five night stretches. It’s worth noting also that the cabins lack electricity, except cabin three. This cabin is wired and ready, as long as you bring a generator to provide the power.

 

Public Use Byers Lake Cabin #1
Byers Lake Cabin #1
Public Use Byers Lake Cabin #2
Byers Lake Cabin #2
Public Use Byers Lake Cabin #3
Byers Lake Cabin #3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byers Lake Cabin #1 (12′ X 16′) Sleeps 6 (maximum 6) with a maximum stay of 5 consecutive nights. Summer access: gravel road for one mile from the highway. Winter access: Park at the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial, milepost 147.1, Parks Highway, and follow the marked winter trail with snow vehicle, skis, dog sled, or on foot. At the bottom of the hill near the lake, take the left-hand fork – total distance is one mile. This hand-crafted, sod-roofed log cabin is a true example of a traditional Alaskan bush cabin.

Byers Lake Cabin #2 (12′ X 16′) Sleeps 6 (maximum 6) with a maximum stay of 5 consecutive nights. Summer access: one-half mile walk from the gate in the campground, or canoe one-half mile from boat launch. Winter access: Park at the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial, milepost 147.1, Parks Highway, and follow the marked winter trail with snow vehicle, skis, dog sled, or on foot. At the bottom of the hill near the lake, take the right-hand fork – total distance is 1.7 mile.

Byers Lake Cabin #3 (14′ X 20′) Sleeps 6 (maximum 6) with a maximum stay of 5 consecutive nights. Summer access: one-half mile walk from the gate in the campground, or canoe one-half mile from boat launch. Winter access: Park at the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial, milepost 147.1, Parks Highway, and follow the marked winter trail with snow vehicle, skis, dog sled, or on foot. At the bottom of the hill near the lake, take the right-hand fork. The Cabin is about 70 yds. south from public cabin #2.

Reservations are not accepted over the phone but can be made online at Reserve America or in person at Public Information Center offices located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau or at the nearest State Park office.

Wildlife

There are plenty of animals besides the five species of salmon in the lake. Wildlife in the area is just that ­ wild, so if you see a bear, please keep your distance. There are 223 different species of animal that live in the Denali State Park area. Birdwatchers rejoice because 169 are species of birds. Of note, you may catch a glimpse of an American classic, the bald eagle. Other birds to watch for include trumpeter swans, loons, mergansers, golden eagles. Aside from the birds, sheep, moose, caribou, black bears, wolves, and grizzly bears all live in Denali State Park. As can be expected, larger animals tend to shy away from human populations, so you are more likely to see varieties of squirrels, foxes, and marmots wandering through the park. Make sure to seal your food at night as bears may wander around the campsites. Whether you’re out for birds, bears, or just the scenery, bring along a pair of binoculars!

Byers Lake Trumpeter Swans
Byers Lake Resident Trumpeter Swan Family

 

Hiking Trails

You might start off your trip with a hike around the Byers Lake Trail. Plan a little longer than an hour and a half to walk the 5­mile length of Byers Lake Trail. The trail is clear but wilder than trails at a more heavily trafficked park. On top of that, there’s a chance you’ll want to stop along the way to take in the beautiful sights or have a picnic.

Byers Lake sits at the foot of the Kesugi Ridge, which means access to excellent hiking via the Kesugi Ridge trail system. If hiking is your thing, the area offers several trails varying in difficulties from easy to hard. Other trailheads close by include Little Coal Creek, Ermine, and Troublesome Creek. Load up your backpack, put on your shoes, and hit the trails!

View of Denali from Byers Lake
View of Denali from Byers Lake

Byers Lake Campground offers one of the best views of Denali in the entire state. It’s also a perfect launching ground for hiking, canoeing, bird watching, fishing, camping, and so much more. If it’s not love at first sight, you’ll definitely find yourself wishing you could stay forever after a week in the final frontier. There are a few options regarding where you could stay around Denali, but you don’t want to fall into a tourist trap. Byers Lake Campground is a place where you can avoid the crowds and the noise, escape from the outside world, and get close to nature. A visit here is an authentic Alaskan outdoor experience.

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