Knowing the facts: Denali

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Denali, Mount McKinley, The Great One. There’s no shortage of terms Alaskans use to refer to the tallest mountain in North America and its surrounding six million acres. But if you want to talk location, when you visit Denali National Park and Preserve, you’re not staying in Denali at all. In fact, there is no such town as Denali. Instead, where you’re likely to base your adventure is a strip along the Parks Highway between Cantwell and Healy known as the Nenana River Canyon. This area contains not only the entrance to the actual park and the visitor center, but also the majority of visitor services for park exploration. Just one mile from the park entrance, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge sits on the banks of the Nenana River, ideally located to access whatever type of Denali adventure you’re looking for — from flightseeing and glacier landings, to rafting trips and hiking.

You’ve likely also heard the mountain itself referred to as Denali, but the official name of the 20,320-foot peak is Mount McKinley. The misconception stems from the state Geographic Names Board renaming the mountain Denali, but the federal Government has not adopted the change. Denali National Park and Preserve was established in 1917 and was originally called Mount McKinley National Park, but was renamed Denali in 1980. No wonder we’re confused.

So who could allow such an oversight, delivering almost 100 years of misdirected fame and publicity to a town that doesn’t even exist? Well, as long as Alaskans and the rest of the 400,000 visitors to the park each year continue to find our way there each year to explore the wildlife, panoramic views and recreation that “Denali” delivers, no one is mincing words about what we’re calling it.