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Alaska's Denali

North America's highest peak still awes visitors of Denali National Park.

Via Contributors
Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska
Photo caption
The dizzying peak north of Anchorage has a greater rise in elevation than Mount Everest.


Originally named Mount McKinley in 1896 by a gold prospector in honor of presidential candidate (and gold-standard proponent) William McKinley, Denali dominates the rugged landscape of central Alaska, casting a spell over grizzly bears and caribou, backpackers and bird-watchers alike. The reward for those who heed the siren call and brave the storm-battered slopes of North America’s highest peak? A view one early mountaineer described as “looking out the windows of Heaven.”

BACK TO BASICS In 2015, President Barack Obama's administration announced the decision to officially adopt the peak's Athabascan name, Denali, or “the High One,” at the national level. Politicians from Ohio, McKinley’s home state, had long blocked efforts to change the name.

A LEG UP Mount Everest boasts the world’s highest summit at 29,029 feet, but Denali has a greater rise, soaring 18,000 feet from its base to its 20,310-foot peak. In comparison, Everest climbs 12,000 feet from the Himalayan plateau.

HIGH-ALTITUDE HOAX In 1906, Dr. Frederick Cook declared himself the first to ascend Denali. Nearly a century later, his victory photo was found to have been taken less than a quarter of the way up, on “Fake Peak.”

DEEP FREEZE In 1967, the first men to summit Denali in winter estimated that the windchill temperature dropped as low as 148 degrees below zero.

Photography courtesy of Nic McPhee/Wikimedia Commons


This article was first published in May 2011 and updated in February 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.