Wander Always & Stay Wilde


Denali National Park & Fairbanks, Alaska in the Spring

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

– Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

It was a long drive from Fairbanks to our destination of Denali National Park and Preserve, and yet with every turn the highway took, we were welcomed with some of the most stunning views of the Alaska Mountain Range. As we drove south on Route 3 toward Denali National Park, the words above by Krakauer came to mind. If you have ever read the book (or seen the movie) Into the Wild, you will recall that Healy, Alaska was the last place that Christopher McCandless traveled to in his nomadic life. McCandless was a graduate of Emery University when he chose to sell his possessions and live a life of adventure rather than seek out a profitable career. His dream was to journey the United States and make his way to the Alaskan wilderness. As we passed the town line to Healy, my thoughts drifted to his life and his legacy. Into the Wild is one of my favorite books, and I count it as a large influence on my sense of wanderlust.

Ever since reading Into the Wild, Fairbanks and Denali National Park and Preserve has been on my bucket list of places to travel. Fairbanks is the largest city outside of the National Park, located 125 miles away from the park’s entrance. As a part of our yearly tradition, my father and I traveled to Alaska for our National Park trip, with our base location being in Fairbanks, Alaska. From Fairbanks, you can also choose to visit the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve within a 6-hour drive. This park is the northernmost national park in the United States and it is located entirely north of the Arctic Circle.

There is only one entrance into Denali National Park and Preserve located off of the Parks Highway, just south of Healy. This national park features 6 million acres of wildlife, views, trails, and tours. It is also home to the highest peak in the United States, Mount McKinley (or Denali) at 20,310 ft high. The terrain of the tundra is filled with glaciers and spruce forests and is home to an array of wildlife including `moose, grizzly bears, wolves, and Dall sheep. During the summer months, the park is filled with popular activities like hiking, backpacking, biking, and mountaineering.


Established as a National Park: February 26, 1917. However, there was no road access to the park entrance until 1957 when the Denali Highway was opened.

Location: Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK

Best time of year to visit: the Summer Season from June to mid-September

How many days are needed inside the Park: 2-3 days

Closest airport: Fairbanks International Airport (125 miles)

Closest major cities and towns: Healy (18 miles) and Fairbanks (125 miles)

Notable sites to see: Denali Park Road, Horseshoe Lake Trail, Wonder Lake, Mount Healy Overlook Trail, and the Husky Homestead.

The Denali Park Road extends 92 miles through the park to Kantishna from its entrance at Mile 0. Personal vehicles can drive on Park Road as far as Mile 15 to the Savage River Trailhead. Each year, the National Park offers a special lottery system for park visitors to apply and have the unique opportunity to drive their vehicle for the entire 92-mile trip on Denali Park Road! Lasting 5 days in September, there are 400 permits offered each of the 5 days, and you can enter the lottery each year in May.


On our off days from Denali National Park, we took the time to explore Fairbanks and the surrounding area. A few notable areas to see are Chena Hot Springs Resort and the North Pole, Alaska. Chena Hot Springs is located about 1 hour and 18 minutes from Fairbanks and is a fun day trip if you are in the area. Along with staying at the resort, you can partake in different activities throughout the year such as horseback riding and ATV riding in the summer and dog sledding and aurora viewing in the winter. Also, close to Fairbanks, the North Pole is about 12 miles from the city. And, in the heart of the town, you can visit their large Christmas shop! Other than the shop, there is not much to see in town.

Chena Hot Springs Resort

At Chena Hot Springs Resort, you can visit and tour their Aurora Ice Museum. Due to the temperatures inside, they provide parkas to wear too! You can walk through the different rooms of the museum, view the different ice sculptures, and watch the “aurora” lights dance around the different ice sculptures!

The North Pole, Alaska

The North Pole, Alaska is known for having Christmas decorations up year-round, including candy cane-striped street lights. The Santa Clause House (above) is the local Christmas store that is filled with so many different types of decorations and ornaments inside. If you take a drive around town, you will see street names like Mistletoe Lane and Kris Kringle Drive.

“Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.

– Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

In this next year, take the chance and visit a place you never have before. Stretch your mind to new experiences and new places. You just might amaze yourself with the memories you will collect along the way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *