If you thought Yosemite's 1,200 square mile (310,800 hectare) footprint was big, let us introduce you to Alaska's Denali National Park. Clocking in at six million acres (almost 9,400 square miles, or 2.43 million hectares), Denali is a truly unique experience.
You won't find anyone kayaking or windsurfing in Denali, but the scenery is so spectacular that we're willing to bet you won't care. Denali was carved by the slow progress of glaciers through the land -- some of which remain in Alaska today -- which means endless craggy cliffs and picturesque valleys for prime summer hiking [source: National Park Service].
There's one obvious reason to camp in Denali National Park during the summer: Alaska gets, very, very cold during the winter. The temperature commonly dips below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius), and the region's proximity to the North Pole also means that it can get fewer than five hours of daylight during the winter. A few days a year, some areas of Alaska even remain in complete darkness.
However, this same location on the Earth's axis means that summer visitors can enjoy up to 24 hours of daylight (hence the state's nickname, Land of the Midnight Sun) [sources: Alaska.com, State of Alaska]. This makes it a perfect place to camp during the summer -- just be sure to bring some heavy-duty eyeshades for when you want to get some sleep.
Denali's chilly climate results in a unique and highly diverse wildlife population. The organisms that thrive, such as caribou, fox, salmon and certain species of bird, have all adapted to the subarctic climate. Denali is a national preserve, which means its wildlife and ecosystems are strictly protected; as a result, the park is one of the most important sites for scientists studying animal behavior [source: National Park Service].
Denali offers two basic options for campers: established camping and backcountry camping. For those seeking a more comfortable experience, established campgrounds offer amenities like running water and RV access. Backcountry camping and backpacking adhere strictly to the Leave No Trace philosophy -- a widely accepted set of principles that mandate considerations like trash removal and minimum human interference with natural surroundings. Less established campgrounds also require campers to take extra safety precautions, such as bear-proofing their sites [source: National Park Service].
Author's Note: 10 Spectacular Places to Camp in the Summer
I'm lucky enough to have traveled to two of these locations -- specifically, Yosemite and Denali National Parks -- so this article was a really exciting opportunity for me to share my passion for both places while learning about a ton of new destinations. Since I've never been camping before (I know, I'm missing out), the research for this article was both personally and professionally quite informative.
One of my favorite facts from my research was about Luray Caverns. I made myself remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites early in life (the word "stalagmite" has a g in it, and stalagmites form up from the ground), but I never knew the chemical process by which they formed. As soon as I can find a cheap flight to Virginia, keep an eye out for a girl geeking out on some rock formations.
More Great Links
- 51 Summer Camping Secrets
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- The concept of multiple use of forest and associated lands -- its values and limitations
- Hawaii's Top Summer Camping Spots for the Adventurous
- The Last-Minute Guide to Summer Camping
- Summer Camping and Canoeing in Yellowstone
- U.S. National Forest Campground Guide
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