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Rising from the snowy band of the Alaska Range, Denali certainly lives up to its name as “The High One.” She towers over the surrounding mountains and stands majestically as a landmark for most of Southcentral and Interior Alaska. It was always a comforting sight when I could see Denali on a clear day from my hometown while growing up in Alaska.
If you’re curious to learn more about Denali before your trip or for an academic/business project, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve pulled together some of the most fascinating facts and statistics about Denali, from the scientific to the cultural and even paleontological! 🦖 Read on for all the Denali facts and stats worth knowing.
In this post, I promote travel to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Tanana and Dënéndeh peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Denali Geography Facts
Curious about what makes Denali a special mountain? These Denali statistics will explain why.
- Denali is 20,310 feet in height. Scientists calculated this number in 2015 based on GPS data; this is 10 feet shorter than the original estimate for Denali’s height, 20,320 feet. That original figure was established in 1953 by Bradford Washburn, a mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer.
- Denali is the third-tallest of the “Seven Summits” (the tallest peak on each continent), after Mount Everest in Asia and Mount Aconcagua in South America.
- Denali is actually the tallest mountain on land – even taller than Everest – if you measure it from the base to the summit. It rises about 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) from its base, which is a greater vertical rise than Everest’s 12,000-foot rise (3,700 meters) from its base at 17,000 feet (5,200 meters). (Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii dwarfs both of them! When measured from the ocean floor to its summit, Mauna Kea is 33,476 feet (10,204 meters) tall!)
- Denali is growing by about 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) per year. This is due to tectonic plates pushing against one another in the Alaska Range.
- Due to its height, Denali is visible almost 200 miles away, including in Anchorage (130 miles) and Fairbanks (150 miles). Here are some of the best Denali viewpoints.
Denali Climbing Facts
People have always been drawn to climb the biggest mountain they can find – including Denali. Learn these facts about climbing Denali since people first started trying over 110 years ago!
- The first attempted summit of Denali was in 1903. Mountaineer Judge James Wickersham attempted to climb the mountain via Peters Glacier and the North Face. The route Wickersham tried to ascend wasn’t accomplished until 1963 due to avalanche dangers. The summit he attempted is now known as “Wickersham’s Wall.”
- The first verifiable ascent to Denali’s summit was achieved on June 7, 1913, by climbers Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum. They ascended via the South Summit, a more common route today.
- In 2019, over 1,200 climbers attempted to summit Denali. 60% of those climbers were from the United States; the other 40% came from 50 countries around the globe. 16% of them were women, too!
- More than 35,000 people have attempted to summit Denali, but only a few reach the top. Roughly 60% of climbers reach the summit in any given year.
Denali Naming Facts
Like many important sights and icons in Alaska, Denali has a tangled history regarding its name. Learn about Denali’s name through these facts.
- The original name for Denali comes from the native Koyukon Athabaskan name “Deenaalee“. It is usually translated as “The Great One”. Linguist James Kari of the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks says that a better translation might be “The High One” or the “Tall One.”
- Gold prospector William Dickey named the mountain “Mount McKinley” in 1896 after President McKinley, who was a supporter of the gold industry.
- In 2015, Denali was officially renamed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. You may still hear some people refer to it as Mt. McKinley, but most were already using the traditional name, Denali.
Denali National Park Facts
Denali National Park is fascinating in its own way. Learn more about what it’s like to visit and what you can find here.
- Denali National Park was originally established as Mount McKinley National Park on February 26, 1917. It was the first national park in Alaska, and the only one, until 1980.
- The State of Alaska renamed Mount McKinley National Park to Denali National Park in 1975.
- The Alaska Native Interests Land Conservation Act in 1980 established Denali National Park and Preserve. This tripled the size of the previous Denali National Park.
- Denali National Park covers a total area of 6,075,106 acres, or 9,446 square miles!
- Over 600,000 people visited Denali National Park in 2019. That’s almost as much as the entire population of Alaska!
- Denali National Park is home to more than 39 different species of mammals, including Denali’s “Big Five:” Moose, Caribou, Dall Sheep, Wolves, and Grizzly Bears. When it was established in 1917, Denali National Park was originally established to protect the Dall Sheep.
- In Denali, there are also 160 species of birds, 14 species of fish, 758 species of plants, 600+ species of moss and lichen, and 8 species of trees…
- And there is one species of amphibian that is native to Denali, the wood frog! During the winter, the wood frog freezes itself into a “cryogenic state,” where its heart stops beating and lungs stop pumping. In the spring, the frog thaws and goes back to normal.
- Speaking of amphibians, paleontologists found the first dinosaur bones in Denali National Park and Preserve during an expedition in 2016. Since the first discovery of fossils in 2005, they have found thousands more – dating back to 65-72 million years ago. There is even a unique species of marine dinosaur, whose fossils are found only in Denali National Park.
Know More Denali Facts?
There you go – all the Denali facts and statistics you need to impress your friends back home after your visit, or to win at trivia night. You might also enjoy reading about the best things to do in Denali National Park or planning to visit the best Denali viewpoints.
Do you have any questions about these or visiting Denali National Park? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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