The Great One
Located in Alaska’s Interior, Denali National Park and Preserve is easily accessible via road, rail or chartered airplane. Once visitors arrive at the expansive park – it’s larger than Massachusetts – they’ll face a host of options, including many tailored for children.
The Denali Visitor Center is stocked with kid-friendly exhibits and is also a great access point for some of the park’s short and scenic hiking trails. At the visitor center, travelers can also hop on the park’s free shuttles. One goes to the sled dog demonstration, a 30-minute program that features a tour of the park’s husky kennels and a chance to see the dogs pull a musher. Another shuttle takes riders to the Savage River, a perfect starting point for a wildlife-spotting hike on Savage River Loop or a chance to take in the view of Savage Rock.
The Denali National Park & Preserve Junior Ranger Program helps children learn about wilderness, wildlife and national parks and is designed as a collaborative project for parents and children. To get started, visitors stop by the Denali Visitor Center, Toklat Contact Station, Murie Science and Learning Center or Talkeetna Ranger Station and pick up a free activity guide designed for children ages 4-8 or 9-14. After completing activities that include lessons on safety and wildlife, children turn in their books and are awarded Junior Ranger badges. The National Park Service also has online Junior Ranger programs and 50 games to help kids learn about national parks.
If your kid has an affinity for dinosaurs, they’ll be excited to hear prehistoric creatures once roamed Denali. The dinosaurs left behind fossilized footprints that can still be observed, especially in an area of the park known as the Cantwell Formation. Denali was home to several different types of dinosaurs: meat-eating theropods, beaked ceratopsians, flying pterosaurs and duck-billed hadrosaurs. A fun activity guide gives kids an overview of the dinosaurs and has quizzes about their footprints and behaviors.
The park is also home to the Murie Science and Learning Center, a facility focused on research and education. The center is open all year and features adult programs such as research fellowships, teacher trainings and field seminars along with a range of options for families with children. Families can pick up free discovery packs, which are stocked with tools and activities to guide learning experiences around the park. By special arrangement, groups can take guided excursions into the park or short hikes with hands-on learning.
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