My Alaska user submitted photo

Submitted By: Harriet Williams - Denali in all its glory

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Mountaineering Milestone in Denali National Park

Since the very first visitors started traveling to Alaska, one landmark has consistently ranked near the top of must-see lists: Mount McKinley. This year marks the centennial of the first successful summit of the massive and technically challenging mountain, and a series of events and commemorations are bringing new focus to one of Alaska’s most beloved landmarks.

In 1913, a group of four men, including an Episcopal priest and an Athabascan teenager, became the first to summit Mount McKinley. This summer, a group of descendants of the original mountaineers recreated the expedition. Their effort was supported by the National Congress of American Indians and the Alaska State Board of Education, which created a website and other multimedia tools to document the climb.

Closer to sea level, several exhibits in locations around the state are focusing on the ongoing fascination with Mount McKinley. The mountain, which many Alaskans call Denali out of respect for the Dena’ina Athabascan people who originally named it, is North America’s tallest peak. At 20,237 feet, it towers above the Alaska Range and on clear days is visible from hundreds of miles away. At the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, the exhibit “Denali Legacy: 100 Years on the Mountain” runs through mid-September, and several special exhibits will be featured in the Denali National Park and Preserve visitor center all summer as well.

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Tips from an Alaskan

Dermot Cole

Dermot Cole is a columnist at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the author of several books on Alaska history, including titles that tell the story of Alaska from statehood to the present; how Fairbanks grew from a hardscrabble gold camp to a modern city; and the real-life story of the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Read Cole's recommendations for Fairbanks visitors.

Sample Trip

Denali National Park by rail - sample trip

Denali National Park by rail
Board the Alaska Railroad at its historic depot in Anchorage’s Ship Creek area and watch anglers catching salmon as you glide north out of town. You’ll arrive in Talkeetna at midday. Grab a bite at one of the great eateries or the local brewery and browse the shops downtown and see if you can catch a glimpse of Talkeenta’s mayor, a cat known as Stubbs. Be sure to visit the Talkeetna Historical Society’s museum, and particularly the Mountain Exhibit. National Park Service Rangers lead twice-daily discussions during the summer of the area’s mountaineering history. Overnight in Talkeetna.

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