INTERIOR/DENALI NATIONAL PARK/FAIRBANKS
Mt. McKinley, Yukon River, Hot Springs
The Interior of Alaska is full of intriguing natural wonders people travel from all around the world to experience. It contains Denali Park and Preserve, along with Mount McKinley, aka Denali, North America’s highest peak. The Interior also has magical displays of the Northern Lights, bubbling mineral waters at Manley, Circle and Chena hot springs, and the mighty Yukon, Alaska’s longest and one of its most famous rivers.
INTERIOR ALASKA Interior Alaska is located in the middle of the state and is made up of wide open valleys, prominent rivers like the Tanana and Chena and several mountain ranges including the Alaska Range, home to Mt. McKinley.
Alaska’s Interior is home to the state’s second- largest city, Fairbanks, and North Pole, a whimsical place that celebrates the concept of Christmas all year long. There are also four military installations in the region: Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Eielson Air Force Base near North Pole, the National Guard’s Clear radar station at Anderson and Fort Greely near Delta Junction. The military has a major impact on the region’s economy, along with the government, mining, tourism and the education and health care sectors.
Residents of the Interior live with weather extremes. The area’s continental climate creates some of the warmest and coldest weather in the state. Summertime in the Interior brings long, sometimes toasty days. Temperatures climb to 80 degrees Fahrenheit—and, infrequently, to the 90s. On summer solstice, the sun stays above the horizon for nearly 22 hours a day in Fairbanks. FAIRBANKS Fairbanks is the largest city and hub of the Interior. It’s also the geographic heart of the region, and is called the “Golden Heart City.”
Named in honor of Sen. Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana, Fairbanks was incorporated in 1903. Fairbanks’ past, present and future are closely linked to gold. Prospector Felix Pedro discovered gold in the nearby hills in 1902, and gold mining and discoveries continue today. Jewelry stores carry distinctive gold nugget jewelry, made from locally mined gold.
With 30,547 residents, Fairbanks sits about 125 miles south of the Arctic Circle and 360 miles north of Anchorage. Getting into and out of the city is easy, thanks to the George Parks, Richardson, Steese and Elliott highways. A newly renovated airport and passenger rail service help make Fairbanks one of Alaska’s most popular tourist destinations.
Fairbanks boasts an internationally acclaimed research university, museums like the University of Alaska Museum of the North and the Fountainhead Auto Museum, and events such as the annual Ice Alaska ice carving competition, the Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race (on alternating years with Whitehorse) and the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the largest national parks in the U. S., at about 6 million acres. Established in 1917, the park receives an average of 400,000 visitors annually.
Denali National Park is notable for the continent’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley/Denali (20,320 feet), beautiful scenery and plentiful wildlife that includes bears, moose, sheep, caribou and wolves. The Parks Highway and Alaska Railroad allow easy access to the park.
Inside the park, the roadway extends 92 miles but only the first 15 miles are paved and open for travel by private vehicles. Beyond Mile 15, visitors use shuttle buses (hop- on, hop- off), tour bus, bicycle or walk. With a backcountry permit, you may get off and camp wherever you like, or, reserve ahead and use the campgrounds inside the park.
The park is open from May–Sept. Campgrounds and services are also at the park entrance.
North America’s tallest peak as seen from the Eielson
Visitor Center in Denali National Park and Preserve.