Lots of people have heard of Denali National Park but most,
including us, had no idea there was a state park of the same name nearby until
we were doing research for our Alaska trip.
Bisected by the
well-traveled George Parks Highway and located between Anchorage and Denali National
state park is very convenient for visitors who are traveling in their
own vehicles to either camp here for one or more nights or stop by the
viewpoints, trailheads, and/or Byers Lake during
a day visit.
This pdf. map from
The Milepost shows the park's location
better than the map on the Alaska State Parks site, in my opinion.
Here's a section of it that I showed in the last two entries:
According to the interpretive panels we read at the south viewpoint,
Denali State Park has "superb vantage points for viewing the
breathtaking heart of the Alaska Range," including Mt. McKinley AKA
The best views are reportedly from several overlooks on the Parks Highway and up on the 35-mile
long K'esugi and Curry alpine ridges on the eastern side of the park:
K'esugi Ridge is in the
background, across Byers Lake
Maybe we'll get to see Denali somewhere from this park and maybe not
. . .
It's been raining and/or overcast since we arrived
three days ago. That's not only frustrating, it's also very depressing for Jim and me. We
don't do well psychologically with multiple days of rain, especially in
an area that's supposed to be as spectacularly beautiful as this.
Enough whining. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow on our way to
Denali National Park!
A father and son peer out from
a pier on Byers Lake, probably wishing the sun would appear!
Sorry about the photo caption. Gettin' a little goofy with all this rain.
This entry describes the campground where we're spending three nights
and some of the activities park visitors can enjoy. In the next entry
I'll show photos from the nearby trails I've hiked. Jim went out with
Cody and me for a walk only the first evening we were here. He hasn't
been able to ride his bike on the trails because they are too muddy.
This is another place where we want to return either on this trip or
on another Alaska trip when it's sunny and we can do more exploring
-- and leave
with a better impression. I would love to see the views of Denali
and the Alaska Range from K'esugi Ridge.
BYERS LAKE CAMPGROUND
This is the largest of four campgrounds in the state park so we hoped we’d find
a site big enough for our camper to get in and out easily and have room
to put out the slides and awning. Sometimes we have problems with those issues in
state and national park campgrounds because of all the trees. We hoped at least a few of the 74
sites would be available and suitable for us.
Bottom line: about 15 of the 74 sites are pull-thrus and some of those are too tight
for large rigs. All the back-ins appear to be too short and narrow for a large
rig to negotiate. If you have a large rig, arrive early on a sunny
weekday to maximize your chances of getting a suitable site.
This attractive, heavily-treed campground is located at MP 147 on the Parks Hwy. just south of the
Denali State Park visitor center and a beautiful memorial to Alaskan military
veterans. It is back off the highway more than half a mile and protected
from road noise by a hill so it’s very quiet.
The entry road is paved past the day-use areas, a public-use cabin, and dump/water site,
then fairly rough gravel through the four campground loops.
Attractive back-in site with lots of privacy for folks
with smaller RVs or tents
We drove past short sites in the A loop first. We didn’t see any
campground maps posted but Jim remembered seeing the layout on the park
website and suggested we try the farthest loop next (D).
That’s where we found the campground host, who told us the fifteen
pull-thru sites, which are larger than the back-in sites, are in loops C
and D. We drove through both of those loops to see our options.
Jim got out and walked through four sites to determine if they were big
enough for us and didn’t have low tree branches. Those four were our
Fortunately, very few sites were occupied when we got here. None can be
reserved, which was good in our situation. Sometimes we've reserved a
site on the internet and then discovered we can't get into it. That
happened back in June at Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula.
Jim and Cody walk past an empty pull-thru site; our camper is in the
We went back to the dump site to get water. The sign says we should boil
water before drinking it. The host vacillated re: how important that is.
The water is from a well. Jim used our filter as he filled the tank to
about 40 gallons.
All of a sudden the water
slowed to a trickle and he gave up. At that rate it would have taken forever to get a
full 62 gallons for the three nights we planned to be here.
The water came
out fast when we first got there so he washed off the muddy camper and truck
before filling the tank. That turned out to be a poor decision but this
hasn't happened to us before. He had no clue the water was "rationed."
Later when he went back to get more water in some six-gallon containers it was
running hard and fast again.
We drove back to C loop and chose a nice long pull-thru with more light than some
of the other sites. There are lots of very tall trees in this campground. They look nice
and afford privacy but if the sun ever comes out, we’d like to get some
We have no hook-ups. We are reliant again on solar, propane, and the
Thankfully, the generator hours are very liberal (6 AM to 11 PM).
Because of the chilly, wet weather we've had to run the generator more
than we would if it was sunny and warmer.
There are clean
wheelchair-accessible vault toilets in the middle of each loop but no
sinks or showers:
Sites are gravel with some grass and most appear to be fairly level.
Each site has a picnic table and firepit.
Here are two views of our spacious site:
It's been very quiet since we arrived on Thursday. Even this weekend
only about a third of the sites are occupied -- probably because
of the rain. If it was sunny this would be a great place to camp.
The cost is $10/night. We paid for our campsite by check to the iron
ranger. We paid one day at a time in case we decided not to stay three
nights. Folks who get water and/or use the dump are asked to pay $5, which is less than
private businesses charge to dump gray and black water in Alaska.
Another view of our campsite; no one is near us so
it's nice and quiet.
We have no TV or phone signal here (“searching for service”) or up at the
visitor center/memorial on the main road. That has meant no internet, even on
Jim's laptop, for three days while we've been here. Hope no one has been
trying to contact us!
We've survived, but with all the rain keeping us inside more, it's been
a challenge to keep ourselves happily occupied. Thank goodness for DVDs,
books, and all the Alaska literature we have to read.
We should have cell service tomorrow at Riley Campground
in Denali National Park.
OTHER LODGING OPTIONS AT DENALI STATE PARK
The park has three public-use cabins around the lake that can be
reserved. One is accessible by vehicle on the park road.
The other two are close to the lake and require a half-mile walk or a
canoe ride to reach. This is one of the more remote cabins I found on
one of my hikes:
It appeared to be occupied so I didn't try to peek inside the windows.
There are additional camping options at Byers Lake and elsewhere in
the state park.
- There are six back-packing sites across the lake that require
about a three-mile hike. I don't know if back-packers can camp in
other areas of the park or not.
- When the large sites in the main Byers Lake Campground are full,
big rigs are allowed to park in a certain area in the parking lot at
the Alaska Veterans Memorial on the Parks Highway. The fee is
- The Lower Troublesome Creek Campground at MP 137.2 on the Parks
Hwy. has 10 campsites with tables and firepits and 32 overnight
parking spaces for camper use. The camping fee is $10. Toilets and
water are available. This is also a day-use area, with a short trail
to the Chulitna River.
Colorful rental kayaks help to dispel the gloom at
- The Denali Viewpoint North Campground at MP 162.7 on the Parks
Hwy. has 20 side-by-side spaces for overnight RV parking with firepits
and picnic tables. It is in a large, open paved parking lot that is
also used by travelers just stopping to enjoy the (reported) views of
the Alaska Range while in transit from one point to another. The cost
is $10 per night to camp. An outhouse, water, and nature trail are
We haven't gotten that far north on the Parks Highway yet. We'll stop
at that overlook tomorrow on our way to Denali National Park and report
about the camping and views later.
RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES AT DENALI STATE PARK
In addition to camping, visitors at Byers Lake Campground can enjoy
many other outdoor activities (yes, even on a rainy day) --
picnicking, wildlife watching, nature photography, hiking numerous
trails (from lakeside to up on Curry and K'esugi Ridges), fishing,
boating (no motor boats on the lake), viewing Denali and the Alaska
Range (clear days), and visiting the impressive Alaska Veterans
I'll have separate entries about the lakeside trails and the veterans
This is my favorite photo from Byers Lake this
Plants and wildlife are not only abundant, they also vary widely because of
all the environmental zones --meandering streams in low muskeg areas;
spruce, cottonwood, and balsam poplar forests above the flood plains;
dense birch-alder-willow thickets on upper, drier hillsides; moist
tundra meadows full of grasses and flowers; and hardy, low-growing alpine flowers and other plants
above the 2,500-foot timberline.
In the next entry I'll show photos of lots of plants I've observed
while hiking around the lake. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten up to the
ridges to see the alpine plants.
Visitors can also rent canoes at Byers Lake.
Wildlife found around Byers Lake and throughout the state park is
equally diverse and includes moose, grizzly and black bears, caribou,
wolves, lynx, coyotes, red fox, snowshoe hares, land otters, red and
flying squirrels, ermine, marten, mink, wolverines, muskrats, beavers, pikas,
marmots, porcupines, and small rodents.
Birders would love this place. Because of the wide variety of
habitats more than 130 species of birds use the park for breeding and
during migration. There are also year-found avian residents like ravens, grey
jays, willow ptarmigans, and chickadees.
Above and below: fishing on
Fishing for five kinds of salmon, rainbow and lake trout,
arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, burbot, and whitefish in the lakes and clear
streams throughout the park is another popular summer activity.
Next entry: scenes from the trails at Byers Lake
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil