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"Denali State Park is an integral part of one of North America's most  
spectacularly beautiful regions. The park's 325,240 acres, almost one-half the size   
of Rhode Island, provide the visitor with a great variety of recreational opportunities,
ranging from roadside camping to wilderness exploration . . . Situated between  
the Talkeetna Mountains to the east and the Alaska Range to the west,
the landscape varies from lowland streams to alpine tundra ."
~ from an interpretive panel about the park at Denali Viewpoint South
at MP 134.8 on the George Parks Highway
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 Park, the 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 Denali.

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.


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 best choices.

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 next site.

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 solar power:

We have no hook-ups. We are reliant again on solar, propane, and the generator.

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. 


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 $10/night.
  • 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 Byers Lake.

  • 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 available.

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.


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 Memorial.

I'll have separate entries about the lakeside trails and the veterans memorial.

This is my favorite photo from Byers Lake this week.

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 Byers Lake

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

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil