Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


Runtrails' Web Journal
Previous       2015 Journal Topics       Home       Next



"[Denali National Park] is a region of great geologic activity and complexity, and
scientists are just beginning to piece together its puzzling past. It has rock 
formations that have been carried there from thousands of miles away, fossils   
of ancient creatures that have been plowed up from ocean depths, new rocks  
made deep within the earth's core, and some of the oldest rocks in Alaska . . .
It would be considered one of the world's greatest geologic
showcases even if it didn't contain the highest peak in North America."

The various landforms, geologic features, and topography of this six-million acre park have been shaped over the millennia by many forces -- shifts in tetonic plates (earthquakes), fire (volcanoes), ice (glaciers), erosion (weather, wind, water), and gravity.

I've always been just about as fascinated with colorful and/or unusual rocks and rock formations as I have been with colorful and/or unusual flowers. Over the years I've taken many photos of rocks and rock formations that have caught my eye.

View of colorful mountains from a mountain ridge above Stony Creek

Although the ones I've admired in Alaska, and specifically Denali National Park, haven't been as spectacular as those in southern Utah or northern Arizona, they are special in their own right.

This entry showcases some of the more colorful mountains and interesting rocks and rock formations we've seen in the park in the last two weeks.


One of the best places to observe colorful rocks in Denali National Park is the aptly-named Polychrome area between the Toklat River and the East Fork of the Toklat.

This is about Mile 45-53 on the park road. The buses get right up next to some colorful slopes and you can see other taller mountains in the Alaska Range across the broad river plain:





According to the website referenced above, the short but colorful mountains in this area were formed by molten rock that both hardened and eroded quickly. The volcanic rock is primarily basalt, rhyolite, and andesite.

Here are some more photos of the colorful mountains in the Toklat-Polychrome area that Jim and I have taken in the past two weeks:








Several of the trails I hiked had large and/or interesting rock formations.

Most of the time the trails skirt these formations. Sometimes, however, the trail goes right up and over or through them:

Savage Alpine Trail

Other times you can see little spur trails where hikers have gone off-trail deliberately to climb the rocks -- just for fun:

Savage Alpine Trail

I'll feature three trails in this category and show some examples of the rock formations found there.


I'll start with this one since I already showed two photos from it.

This relatively new, partial-loop trail has two trailheads. The rock formations shown here are close to the trailhead at the Savage River parking area at Mile 15 on the park road. Visitors are allowed to drive their own vehicles to this location. The other trailhead is near the Savage River Campground at about Mile 13 on the park road.

These pictures start near the Savage River trailhead and are in order as you hike eastbound:








I'll show some colorful individual rocks from this trail later in this entry.


Here's another view of the rock formation at the beginning of the Savage Alpine Trail from the Savage River Loop Trail:

Here are a couple other pictures of rocks and rock formations along the river loop:




I wrote about this trail in the entry dated July 25. The only trail I know of on this mountain that towers above the west side of the Savage River is only a mile long and begins 2.5 miles up the road past the river.

However, hikers can wander for several more miles through the tundra on Primrose Ridge and the large, undulating plateau of Mt. Margaret. There are lots of large rocks to scale, if desired:





Continued on the next page:  lots more really cool rocks!

Happy trails,

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

Previous       Next

2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil