When you think about Alaska, Denali & the surrounding National Park is usually one of the first thoughts, as it should be! The mountain towers over most views in Alaska, whether you're in Anchorage or near Fairbanks. Most people would guess that the best views of the mountain would be from the National Park, but there are also incredible views just South of the park. Easily accessible with a 4x4 or snowmachine in the winter, Petersville road winds almost all the way to the Southern park boundary.
I had wanted to drive this road for a while, after hearing about the amazing views from friends and a far-too-long Google Earth research session. A good friend finally rounded up a group of us to head up there to celebrate a birthday, even though the forecast called for a cloudy and rainy weekend. We headed out in my pickup, packed to the brim with 5 dudes and 2 dogs, finding a pretty easy dirt road for most of the drive (though lots of pot-holes!). The road narrows as you approach Peter's Hills and the deep canyon Peter's Creek cuts through them, transitioning into a good 4x4 trail. There are many mine roads in the area, so it takes some exploring to find roads and trails that go through without getting stuck. After several back-tracks, we found the trail we were looking for, which literally took us right up the creek-bed of one of the many drainages into Peter's Creek. Climbing steeply out of the drainage, we came to our camp spot (though we tried to go higher without any help from the slick, muddy trail).
It had rained on us all the way from Anchorage, and wasn't showing any signs of quitting, so we quickly set up camp. We explored the area around camp and blasted some clays with the shotguns we brought as the rain came-and-went for the rest of the night. A lack of firewood brought our fire to an early end and we called it a night, with the pitter-patter of the rain still on our tents. Another friend who joined us had an early departure Sunday to get back to town, and I awoke as they left to the quiet darkness, realizing the rain had finally quit! I stuck my head out to find not only had the rain gone, but so had all the clouds, leaving a star and aurora filled sky! I kicked off the warmth of my sleeping bag, wishing I had thrown in my winter layers, and rushed out to start shooting the Northern Lights.
The nights are getting longer up here in Alaska, giving us a few more hours to enjoy the borealis. I woke up somewhere around 6:30am and shot these lights until the sun rose about two and a half hours later. Our camp was below a hill blocking our view of Denali, so after sunrise and breakfast we hiked up the remaining 4x4 trail to the top where we could see Denali and the toe of the Tokositna Glacier. The view was a little blocked by the not-insignificant Dutch hills, but with a little more exploration (and snow), you can easily find even better views than we had. We will definitely be making a return trip with our snowmachines in tow!