Stretching over six hundred miles like a crescent moon across central Alaska, The Alaska Range is a wall of formidable mountains that separates the south central coast from the interior of Alaska. The range is best known for its largest mountain, Denali, and for its namesake park, Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali is one of the largest mountains on Earth and yet it only occupies a small part of the entire Alaska Range.
Compared to the Rockies, Andes or the Himalayas, the Alaska Range is a small collection of mountains. The Alaska Range may lack the length of those mountain chains but its ruggedness, wildness and beauty has few rivals on earth. The Alaska Range also has the notorious reputation of having some of the worst weather of any mountain range outside of Antarctica.
The mountains of the Alaska Range are still growing because they straddle the Denali Fault Line which continues to push them upward. The Denali Fault Line has produced some of Alaska’s most destructive earth quakes, included the 2002 Denali Quake that measured 7.9m and literally crumbled mountains.
The Alaska Range can be roughly divided into three sections: The eastern Alaska Range, central Alaska Range and the southern Alaska Range.
Eastern Alaska Range:
The eastern Alaska Range begins where the Wrangell Mountains end, right on the border of Canada. The eastern Alaska Range is the largest of the three sections. There are numerous sub-sets and sub-ranges of mountains in the eastern Alaska Range beginning with the Nutzotin Mountains. The eastern Alaska Range is home to some of Alaska’s most rugged mountains, including the legendary Mount Deborah. The two main sub-ranges are the Delta Mountains and the Hayes Range. Other smaller sub-sets include: Clearwater, Amphitheater and the Mentasta Mountains. The beautiful Delta River, designated as a Wild and Scenic River, splits the eastern Alaska Range in half. The Tangle Lakes Archaeological District contains a record of subsistence use by indigenous people over 10,000 years ago.
Central Alaska Range:
The central Alaska Range needs little introduction being home to the tallest mountain in North America, Denali. Visitors flock to its northern foot hills to view its massive north face and the wildlife that live under its shadow. On the southern side, climbers from around the world attempt to climb Denali, along with the hundreds of smaller, more technical peaks that make up the greater Denali Massif.
The majority of the central Alaska Range is encompassed by Denali National Park and Preserve. However, much of the central Alaska Range is rarely visited. There is only one road inside the park and very few trails. A large section of the park is under wilderness designation, it has no trails and can’t be accessed by plane or any motorized vehicle. Few have the skills or desire to explore these difficult and remote sections of the park. The central Alaska Range has many secrets yet to be discovered.
Smaller sub-set mountains within the central Alaska Range include the Ramparts, Tokosha and Kichatna mountains.
South-West Alaska Range:
Geographers, geologists, volcanologists, geothermorphologists and mountaineers disagree on where the southern Alaska Range ends. Many think that the Revelation and Hidden Mountains are the final end as they crash in-behind the volcanic Chigmit and Todrillo Mountains of the Aleutian Range. Some include to Tordrillo Mountains as part of the southern Alaska Range and some believe that the Neacola Mountains are the southern most mountains of the Alaska Range.The original survey of Alaska had the Alaska Range end at Lake Illiamna!
Remote and extremely isolated, the southern Alaska Range sees very few visitors, the bulk of them visiting a small section of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. There are few places left on earth that are as rugged and wild as the southern Alaska Range, this is a true wilderness.
The main sub-ranges are the Revelation Mountains and Hidden Mountains. Sub-set mountains include the Teocalli and Terra Cotta Mountains. Disputed mountains are the Tordrillos and the Neacola Mountains.