National Park Club Update

Niel and Jan Christensen showing their display of buttons collected at 57 national parks they have visited over the years.

Linda Harvey

“The Road to Alaska” was the title of Niel and Jan Christensen’s travelog presented at the March meeting. They took two trips to Alaska to see the eight national parks (NPs). One was a driving trip starting from Colorado and going up the Alaskan Highway. The other was a cruise to Glacier Bay with three side trips that required flying into the parks.

While these parks are remote and difficult to reach, native peoples have lived on the land for thousands of years. Whatever the parks lack in services, they make up for in an uncrowded experience, spectacular views, and solitude.

By car:

Denali NP and Mount Denali (formerly Mount McKinley), at 20,320 feet high, is the highest peak in the U.S. and home to Dall sheep, caribou, moose, and grizzly bears.

Kenai Fjords NP is the home to Exit Glacier which Niel and Jan hiked. It is one of nearly 40 glaciers in the park and the only one accessible by car.

Wrangell-St Elias NP is the largest of all U.S. national parks at 13 million acres. It is the same size as six Yellowstone National Parks. It has nine of the 16 highest peaks in the U.S. Its Malaspina Glacier is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

By cruise ship:

Glacier Bay NP is usually seen from a cruise ship and is home to rugged mountains, glaciers, and a temperate rainforest. Sea otters, humpback whales, and sea lions use Glacier Bay as a playground with brown bears looking on from shore. The park is essentially roadless, with one primitive campground accessible by foot only.

By airplane:

Gates of the Arctic NP & Reserve lie wholly north of the Arctic Circle with access by foot or airplane. Hiking can be both challenging and rewarding. Experienced hikers consider 6 miles a day’s travel because there are no established trails, the ground can be boggy, and there are frequent river and stream crossings.

Katmai NP schedules a mandatory lecture for newcomers given by a Park Service Ranger on how to avoid disturbing the grizzlies. Niel and Jan hiked to the top of Dumpling Mountain at 2,600 feet where they had great views of the many lakes, mountains, and eagles. The park is also known for its volcanoes and is home to thousands of brown bears that can be viewed from elevated platforms in and near Brooks Camp.

Kobuk Valley NP is famous for sand dunes over which caribou migrate. There are no roads, trails, gift shops, or campgrounds.

Lake Clark NP is 120 air miles SW of Anchorage and 65 air miles from Homer. There are at least five sites on which to land. Also, when weather and tide permit, the east side of the park on the Cook Inlet coast may be accessed by boat via an open-ocean crossing.

Nearly 50 club members enjoyed the presentation and wish to thank Niel and Jan for sharing their Alaskan experiences and providing the opportunity to learn about these special parks.

As with any park visit, be sure to check out your destination beforehand by going to To join the SBR National Park Club, go to GroupWorks or send an email to [email protected].