Glacier Landing on Mt. McKinley – what a rush!

On July 10th we were able to complete the most exciting excursion of our trip so far – flying to Mt. McKinley and landing on a glacier at the base camp.  Wow, this was definitely an “e-ticket” ride for us, and we were excited to actually land on that massive mountain that we will probably never climb.

Mt Mckinley
Panoramic view of Climber’s base camp
Mt Mckinley
Pilots chatting
Mt Mckinley
The base camp looked like a small airport, there were 5 planes at one point!
Mt Mckinley
A happy smile from a little woman on a big mountain!

We took off from Talkeetna airport, which was cheaper than flying out of the airport in Denali park.  The airplane was a DeHavilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter (for our pilot buddies reading this).  Although the weather wasn’t perfect, the pictures show that it was good enough to make for an incredible flight.

We landed at the 7,300 ft. elevation on the glacier, which is where the climbers begin their attempts to reach the summit.  The climb takes at least three weeks to complete, and we learned that it’s an amazing journey that’s probably too intense for us to try.  But this trip was a close second!

Mt Mckinley
Climber’s stuff left behind for retrieval when they return from their attempt on the summit
Wickersham wall
Wickersham Wall—at 14,000 ft. it is one of the steepest vertical rises on earth

The Grand Denali Tour offered by Talkeetna Air Taxi is a flight to and around Mt. McKinley, with a glacier landing for an extra fee.  The trip lasts about 2.5 hours and will likely be the most beautiful mountain flying you’ve ever experienced.  Our photos cannot do it justice. There are also other flights around and to the summit of Mt. McKinley, if you are not insistent on the glacier landing as we were.

Kahiltna Glacier
Kahiltna Glacier, the superhighway of Mt Denali.
Mt Hunter
Mt Hunter.
MT Mckinley
Close up of glacier where earth and ice meet
Cache Creek.
a little mining site at Cache Creek. Note the plane there as the only transportation out, and the school buses where the workers live. Hard life…
Homes in the wilderness
Homes in the wilderness, note no road leading in or out.

This was an incredible experience, not to be missed if you are an adventurous person visiting the area.  The sense of scale you feel in this place is indefinable, inexplicable and incomparable to any other place.  It’s not so much about “the glacier” as it is about the place, the beauty and the sense of scale you begin to comprehend when you’re here.

A ski affixed to the tail wheel on the plane
Goretex booties
Gortex booties helped keep our shoes dry

Glacier Landing, Mt Mckinley

Anyone traveling into Denali National Park or to the town of Talkeetna should take this flight if at all possible.  What an awesome experience!




  1. Wow Mona and Steve…that was soo exciting to read and I just could imagine the real thing..

  2. Steve & Mona Lisa, Thanks for sending the note. I h ave signed up on your web page and thought I would get pinged by your blogs. How beautiful the photos. Hope you are having fun.

    • Hey Rod, good to hear from you. Hope things are going well there too. It’s hard to complain about all the rain we’re getting here when it’s so hot there, but we are getting a bit tired of it. Say hi to Lisa for us. ~Steve

  3. Totally agree – We did the same thing (flight and landing on a glacier). I was a highlight of our trip. Thanks for the memory!

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