The Alaska Range, which includes the Alaska Range and the Alaska Range proper, is the largest mountain range in Alaska. This range is home to Denali, North America’s tallest summit.
The Alaskan Mountains include the Brooks Range, Alaska Range, and Aleutian Range in the extreme northwestern corner of North America, that is, the U.S. state of Alaska.
Alaskans take pride in their state’s rough and magnificent mountainous landscape. They have glaciers, earthquakes, and ongoing volcanic activity and are home to North America’s highest summit.
The mountain ranges are structurally extensions of North America’s Rocky Mountains and Pacific mountain system to the northwest. Mountains in Alaska either hold or are near to mainly unexplored natural riches, yet huge areas of the state have yet to be explored.
The Brooks Range and the Arctic foothills, which stretch the Rocky Mountains in an east-west circle from the border with Canada across northern Alaska, are the most northerly of the three major mountain groupings in Alaska.
The large river systems of the Yukon and Kuskokwim flow across the central regions of Alaska, draining highlands and basins. Some have compared the climate there to that of the dry Great Basin in the western United States, except with greater rainfall and cooler temperatures.
The Pacific Ocean coastline of Alaska, which includes the state’s southern coast and the adjacent southeast panhandle, is one of the most breathtaking in the world because of the arc of mountain ranges that marks the Gulf of Alaska.
Several mountain ranges make up the Pacific Mountain province. The Aleutian Islands and the Aleutian Range combine to the southwest of the central Alaska Range. The primary mountains of the southern coast are the Kenai and Chugach ranges, which are separated from the Alaska Range by the Talkeetna and Wrangell ranges.
That mountain ranges flank the Gulf of Alaska; the Chugach Mountains connect to the St. Elias Mountains to the south and east, near the Canadian border. As for the Alaskan panhandle, it is made up of the St. Elias Mountains, the coastal Boundary Ranges, and the rugged islands of the Alexander Archipelago.
Although the range is well-known for its unfavorable climate, its untamed, rugged beauty more than makes up for it, check out this guide for an in-depth look at the Alaska Range, covering everything from its physical features to the best trails in the area.
The geology of mountain ranges of Alaska
Longevity’s uplift and erosion are responsible for shaping the Alaska Range. Subduction of the oceanic crust beneath the North American Plate resulted in the formation of the Alaska Range and most other mountain ranges in North America.
The mountain range was formed as a consequence of the tension and force generated by the collision of two tectonic plates. The Denali Fault and the Hines Creek Fault both have an impact on Denali, the highest mountain in the Alaska Range. These cracks have helped push the mountain to its staggering height.
Uplift from the faults causes the mountains to continue to rise, which in turn causes devastating earthquakes in the region. The Alaska Range’s large granite batholiths make up its central regions and provide exceptional resistance to erosion.
Because of tectonic plate movement, uplift, and a lack of erosion, Denali and other mountains in the Alaska Range have reached such lofty heights.
The climate of the mountain ranges of Alaska
The southern and northern parts of the Alaska Range have vastly different climates. The climate on its southern slopes is moderated by the Gulf of Alaska air; therefore, there is little seasonal change. The summers are pleasant and wet, while the winters are dry in this part of the Alaska Range. January has the lowest average temperatures, at 7 F (-14 C) to 23 F (-5 C) on the Fahrenheit scale. July is the warmest month, with moderate highs of 52°F to 68°F (11°C to 20°C).
The Alaska Range acts as a moisture trap, bringing heavy precipitation and snow to the mountains from the Gulf of Alaska. Because of this, the entire range is covered with several enormous glaciers.
The climate in the northern slopes is more extreme, with hotter, drier summers and harsher winters. Depending on altitude, temperatures can range from below freezing to above (-57 to 32 degrees Celsius).
Because of its extreme altitude and subarctic latitude, Denali is sometimes cited as the coldest peak on Earth. Because of its size, it experiences its own erratic and harsh weather patterns.
The wildlife, flora, and fauna of the Mountain ranges of Alaska
The Alaska Range is distinguished by its many distinct ecosystems. Changing attitudes define the various zones. The lowlands and floodplains of the Susitna and Copper Rivers are forested with white spruce and cottonwood. Black spruce trees, which thrive in waterlogged soil, occur above this lower-lying location.
Forests of birch, white spruce, poplar, and aspen, as well as ferns, moss, berries, and grass, may be found at altitudes over 300 meters. Timberline, a term for the altitude at which only trees that thrive in extreme conditions, such as evergreens, may be found, reaches into this region.
Above the tree line, on the rocky terrain, low-growing shrubs grow in patches that transition into zones of white mountain avens, arctic sandwort, grass, and lichen. This area stops short of the ever-present ice caps that rest atop the highest mountains.
The lowlands and forests of the Alaska Range are home to the vast bulk of the region’s animals. Smaller animals, including red foxes, beavers, lynxes, squirrels, and otters, coexist with larger species like dall sheep, moose, brown and black bears, wolverines, caribou, and wolf in the highlands.
Denali National Park and the Alaska Range are home to approximately 160 avian species. Goshawks, ptarmigans, and the magnificent golden eagle are some of the birds that birdwatchers should keep an eye out for.
Different mountain ranges in Mountain Ranges of Alaska
The Wrangell Mountains form the eastern boundary of the Eastern Alaska Range, the biggest of the three Alaska Range areas. Some of Alaska’s harshest mountains, including Mount Deborah, may be found in this area.
Both the Hayes and Delta Ranges are important parts of the larger Eastern Alaska Range.
The Central Alaska Range is where you’ll find Denali, North America’s tallest peak. Tourists come to the area around the massive massif, which is part of the Denali National Park and Preserve.
This area encompasses a sizable chunk of landscape that is extremely isolated and hardly visited. The majority of the park is an untrammeled wilderness area that cannot be reached by any kind of transportation. The park itself consists of a single road and a handful of short trails.
Starting in the middle of the state, the Southern Alaska Range continues south to Lake Clark. This section of the Alaska Range is the most inaccessible and uninhabited of the whole range. In fact, just a small portion of the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve’s total acreage is ever visited by tourists.
Top 10 mountains and peaks in Mountain ranges of Alaska
There are more than 30 mountain ranges in Alaska’s vast wilderness, and ten of the United States twenty tallest peaks may be found there.
Whether you’re an experienced climber, a casual hiker, or someone who would rather view Alaska’s snowy peaks from above, you’ll discover some of the best trips anywhere in the world in Alaska.
If you’re planning a trip to the Last Frontier, you should definitely check out some of these mountains.
- Mount Saint Elias
- Mount Foraker
- Mount Blackburn
- Mount Fairweather
- Mount Bona
- Mount Hunter
- Mount Bear
- Chugach Mountains
- The Boundary Ranges
The local Koyukon people renamed Mount McKinley to Denali, which means “the tall one” in their language. Denali, at an impressive height of 20,310 feet, is not only Alaska’s highest but also the tallest peak in all of North America. It is the third-highest and most isolated mountain in the world.
Due to its elevation, the mountain often generates its own weather. Denali National Park, where the mountain is situated, is larger than New Hampshire and sees over 400,000 tourists annually.
Today, around half of the people who attempt to climb this enormous mountain succeed in doing so. However, the mountain has claimed the lives of many, so it is not a place for the unprepared or unskilled. Reaching the peak of Denali often takes climbers between two and four weeks!
Mount Saint Elias
Mount Saint Elias, which stands at an impressive 18,009 feet, is the mountain that marks the border between Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is where you’ll find the peak from the Alaskan side. On the Canadian side, this area is a protected reserve of Kluane National Park.
Saint Elias has changeable weather, and Pacific storms may roll in with little notice. This mountain is so dangerous that only bush planes are able to climb it. Airdrops of supplies are required. Mount Saint Elias is not for beginner climbers because of its extreme difficulty, lack of emergency services, and isolation.
From Anchorage, Mount Foraker appears to be about the same height as Denali, although it is really 3,000 feet shorter. Foraker, at an elevation of 17,400 feet, may be found in Denali National Park, about 14 miles to the southwest of the state’s highest mountain.
In 1934, a team of hikers successfully reached the summit of the mountain’s northern peak. After four days, the southern summit was finally reached. Avalanches and ice pitches make this peak very dangerous for climbers. Only expert climbers in peak physical condition should attempt this.
Mount Blackburn, in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains, is not only the state’s highest point but also the sixth highest in the whole United States. The mountain is the United States second-highest peak and the fifth-highest in North America (after Mount Bona). It was given the name of Kentucky senator Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn in 1885 by Lt. Henry T. Allen of the United States Army.
Mount Blackburn stands proudly in the middle of the largest national park in the United States, Wrangell-St. In 1958, the mountain’s western top was reached for the first time. Due to its exposure, steep relief, certain arctic storms, and tough climbing parts, Blackburn requires experienced mountaineers only.
In Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, you’ll find Mount Fairweather, the 18th-highest summit in North America. Located high above Glacier Bay, Fairweather is a peak in the Fairweather Range in the Saint Elias Mountains. Additionally, it is the most northern point in the Alaskan Panhandle.
Like many of the other summits in the St. Elias Mountains, Mount Fairweather has a great deal of vertical relief because of its precipitous rise from Glacier Bay. The top, however, is frequently shrouded by cloud cover due to the severe weather. Extreme weather causes most climbers to turn back before reaching the peak.
Mount Bona, located in the Saint Elias Mountains in eastern Alaska, is the country’s fifth-highest peak that stands on its own. A little conical volcano rises from a high platform of sedimentary rocks above Bona, making it the highest volcano in the United States.
The Klutlan Glacier gets the vast majority of its ice from icefields and glaciers that cover the mountain’s summit. The East Ridge is the most popular path to the summit, and it was first ascended all the way back in 1930. Those interested in climbing Mount Bona can take advantage of offered guided trips. Climbers should be in fine physical condition and have some expertise in mountaineering.
Located about eight miles to the south of Denali, Mount Hunter (sometimes spelled Begguya) is a mountain in Alaska’s Denali National Park. The third-highest summit in the Alaska Range is Mount Hunter.
Hunter is more difficult to climb than Denali because of its steep slopes and corniced summits while being lower in altitude. Much fewer people use it compared to its bigger neighbor. Since it is the hardest 14,000-foot peak in North America to climb, only around 40 percent of those, who try usually make it to the summit. Getting to the top north peak is challenging and requires a lot of strength, courage, and determination.
Mount Bear, in Alaska’s Saint Elias Mountains, is a high glaciated peak. Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park is located just west of the Yukon border, at a distance of around 4 miles. The Barnard Glacier originates on the mountain’s southwest flank, while the Klutlan Glacier originates on the mountain’s north side. One of the tallest elevations in the United States, it ranks among the top 20.
Mount Bear is surrounded by taller and more well-known mountains, such as Mount Bona; hence its summit sees very few visitors. Relative to its surroundings, this mountain is quite tall; it drops 8,000 feet in less than 5 miles to the Barnard Glacier and another 10,000 feet in less than 12 miles. Those hoping to summit Bear should be comfortable with crampons and an ice axe in moderate snow conditions.
Anchorage, the state capital, is set against the stunning background of the snowy Chugach Mountains, one of the most picturesque mountain ranges in Alaska, and a huge outdoor playground for inhabitants and visitors alike.
Starting places for several paths on Flattop Mountain are about 20 minutes from the heart of town. Flattop is the most popular Alaskan peak to climb due to its flat summit and expansive vistas that go as far as Denali and the Aleutian Islands.
In spite of passing through dark woodland and along the coast, hikers and cyclists can continue to keep the Chugach range in view the entire time on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. There may be moose on the road, so you should slow down to let them pass. Fly over some of Alaska’s magnificent glaciers and snow-capped peaks on a flightseeing trip.
The Boundary Ranges
The Boundary Ranges are a range of mountains that run for hundreds of kilometers north of the Alaskan and British Columbian border. The White Pass is their most well-known crossing site, and it can be reached from the historic town of Skagway, which was founded during the Gold Rush.
Before the narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route railroad was built, the White Pass was a notoriously dangerous passage over the coastal mountains leading to Lake Bennett and the goldfields during the Gold Rush. Some of the passes can be seen from the railroad, making it an essential stop for anybody traveling to or via Skagway.
Across the course of 20 miles, the railway travels through wooded valleys and across rushing rivers as it winds its way into the Alaskan highlands at an elevation of 2,865 feet. Every once in a while, you’ll get a glimpse of the treacherous, steep, and rocky terrain that the prospectors had to overcome.