Your interests, not the weather, should help you schedule your visit. Each part of the brief, sub-arctic summer has its rewards.
Mountain weather is unpredictable. Summer temperatures can vary from lows around freezing to highs in the low 80s. We experience warm, sunny days, quickly followed by blustery periods when you’ll want to curl up with a book next to a warm fire. We have known Denali to say hidden for nine consecutive days and have had the massif in full view for three straight weeks. We have seen snow every month of the summer, yet have sunbathed in May and September.
Without a doubt this is the most exhilarating time of the sub-arctic year. Warming temperatures and 24-hour daylight quickly melt winter snow. From early June the park is alive with the activities of breeding birds, newborn lambs, moose, and caribou calves, and grizzly cubs. Wildflowers burst into bloom, studding mountain slopes and meadows with their creamy white, bright pink, and vivid yellow blossoms.
During summer’s warm days, we find caribou nursery bands in high alpine meadows. Moose are often seen feeding on aquatic vegetation in tundra ponds. Fledging waterfowl and young Golden eagles add interest in the days’ observations. By late July the summer-green tundra grows rich with blueberries, embellishing the grizzly’s diet.
Shorter days and cooler temperatures gradually transform the tundra into a brilliant autumn tapestry. “Termination dust,” the first snow of oncoming winter, often blankets the surrounding hills. Moose and caribou complete their yearly antler growth. Stars are visible for the first time since April, and colorful curtains of northern lights may dance in a clear night sky.
Yes, we live with them, and toward late summer, other biting insects follow. Regular-strength repellent, long sleeves, and loose pants provide adequate protection. If you are particularly sensitive, however, you may wish to reconsider visiting Interior Alaska.