The Denali Golden Hour – A Sunset in Alaska with the High One

Seeing a summertime sunset in Alaska can be a challenge. In the land of the midnight sun, the golden hour of light never seems to arrive with nightfall nearly non-existent. Then seeing Denali can also be a matter of chance. Apparently only 30% of visitors who travel through this part of Alaska ever even see the mountain peak.

sunset view of mt Denali in alaska at the McKinley Princess Lodge

To see both in one evening, well that is just one of the many magical moments I witnessed in Alaska this summer.  Yes, an Alaska sunset view of Mount Denali.

The First View of Denali

mt Denali from the Great Room outside deck at the McKinley Princess Lodge outside Talkeetna, Alaska

that’s not all clouds… the peak of Denali is visible

Riding the scenic Alaska Railway is truly one of the best ways to appreciate and enjoy the vast scenic landscape of America’s Last Frontier. With track from Fairbanks to Anchorage, definitely make some part (or all) of this 15 hour journey part of your land adventure holiday in Alaska. Denali first showed herself in the final part of the Denali Naitonal Park to Talkeetna. We were lucky already.

Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, (and also the national park the size of Massachusetts inside Alaska) takes it name from the local Koyukon Athabaskans. It translates to the “high one.” It can also be called (or was formerly called) Mount McKinely, but Denali is the original and recently (re)given official name.

Denali All Day

Just because you capture a glimpse of Denali, don’t take it for granted that the view will remain. So, yes, snap an immediate photo for “evidence” (and share socially as I did on my Instagram account here), but also take the moment to truly appreciate its massive majesty.  And although weather changes occur in a flash with clouds easily covering the mountain often my time at the Mt McKinely Princess Lodge, the view remained clear all day, into the evening, and then the next morning too.  Wow.

sun hiding behind the Alaskan Mountain Range near Denali in Alaska

a close up…

After dinner and drinks I headed back to the “Great Room” and viewing deck to watch the sun dip in the sky as it headed towards the mountains. At some point after 11pm with plenty of fellow travelers (and photographers) joining me it seemed as if the sun stopped its downward path and started to move horizontally across the sky. It began to just hide behind the distant giants in the Alaskan Mountain Range.

the Alaskan Mountain Range from the Great Room at the Princess Lodge in Talkeetna with View of Mount Denali

there’s Denali, the high one on the right

Apparently, the sun “struggled” to end the day and make night.  I decided not to focus on the sun’s final descent as we often do, but just appreciate the moment and the still clear view of Denali. Of course, I took enough images (I’m just sharing a few) to fill a photo album and now as I look at them again, I just smile as I relive the special feeling we all shared on the outside viewing deck. A moment shared in silence. We all just watched the beauty unfold before us. We began to feel it too. The stars (although we couldn’t see any) aligned for a special night in the Alaskan summer for a moment with the “high one,” a moment with Denali.

Stay appreciating sunsets,


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  • Maggie Mistal

    Beautiful capture Craig! It must be hard to catch a sunset in the land of the midnight sun. What time was it when you got the sunset shot?

    • craig zabransky

      Actually it was well after 11pm close to midnight 😉 … Stay true (midnight sun), Craig

  • Maryann

    Beautiful photos. The color of the sky is amazing.

    • craig zabransky

      Thanks… Alaska was amazing. Stay amazed, Craig

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