Hikes in Denali National Park

Hikes in Denali National Park
Hikes in Denali National Park

Hikes in Denali National Park: Because Denali National Park is so large (and to preserve the park’s natural beauty) there are only 35 miles of hiking trails—unless you decide to hike the trail off-road into the woods. But you don’t need to load up your rucksack with camping gear and put off for a few days on end to experience the true spirit and beauty of these lands. Trails allow you to explore the best bits. And if you’re worried about being on the ‘beaten path, don’t be – Denali remains practically untouched and as wild and rugged as ever.

Here are some of the must-do hiking trails that should be on your list (in no particular order):

8 incredible hikes in Denali National Park

  1. Triple Lakes Trail
  2. Curry Ridge Trail
  3. Horseshoe Lake Trail
  4. Savage River Loop Trail
  5. Tundra Loop Trail
  6. Mount Healy Overlook Trail
  7. McKinley Bar Trail
  8. Savage Alpine Trail
  1. Triple Lakes Trail
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 9.5 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 4-5 hours (one way)
  • Elevation: 1,000 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Denali Visitor Center or the southern entrance sign near Nenana River bridge

If you are looking for some solitude, then this trip is for you. The entire trail is like one big meditation. You’ll pass through dense boreal forests (mostly snowy forests made up of pine, larch, and spruce) and encounter three hidden pristine alpine lakes along the way. You may not be so far from civilization, but it will feel like you are the only soul in Alaska.

There are 1,000 feet of a steep climb, but your tired muscles will be rewarded with spectacular views of Denali and the endless Alaska Range, followed by a much-appreciated downhill stroll along the river. This trail is at its best in summer and fall when colorful wildflowers and golden hues dominate. You have a much higher chance of seeing moose and maybe even bears. Unless you’re up for walking 18 miles in one day (kudos to you if you are), you can take the shuttle from the Denali Visitor Center which cuts the distance in half. This is one of the best Hikes in Denali National Park.

  1. Curry Ridge Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Duration: 2-4 hours
  • Elevation: 1024 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: K’esugi Ken Campground

The Curry Ridge Trail (formerly known as Kesugi Cane) is your golden ticket to exploring the rolling Alaskan tundra. You’ll slowly climb above the tree line where you’ll have the best seats in the house to enjoy panoramic views of Denali, alpine lakes, and the surrounding forest. Take your time and don’t worry about stopping to take a gazillion photos, we know how!

Wildflowers add a pop of color to the trail in summer and if it’s the right season you can forage for fresh edible berries, yams. You can also spot bears and moose on your way. The trail ends at 1787 Lake but you can continue on to Kesugi Ridge for another adventure.

  1. Horseshoe Lake Trail
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation: 250 feet (descent)
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Denali Visitor Center or Railroad Crossing

Horseshoe Lake is wonderful for wildlife viewing and is especially popular with Denali’s beaver residents. You can see whole families of them building their dams and lodges in the water (that’s right, beavers are a fancy bunch that builds lodges with various underwater entrances and living quarters above the water – river For the scenes, obv). It is also a prime summer spot for moose who like to cool off in the lake to cool off. Apart from the wildlife, the trail takes you around the entire lake and is surrounded by lush green trees and beautiful views of the Nenana River.

  1. Savage River Loop Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation: Mostly flat
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes (first half mile is wheelchair accessible)
  • Trailhead: Savage River parking area

Very beautiful? We think so. This loop trail may be one of the fastest, but there is a lot of natural beauty to see as you follow the course of the Savage River. It feels wildly different from the trails near the Visitor Center, with some spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. You might be lucky enough to spot bears, ground squirrels, caribou, lentil sheep, and marmots. This is a great route if you’re strapped for time or you’re just looking for an easy way to carry the kids. Hikes in Denali National Park.

  1. Tundra Loop Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 0.3 miles
  • Duration: 20 mins
  • Elevation: 52 feet
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Eielson Visitor Center

This short stroll is the perfect loop to stretch your legs before starting the drive to your next destination. The beauty of this area is that you really don’t have to travel far to experience Denali’s dramatic scenery and rugged wilderness. If you want to learn more about wildlife and ecosystems, there are free ranger-led trails on this trail in the summer.

  1. Mount Healy Overlook Trail
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 2.7 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours (one way)
  • Elevation: 1,700 feet gain
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Denali Visitor Center

Mount Healy is one of Denali’s most iconic trails and offers amazing views of Nenana Valley and the park entrance area. Starting on the Taiga Trail, you’ll pass through spruce forests that then open up to become the tundra. The last part of the trail is steep and quite climbing. It’s definitely worth pursuing, as you’ll be treated to what feels like endless forest vistas.

On a clear day, you can see Denali peeking out of the clouds. The trail officially ends at a rocky intersection, but you are allowed to go beyond this point if the forest is calling (this can be dangerous so make sure you are sticking and prepared).

  1. McKinley Bar Trail
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2.4 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation: 486 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Near the start of the road to Wonder Lake Campground

The pioneers followed this route to get to Denali. These days, it is better used as a way to appreciate the great from afar. You’ll pass Alpine Creek, the revered Wonder Lake, and thick spruce and pine forests before emerging into the McKinley River. It’s worth stopping at Wonder Lake to wander and contemplate – it’s so ancient that you might have to pinch your arm to remind yourself that it’s actually real.

  1. Savage Alpine Trail
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 4 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation: 1,500 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back (or jump on the shuttle bus to return)
  • Wheelchair accessible:
  • Trailhead: East Savage River parking area or Mountain Vista parking area

If you’re pushed for time and you want to get at least one strenuous hike, the Savage Alpine Trail is probably what it should be. It’s not very tall, but you’ll climb 1,500 feet very quickly. Dal sheep are one of the local residents here and you can see them roaming, grazing, or gazing about the majestic Denali that emerges through the clouds every now and then.

Wheelchair accessible areas and trails in Denali National Park

  • Denali Visitor Center
  • Eielson Visitor Center
  • All campground amphitheaters
  • Riley Creek campground and some walking trails
  • Savage River Loop Trail (first half mile)
  • Mountain Vista Loop Trail
  • McKinley Station Trail

For more information about access, visit the National Park Service website.

Important Links

Denali national park weather (Link)
Hotels near Denali national park (Link)
Denali national park map (Link)
Denali national park visitor center (Link)
Denali national park (Link)

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