Denali National Park is one of the most popular hiking spots in the USA. With its many different landscapes, visiting Denali should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list.
Alaska is the largest state of America, and it spans several climatic zones. Here you can see fertile lands with numerous forests, and the Arctic tundra with a short northern summer. The tourist season begins in early June and lasts until mid-August. At this time, it is full of travellers who discover this fabulously beautiful territory. To be in Alaska means to be a daily part of the pristine environment, to be in harmony with it, to know it from the inside. And Denali National Park is no different. With all this beauty in one place, visiting Denali National Park is bound to offer amazing hiking opportunities.
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Explore the Denali National Park
In Denali, you can enjoy the truly wild nature of Alaska making this a place truly worth visiting. If you have always been inspired by films about brave explorers, this park is for you. Conquer the highest point of North America, Mount Denali, admire picturesque rivers and glacial lakes, watch moose, deer, and grizzly bears and make your own movie about the adventures and beauty of nature. Some hiking trails in Denali National Park are challenging because of their length, and the vertical climb that needs to be mastered. These tools will help you prepare better physically.
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Horse Shoe Lake
Distance: 3 miles
Duration: 1 to 1:30 hours
If you are looking for an easy hiking trail in Denali National Park then this is the perfect one to try. This trail starts from the Visitor Center and heads north. To reach the beginning of the Horse Shoe trail, first, you have to follow the Taiga trail for a bit. There is a railway line, which is perfectly safe, that you have to cross, after which the trail descends towards a lake. This spot will offer you a beautiful view.
The path has an easy decline and goes down to the edge of the lake. It is possible to go around, which you are encouraged to do if the decline is problematic for you.
It is not a long hike, but the different views of the lake each deserve a halt for capturing some great pictures. Once you go around the lake, the return is by the same path to the Visitor Center. It is an easy family hike. The lake has the advantage of being the home of beavers who have built some exquisite dams. Perhaps you will be lucky to see them! This is a great activity to try when visiting Denali.
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Mount Healy Overlook
Level: Medium to Difficult
Distance: 5.5 miles
Duration: 2 and a half hours
It’s a short hike starting from the Visitor Center to get to Mount Healy Overlook. You will get an opportunity to climb up and see the park from a high point of view. Of course, the park is so large that you only see a tiny part of it. Many trails start from the back of the Visitor Center. If you wish, it is possible to gain a few feet by crossing the parking lot and catching up with the trail after crossing the road.
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The first part of the route requires you to follow the Taiga Trail for 5-10 minutes. When you get to a junction, you will head towards the mountain and the path begins to climb moderately. Everything is marked, so there is no chance of getting lost. After moving through a forest for about a mile, the view becomes clear as the slope rises. The path is wide and very well maintained. If you turn around, you should be able to see the valley in which the Visitor Center is nestled. As very often in Alaska, the view is sublime.
As expected, the larger path narrows and quickly turns into a smaller one, but it is still passable. The first stones appear and each turn in the trail is the opportunity for a break to soak up the view. After an hour or so of walking, you should arrive at the main point of view. The return is on the same path. It should take you about 2 and a half hours for this Denali National Park hiking trail.
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Savage Alpine Trail
Distance: 3.7 miles
Duration: 2h hike one way
The trail starts from the Savage River Campground and ends at the edge of the Savage River. The easiest way to get there is by car and take a shuttle (green bus) to get back to the vehicle. The hike is not very complicated and can be completed in just over an hour. The descent will take about the same. When you leave the Campground the trail heads north and gradually climbs along a stream. After about ten minutes, the path rises and turns into a mountain trail, with its pebbles and hairpin turns. The vegetation gradually disappears and the unobstructed view of the valley is magnificent.
As the path rises, the first patches of snow appear. You will find yourself alone in the middle of nowhere. It’s a real treat. You will end up reaching a small ridge. After another 15 minutes of walking, you will arrive at the highest point of the hike. The descent is no more difficult than the ascent. After a little less than two hours, you will arrive near the river. Now you just have to wait for the return bus to end off your day on this Denali National Park hiking trail.
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Triple Lake Trail
Distance: a little over 9 miles
Duration: 5h hike one way
This trail also starts at the back of the Visitor Center and heads south. You will need to be well prepared for it. You can walk along Riley Creek for about 1 mile. There might be some animals that take advantage of the river to drink. Cross the river on a suspension bridge and after a few hundred feet, the path will start to rise. It’s an indescribable pleasure to be alone with nature. Along this trail, you will see many animal traces. After about 45 minutes of climbing, you will arrive on a ridge. From the top, the view of the Riley Creek valley is just breathtaking. Whenever the valley appears behind the trees, it is picturesque.
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Starting from the Visitor Center, the Triple Lakes are at the end of the route. If the goal for you is to see the lakes, then it is best to start from McKinley Park, the southern start of the trail. But it would be a shame to deprive yourself of all the points of view en route. At each lake, there is a path that goes down to the edge. The main trail continues but does not pass near the lakes. A few hundred meters from the end of the trail, you will cross the railway track. Here the path becomes completely visible.
At the end of the trail, you will cross the bridge to reach McKinley Village. From there, hotels organize shuttles to the Park Visitor Center. This trail will give you a nice walk where you will very rarely meet any other hiker. If you prefer solitude, this spot will be perfect for you.
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How to Get to Denali National Park
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The closest airport to the Denali National Park is Fairbanks International Airport. It is roughly 200km from Denali National Park. The second closest airport, and the largest in Alaska, is the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. From any of these airports, you can easily rent a car to enjoy everything Alaska has to offer. Visiting Denali and its surroundings is amazing whether you use public transport or a vehicle of your own.
Where to Stay Near Denali National Park
Top Pick: Denali Bluffs Hotel
Located next to the Nenana River and Denali National Park, the Denali Bluffs Hotel features an on-site restaurant. Guests can enjoy comfortable guest rooms which feature wooden furniture and a coffee maker. The hotel also offers an onsite coffee shop and wi-fi in public areas. Guests can enjoy a shuttle service to Denali National Park as well as downtown Denali.
Top Pick: The Runway House
Located in Cantwell, 15km from Denali, The Runway House features a restaurant and free Wifi. Each of the units offers a seating area, dining area, and a fully equipped kitchen which includes a dishwasher, microwave, fridge and oven. The property offers a fully equipped shared bathroom with a shower.
Top Pick: McKinley Creekside Cabins
Located about 20km from the entrance of the Denali National Park, the McKinley Creekside Cabins feature views of the surrounding forests and mountains. Guests can enjoy an on-site cafe which serves homemade food. Each of the rooms come equipped with wood furnishings and a private bathroom as well as access to free wifi and a coffee maker. Select rooms come with a microwave and a refrigerator.
Visiting Denali National Park is the perfect way to enjoy excellent hiking and really appreciate this remote and beautiful area.
Written by Mark Anderson. Mark is a tech geek, blogger, and writer in his free time. He likes any kind of outdoor activities like camping, fishing, skiing, hiking, surfing. He is also a contributor to the site vogatech.