Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali National Park & Preserve

Walking & Hiking

For the most part, Denali National Park and Preserve is unspoiled wilderness—unencumbered by trails or other backcountry aids. The park's philosophy rests on the concept that unstructured wandering not only engenders a more complete experience for visitors, but also has far less environmental impact than would be created by a network of established trails. You will find some short trails that act as handy access routes at the entrance of the park, near Polychrome Overlook, Eielson Visitor Center and Wonder Lake. And if you seek a bit more adventure, there are plenty of options. In Denali you can tromp over expanses of tundra, weave through majestic taiga forests, explore the banks of gurgling braided rivers, saunter over the tops of glaciers or scramble to the top of snow-capped mountains. Visitors are allowed to hike almost anywhere in the park! The following is a handy overview of the more established routes.

Short Hikes

Eielson Visitor Center 

Explore the tundra on one of the trails in the vicinity of Eielson Visitor Center. Trails vary in length and difficulty. (Loop at the visitor center is less than one mile)

Note: The Eielson Visitor Center is closed for construction through the 2007 season. Visitors should check with the Denali Visitor Center near the park entrance for information on hikes.

Horseshoe Lake Hike—The trail starts at the railroad tracks, and this jewel of a lake lies in an oxbow of the Nenana River. It is an easy-to-moderate hike rewarded by spectacular views and signs of wildlife. (0.7-mile one-way; 1.5 hours round-trip)

Jonesville Trail—This trail leads to the business district outside the park. (0.4-mile)

McKinley Bar Trail—Trail starts at the Wonder Lake Campground and continues south toward the McKinley River. (Approximately 4.4 miles round-trip)

Mount Healy Overlook Trail—This 1,700-foot climb offers spectacular views of the Denali National Park entrance area, the Nenana River valley and various alpine ridges. Climb all or part of the way to experience a real adventure that's still close to the park entrance. (2.2 miles one-way; 3—4 hours round-trip)

Rock Creek Trail—Enjoy an upland forest hike through beautiful stands of spruce and birch. This trail leads to the park headquarters and kennels area and connects with the more moderate Roadside Trail. Have a nice hike to or from the sled dog demonstration. (2.3 miles one-way; 2 hours one-way)

Savage Cabin Interpretative Trail—This is a short loop with wayside interpretive information that leads past a historic cabin. (0.3-mile loop)

Savage River Bar Trail—Head down the west side of Savage River to the edge of the river. Enjoy exploring the river's edge, and be on the lookout for a variety of different animal tracks. This trail is easily accessible and great for kids, too. (0.2-mile loop)

Savage River Trail—Head downstream into the Savage River Canyon for a sample of the park's plant, animal and scenic features. A bridge allows easy access for a return trip on the opposite side. (3.0 miles round-trip; 1—2 hours)

Taiga Trail—Explore the subarctic forest ecosystem on this one-mile trail. You'll spot flowers in early summer and berries later on; be alert for moose, too! Plus, you can extend your hike by connecting with the Rock Creek or Mount Healy trails. (1.3 miles; 1 hour)

McKinley Station Trail—Learn about the early settlements of the area on wayside exhibits along this 1.3 mile trail that leads from the Visitor Center to Hines Creek.

Meadow View Trail—This 0.3 mile trail connects the Rock Creek Trail with the Roadside Trail and offers spectacular views of the meadow below and the mountains to the south.

Discovery Hikes

Discovery Hikes are a great way for the adventurous, well-prepared visitor to explore the heart of Denali. These ranger-led hikes go everywhere so be prepared to encounter uneven terrain, small stream crossings, close encounters with dense vegetation and unpredictable weather. Make sure to bring all the items on the recommended gear list, including sturdy hiking boots, clothes suitable for wet and windy weather, extra socks, food, at least one liter of water per person, insect repellent, sunscreen and a hat. Rangers compiled this list with your safety in mind, and will turn away all unprepared hikers.

Discovery Hikes are offered daily during the summer. The locations of Discovery Hikes change each day, and schedules are posted weekly at the visitor center and online at The Discovery Hike bus leaves and returns from the Wilderness Access Center at Mile 0.6. Departure time is 8 a.m. sharp, so don't be late!

Plan on hiking for three to five hours. If you intend to trek in the park's east district, add a two- to five-hour round-trip bus ride. If you hike in the west district, add a five- to eight-hour round-trip bus ride. You must sign up one to two days in advance for Discovery Hikes at the visitor center, and purchase your ticket at the same time. The hike is free, but the shuttle bus ticket will cost $25.00. For more information on walking and hiking in Denali, please contact park headquarters at (907) 683-2294.