The 8 Best Hikes in Denali National Park

Denali National Park is a (very) large playground for nature lovers, and hiking is one of the best ways to experience it.

Because Denali National Park is so huge—6 million acres to be exact—and to preserve the park’s natural beauty, there are only 35 miles of hiking trails. You can always hike off-trail, but you don’t need to pack your backpack with camping gear and head out for days to experience the beauty of Denali. These trails show the best stuff. And if you’re worried about being ‘off the beaten track’, don’t be. Denali remains virtually untouched and is wild and rugged as ever.

1. Triple Lakes Trail

  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 9.5 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 4-5 hours (one way)
  • Height: 1,000 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Denali Visitor Center or the south entrance sign near the Nenana River bridge

If you are looking for some solitude, this is the hike for you. The whole path is like one big meditation. You’ll walk through dense boreal forests (snowy forests consisting mainly of pines, larch and spruce) and encounter three hidden alpine lakes along the way. You may not be that far from civilization, but it feels like you’re the only soul in Alaska.

There is a steep climb of 1,000 feet, but your muscles will be rewarded with stunning views of Denali and the endless Alaska Range, followed by a downhill stroll along the river. This trail is best in the summer and fall when colorful wildflowers and golden colors take over. Unless you’re ready to hike 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.

2. Curry Ridge Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Duration: 2-4 hours
  • Height: 1024 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: K’esugi Ken Campsite

Curry Ridge Trail (formerly known as K’esugi Ken) is your golden ticket to discover the rolling tundra. You gradually ascend above the tree line, where you have a fantastic view of Denali and the surrounding wilderness. Wildflowers add a pop of color to the trail in the summer, and you might be able to forage for fresh edible berries. Be sure to keep an eye out for bears and moose on the way up. The trail ends at Lake 1787, but you can walk onto K’esugi Ridge to continue the adventure.

3. Horseshoe Lake Trail

A beaver dam in Horseshoe Bend Lake
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Height: 250 feet (descent)
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Denali Visitor Center or Railroad Crossing

Horseshoe Lake is great for wildlife spotting and is especially popular with Denali’s beaver residents. You might see entire families in the water building dams and cabins (beavers are a fancy bunch, whose cabins include several underwater entrances and overwater dwellings—for river views, of course). The lake is also an excellent place for moose in the summer to cool off. You also have a beautiful view of the Nenana River.

4. Savage River Loop Trail

Savage River Loop Trail in Denali National Park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Height: Mostly flat
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes (the first half mile is wheelchair accessible)
  • Trailhead: Savage River parking lot

Wildly beautiful? We think so. This loop trail may be short in distance, but it’s not short on natural beauty as you follow the Savage River downstream. It offers some brilliant wildlife spotting opportunities and if you’re lucky you’ll see bears, chipmunks, reindeer, Dall sheep and marmots. The Savage Loop trail is great if you’re stretched for time or looking for an easy walk with the kids.

5. Tundra Loop Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 0.3 miles
  • Duration: 20 minutes
  • Height: 52 feet
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Eielson Visitor Center

This short stroll is the perfect loop to stretch your legs before the drive to your next destination. The beauty of this area is that you really don’t have to go far to experience the dramatic views of Denali. There are free ranger-led walks here in the summer if you want to learn more about the local wildlife and ecosystems.

6. Mount Healy Overlook Trail

The view from Mount Healy Overlook in Denali National Park
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 2.7 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours (one way)
  • Height: 1,700 feet gain
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Denali Visitor Center

Mount Healy is one of Denali’s most iconic trails and offerings oh amazing view of the Nenana Valley. Starting on the Taiga Trail, you will walk through spruce forests, which then open up to tundra. The final section is steep and quite a climb, but it’s worth pushing through as you’ll be treated to what seems like endless forest views. On a clear day, you might be able to see Denali peeking out of the clouds. The trail officially ends at a rock outcrop, but you are welcome to go beyond this point if you have permission and wish to continue the hike.

7. McKinley Bar Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2.4 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Height: 486 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Near the start of the road to Wonder Lake Campground

This was once the trail that early explorers followed to get to Denali. Following in their footsteps, you’ll pass through alpine streams, the revered Wonder Lake, and dense spruce and pine forests before emerging at the McKinley River. It’s worth stopping at Wonder Lake to appreciate the tranquil atmosphere – on a clear day it’s so pristine you might have to pinch yourself to remind yourself it’s actually real.

8. Savage Alpine Trail

A Dall sheep in Denali National Park
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 4 miles (one way)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Height: 1,500 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back (or hop on the shuttle bus to return)
  • Wheelchair accessible:
  • Trailhead: East Savage River Parking Area or Mountain Vista Parking Area

If you’re pressed for time and want to fit in at least one strenuous hike, the Savage Alpine Trail is a strong contender. It’s not super long, but you gain 1,500 feet in elevation pretty quickly. Dall sheep live in this area, and you might see them roaming, grazing, or looking very unphased by the majestic Denali that appears intermittently through the clouds.

Wheelchair accessible areas and trails in Denali National Park

  • Denali Visitor Center
  • Eielson Visitor Center
  • All the campsite’s amphitheatres
  • Riley Creek Campground and some hiking trails
  • Savage River Loop Trail (first half mile)
  • Mountain Vista Loop Trail
  • McKinley Station Trail

Visit National Park Service website for more information on availability.


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