Endless opportunities to hike in DenaliThe beautiful Denali National Park is predominately a trail-less park. Hikers must travel cross-country through rugged terrain and be prepared for uneven land and possibly streams and brush. There is a trail system in the park entrance area. Many rewards await those who take the challenge of hiking without a trail in the backcountry of Denali: spectacular vistas, possible encounters with wildlife, and the experience of traveling the land much as the first explorers did. Be sure to carry the proper gear and be familiar with potential hazards and bear safety precautions. A ranger led Discovery Hike provides an excellent introduction to backcountry day hiking in Denali.
Sign up for Discovery Hikes at the Denali Park Visitor Center.
This Ain’t Disneyland!
Park rangers do not sweep the park at sundown to make sure everyone got back to their hotels. You can get eaten alive out here. Literally! It’s happened before – and it will happen again.
Hike smart. Be alert, bring a compass, (every smartphone has free gps apps available) and don’t hike alone and wind up in the news headlines. Like this guy. And this woman.
7 Mistakes NOT to make hiking in Denali
Here’s a great page written by a couple that learned a few things about hiking in Denali.
Recommended Equipment and Safety Gear for Denali hiking trails
Whether you are going out for a quick day hike or an extended trip, certain items should ALWAYS be packed for safety.
• Drinking water and food
• Local maps
• Space Blanket
• Tent/Emergency Shelter
• Extra clothes
• Rain gear
• First Aid Kit
• Compass and Map/Global Positioning System (GPS)
• Signaling device (e.g. whistle, flares)
• Pepper Spray (if in bear country)
Backcountry Hiking Information:
Years ago a conscious decision was made not to develop trails in Denali. Wilderness in Alaska by its very nature should be trail-less, providing a contrast to other wilderness units elsewhere. Realizing trails become travel corridors that bring hikers and concentrate their impacts, having no trails helps us to disperse use and lessen impacts on the landscape.
Overnight stays in the backcountry of Denali National Park require a free backcountry permit. Permits are available at the Visitor Center during the summer months and at Headquarters during the winter months. Permits are issued only one day in advance; reservations are not accepted. All areas require the use of Bear Resistant Food Containers (BRFCs) distributed free of charge with your backcountry permit. Please return your container(s) promptly at the end of your trip. To purchase your own container, stop by the Visitor Center bookstore. Backcountry Permits are available at the backcountry desk at the visitor center one day in advance only.
Cool Video of Denali National Park
Day hiking in Denali can include anything from a leisurely stroll along a river bar to an adventurous hike to the top of a mountain. Denali for the most part is a trail-less wilderness. You will find short trails at the entrance of the park, and near Polychrome Overlook, Eielson Visitor Center, and Wonder Lake.
Denali Nature Walks:
You may join a ranger for a guided hike or educational talk. National Park Rangers and Naturalists offer visitors a variety of programs. You can learn about anything from grizzlies to glaciers during informal 30 to 45 minute programs. Topics are listed on bulletin boards throughout the park.
Denali National Park straddles the Alaska Range. The park entrance is 237 highway miles north of Anchorage and 125 miles south of Fairbanks. Mount McKinley itself is about 140 miles north of Anchorage.
Primarily highway with air taxi service available in spring and summer
Nine hotels/motels, nine bed & breakfasts, one hostel, five campground/RV parks, 17 lodges/cabins, five restaurants.
Go here for a giant Denali hiking trail map.