Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. Meaning “the high one” in the native language, this beautiful mountain serves as the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve. At 20,320′, Denali may be smaller than Mount Everest but its distance from base to peak of 18,000′ is the largest of any mountain in the world. Mountaineering is the main outdoor attraction but the park’s 6 million acres present plenty of other opportunities to explore including hiking! Backcountry, off-trail hikes are a great way to experience Denali’s wilderness. If you are staying close to the entrance, the 6 trails below are your best day hikes in Denali National Park. Official Website.
This is one of the steepest yet best hikes in Denali if you are able. The trail runs through a spruce forest before breaking the tree-line. The end of the trail isn’t at the summit but to a spot that opens with incredible views of the park to the south. The trailhead is found near the Denali Visitor Center taking Taiga Trail about 1/2 miles before heading northwest.
- 5.4 miles – Out and back
- 1700′ gain
This is the longest hike in Denali National Park and can be completed as a long day hike or by trying to catch a shuttle back to the Visitor Center. There are wonderful views along the way that make this one of the best hikes in Denali. The trailhead starts from the Visitor Center via McKinley Station Trail.
- 9.5 miles – One way
- 2200′ gain
This loop travels one either side of Savage River as it carves a canyon between Mount Margaret and Healy Ridge. There is abundant wildlife in the area as well. After about a mile of hiking you will cross a wooden bridge before returning to the trailhead. The trailhead is located on a parking area on Park Road 15 miles from the entrance.
- 1.7 miles – Loop
- No elevation gain
Popular trail that descends to, and travels around, Horseshoe Lake. Moose and beavers are often spotted around the lake so keep your eyes open! The trailhead can be found at a small parking area off of Park Road.
- 2.3 miles – Loop
- 200′ gain
Leisurely ascending trail through the forest on your way to Rock Creek and the sled dog kennels. A loop can be hiked by taking the Roadside Trail back to where you began. The trailhead can be found taking the Taiga Trail from the Denali Visitor Center.
- 4.2 miles – Loop
- 500′ gain
Peaceful trail from the Visitor Center to the Riley Creek Campground and back. McKinley Station was a booming area before fading into obscurity and this hike is a great chance to experience some of its history. The trail is a gravel path the entire way. The trailhead is located at the Denali Visitor Center.
- 3.6 miles – Loop
- 100′ gain