6 Best Hikes in Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali National Park & Preserve Overview

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. There are only 36 miles of maintained trails in the park. If you are staying close to the entrance, the 6 trails below are your best day hikes in Denali National Park.

StateAlaska
Nearest Metro AreaAnchorage, AK
Area Size6,045,153 acres
EstablishedFebruary 26, 1917
Hiking Trails36 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Denali National Park & Preserve

Mount Healy Overlook Trail
"Glitter Gulch", Denali National Park Entrance, seen from Mt. Healy Lookout
“Glitter Gulch”, Denali National Park Entrance, seen from Mt. Healy Lookout, Photo by Christoph Strässler

This is one of the steepest yet best hikes in Denali National Park & Preserve 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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Triple Lakes Trail
The Triple Lakes, Photo by NPS Photo

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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Savage River Loop
Savage River
Savage River, Photo by Steve FUNG

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
  • Easy
Horseshoe Lake Trail
Horseshoe Lake
Horseshoe Lake, Photo by dmcdevit

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′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Rock Creek Trail
Rock Creek - Denali National Park
Rock Creek – Denali National Park, Photo by Haydn Blackey

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′ elevation gain
  • Easy
McKinley Station Trail
McKinley Station Trail- Stormy river
McKinley Station Trail- Stormy river, Photo by Denali National Park and Preserve

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 mile loop
  • 100′ elevation gain
  • Easy

Featured Image: Denali AKA Mt McKinley, Photo by paweesit

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