Looking for a great hike to do in Denali National Park? You have a lot to choose from.
The National Park Service website lists 20 hikes in Denali National Park. These trails are scattered throughout the park and range in distance and difficulty.
We hiked a majority of these trails and we have a lot of information, and photos, to share with you. If you have limited time in the park, or just don’t want to spend days and days hiking, we can help you pick out the best hikes in Denali based on your interests.
Table of Contents
About the Hikes on this List
These hikes are listed according to geographical area: the park entrance of Denali (near Visitor Center), the Savage River area, Eielson, and Wonder Lake.
Hikes around the park entrance and at the Savage River area are accessible by car. To get to Eielson and Wonder Lake, you will need to take the park shuttle.
One thing that makes Denali unique from other national parks is that off trail hiking is permitted. One of the best ways to experience Denali is to leave the trail and explore on your own. Off-trail hiking is not covered in this guide, since we are providing information specific to the maintained hiking trails.
Note: Denali Park Road is closed beyond mile 42, due to a landslide. Get more information on the National Park Service website. For information to help you plan your trip, read our post What to Do in Denali during the Road Closure.
Below is a map from the National Park Service. I labeled the four areas listed above on this map as well as the location of Denali.
Map of Denali/nps.gov
While in Denali National Park, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trails, pack out what you bring to the hiking trails, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
Best Hikes in Denali National Park
Trails Near the Entrance of Denali National Park
The area around the entrance to Denali National Park contains the highest number of trails in the park. That’s great, because this area is easy to get to and there is plenty of parking.
The downside of these hikes is that, with one exception, you won’t get to see Denali. The park entrance is located very far away from Denali, so don’t expect to get a view of it from here, unless you hike the Mount Healy Overlook Trail. And even then, keep your fingers crossed for clear skies.
If you are looking for a trail with a view of Denali, it’s best to go deeper into the park.
But with that being said, there are still some lovely hikes to do near the park entrance.
Mount Healy Overlook Trail
Distance: 4.9 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Moderate | Total Ascent: 1,800 feet | Time: 2.5 to 4 hours
The main reason to do this hike is for the view. From the overlook, you have 360° views of the front country of the park and, on a clear day, you will be able to see the top of Denali.
Even though you can see Denali from this trail, it is still appears very small, since it is so far away. To see Denali, you will need crystal clear skies.
In our opinion, it’s not the most thrilling hike. Basically, it is an uphill climb, mostly in the trees, and this trail is just about getting you up to the overlook.
But once up there, the views are great. Plus, you can continue beyond the overlook, taking the trail higher into the mountains, for an even better experience.
LEARN MORE: How to Hike the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
Horseshoe Lake Trail
Distance: 2 miles round-trip | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: 300 feet | Time: 1 to 2 hours
This was our favorite hike near the Denali Visitor Center and the park entrance.
It’s short, it’s easy, and the views along the trail are constantly changing. On this hike, you will walk along the beautiful Nenana River, get to see an enormous beaver dam, and the best part, you have beautiful views as you walk along the shoreline of the lake.
Nenana River | Best Hikes in Denali
LEARN MORE: How to Hike the Horseshoe Lake Trail
Triple Lakes Trail
Distance: 9.25 miles one-way | Difficulty: Moderate | Total Ascent: 1,800 feet | Time: 3.5 to 6 hours
This is the longest hike in Denali National Park. It’s 9.25 miles one-way, which means that you have to have some kind of shuttle to do this hike, or you have to hike it out-and-back (for a total distance of 18.5 miles).
The trail is named for the three lakes located along the trail and each one is slightly different. Wildlife sightings are common, with the chance to see beaver, moose, and bear.
If you have no desire to do a 9 mile point-to-point hike, or if you don’t have a shuttle, you can simply hike out-and-back to the three lakes. This makes it a 6 mile round-trip hike that takes 3 to 5 hours.
This is a nice hike, and a lot of people who do it, rave about it. We liked it, but it was not our favorite hike. It’s a long way to go to see a few lakes and have some views of the mountains in the front country of Denali. But if you like the idea of hiking a less crowded trail, this is a hike to consider.
In our Guide to the Triple Lakes Trail, we cover the different route options (doing the full hike point-to-point or turning around after seeing the lakes), information on the best direction to hike the trail, where to park, and more.
McKinley Station Trail
Distance: 3.2 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: 100 feet | Time: 2 hours
This is one of my favorite easy hikes in Denali National Park. I hiked the McKinley Station Trail solo while Tim, Tyler, and Kara hiked the Triple Lakes Trail.
This hike is easy, it’s conveniently located near the Denali Visitor Center, and I saw very people on this trail, despite its close proximity to the Visitor Center.
Starting behind the Visitor Center, follow signs for the McKinley Station Trail. There is a web of trails here so it can be easy to make a wrong turn, so pay close attention to the trail signs. After a big, steep descent, you will be at Riley Creek. The trail turns to the left here and goes under the railroad trestle. But as an optional detour, you can walk onto the wooden bridge for a nice view of Riley Creek and the railroad trestle.
Riley Creek and the Railroad Trestle
Note: If you continue past the wooden bridge, you will now be hiking the Triple Lakes Trail. You can walk this first part of the Triple Lakes Trail to get to the suspension bridge that crosses Riley Creek.
Back on the McKinley Station Trail, Riley Creek is to your right. Just past the railroad trestle, the trail splits. But here’s the weird thing… both trails are called the McKinley Station Trail. I hiked both of them. If you go left, you will be in the trees the entire time and it’s rather boring. So, take the trail to the right. This narrow trail follows along Riley Creek and at times you have beautiful views of the river. I hiked this out-and-back midday and did not see one other person. It was a wonderful, unexpectedly amazing experience.
Riley Creek | Best Hikes in Denali
Distance: 0.4 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: Minimal | Time: 30 minutes
This short, easy trail starts behind the Visitor Center and takes you to the original location of the Morino Roadhouse. Built in 1921, this roadhouse was constructed to accommodate travelers to Denali National Park. Nothing remains of the building…just a clearing in the trees where it once stood.
Morino Trail | Best Hikes in Denali
Spruce Forest Trail
Distance: 0.4 miles round-trip | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: Minimal | Time: 30 minutes
The Spruce Forest Trail meanders through the forest behind the Visitor Center. It forms a loop the McKinley Station Trail. Because of the network of trails here, it’s possible to combine the Spruce Forest Trail, Morino Trail, and McKinley Station Trail into one larger hike.
Oxbow Loop Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: Minimal | Time: 1 hour
This easy hike loops around an oxbow bend of the Nenana River. It starts and ends on Highway 3, about 7 miles south of the Denali National Park entrance. This trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the Triple Lakes trailhead.
More Hikes Near the Visitor Center
For completion, here is a list of the remainder of hiking trails located near the Visitor Center. With the exception of the Roadside Hiking Trail and the Rock Creek Trail, these are connector trails.
Rock Creek Trail
This trail is 2.4 miles one-way. It starts at the Visitor Center parking lot and heads along a ridgeline. On this hike, you have views of Mount Healy. It ends near the Sled Dog Kennels. To complete the hike, you can either return on the Rock Creek Trail or the Roadside Hiking Trail.
Roadside Hiking Trail
This trail is 1.8 miles one-way and follows along the side of Denali Park Road, running parallel with the Rock Creek Trail. It connects the Sled Dog Kennels with the Visitor Center. The Roadside Hiking Trail can be combined with the Rock Creek Trail to form a loop.
The Taiga Trail is a connector trail that links the Visitor Center parking lot to several other hikes, including the Mount Healy Overlook Trail, Horseshoe Lake Trail, and the Rock Creek Trail.
Meadow View Trail
This 0.25 mile one-way trail connects the Roadside Hiking Trail with the Rock Creek Trail.
Roadside Bike Trail
This 1.7-mile compacted gravel trail connects the park entrance with the Visitor Center.
This steep, 0.3 mile trail connects Riley Creek Campground with the Canyon, which is a business district outside of the park.
Trail sign near the Visitor Center. There are a lot of trails here that interconnect but these signs are posted at each trail junction.
Trails at the Savage River Area
The Savage River Area of Denali is located between miles 13 and 15 on Denali Park Road.
If you want sweeping views of Denali National Park, and the chance to see Denali without venturing too far into the park, put the Savage River Area on your to-do list.
From the Savage Alpine Trail, you have a great view of Denali, as long as the sky is clear. Plus, you can drive to this section of the park. For these reasons, this is one of the best locations to go hiking in Denali National Park.
GETTING HERE: You are permitted to drive to Savage River in your own vehicle, no permit necessary. However, parking is very limited. If you like the idea of doing one or more of these hikes, it is crucial to get here early in the day, ideally at or before 9 am. There is also a free park shuttle that connects the Visitor Center and the Savage River areas.
Mountain Vista Trail
Distance: 0.6 mile loop | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: Minimal | Time: 30 minutes
This loop hike is located at mile 13 of Denali Park Road. Park at the Mountain Vista Rest Area and follow signs for the Mountain Vista Trail. Along this hike, you have great views of the mountains in the Savage River Area.
This area has restrooms, a very nice picnic area, and serves as alternate parking if you plan to hike the Savage Alpine Trail. The free Savage Area shuttle also stops here.
Savage Alpine Trail
Distance: 4 miles | Difficulty: Strenuous | Total Ascent: 1,500 feet | Time: 2 to 4 hours
Without a doubt, this is one of the best hikes in Denali National Park.
It’s a tough hike (it’s one of the hardest hikes in Denali), but on a clear day, it’s well worth it for the view.
This hike can be done as a point-to-point hike or an out-and-back hike, and either way, the distance comes in at around 4 miles. To do it as a point-to-point hike, you will need to utilize the free park shuttle. Or, you can do what we did, and hike it out and back from the Savage River parking lot.
From Savage River, it is an incredibly steep climb for the first 0.7 miles of the trail. But once at this point…enjoy the view! It’s awesome and you certainly earned it. You can turn around here, or keep working your way up higher for even better views of the Savage River area.
This is the view 0.7 miles into the hike, if you start at the Savage River parking lot. Can you see Denali…even from here, it still appears very small and very far away.
The trail continues higher into the mountains.
At the 2 mile mark, you reach another viewpoint. You can either retrace your steps back to the Savage River parking lot, or continue 2 miles to the Mountain Vista Rest Area. Both ways, it is 4 miles round trip.
LEARN MORE: How to Hike the Savage Alpine Trail
Savage River Loop
Distance: 2 mile loop | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: Minimal | Time: 1 to 2 hours
This is another great hike to consider if you are looking for something easy. The Savage River Trail makes a loop around a portion of the Savage River.
It tends to be a busy trail, particularly midday. From the trail, you will not get to see Denali. You need to climb higher for that, which you can do on the Savage Alpine Trail, which starts at the same trailhead.
Savage River | Best Hikes in Denali
Savage River Loop | Best Hikes in Denali
Trails at Eielson Visitor Center
Eielson, which is located at mile 66 on Denali Park Road, is one of the most spectacular areas to visit in Denali National Park & Preserve. On a clear day, the views of Denali are unbeatable. The drive to get here is gorgeous, there are several short hikes to choose from, and you get to venture away from the crowds at the front of the park.
You can only get here by bus. If you want to spend some time hiking, the best option is to take the transit bus. This bus will drop you off at the Eielson Visitor Center, you can spend a few hours hiking, and then hop on the next available bus to the park entrance.
The bus typically runs from early June through mid-September. Note: Buses will not be traveling to Eielson Visitor Center in 2023 or 2024 due to the landslide at mile 42.
To learn more about Eielson, including how to get here and things to do, read our Guide to Eielson Visitor Center.
Thorofare Ridge Trail
Distance: 2 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Strenuous | Total Ascent: 1,000 feet | Time: 1 to 2 hours
This is one of our favorite hikes in the park and it is definitely one of the best hikes in Denali.
For unbeatable views of Denali, this short, steep, very strenuous hike takes you up into the hills behind the Eielson Visitor Center. Once at the top, you can wander around as you like.
The trail starts across Denali Park Road from the bus parking lot. It steadily switchbacks up into the mountains and the higher you go, the better the view.
View from the Thorofare Ridge Trail | Best Hikes in Denali
The view of Denali from the Thorofare Ridge Trail.
Overlooking Eielson Visitor Center and Denali Park Road from the Thorofare Ridge Trail
For the entire hike, the view of Denali is awesome!
Gorge Creek Trail
Distance: 2 miles out-an-back | Difficulty: Moderate | Total Ascent: 600 feet | Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
From Eielson Visitor Center, this trail descends down to Gorge Creek and the Thorofare River bar. The views aren’t as good as they are from the Thorofare Ridge Trail, but it is a little bit easier.
If you only have the time or energy for one hike, we recommend the Thorofare Ridge Trail…it’s worth the effort.
Tundra Loop Trail
Distance: 0.3 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: Minimal | Time: 30 minutes
This short, easy trail is a nice pick if you want to stretch your legs without doing a full hike. The views don’t change a whole lot from what you get at the Visitor Center, since the trail is just down the hill from the building and bus stop.
Tundra Loop Trail | Best Hikes in Denali
Looking up at Eielson Visitor Center and Thorofare Ridge from the Tundra Loop Trail.
Trails at Wonder Lake
Wonder Lake is located in the backcountry of Denali, not far from the very end of Denali Park Road. If you have plans to journey out this way, the McKinley River Bar Trail, the only maintained trail in this part of the park, is well worth the time.
McKinley Bar Trail
Distance: 4.7 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Easy | Total Ascent: 400 feet | Time: 2 to 4 hours
On this trail, you will hike across a beautiful landscape of streams, marshes, and spruce trees, which makes this hike enjoyable even on a cloudy day. If you are lucky to have a clear day, you will also be treated to spectacular views of Denali and the Alaskan Range.
This hike is mostly flat. From the trailhead, it passes in and out of forests and ever so slightly descends down towards the McKinley River. The trail ends at the McKinley River, a nice place to have a picnic lunch, before retracing your steps to the trailhead.
On a clear day, you can see Denali from this trail. In our photos, Denali is hidden behind the clouds.
McKinley River Bar
McKinley River Bar Trail | Best Hikes in Denali
LEARN MORE: How to Hike the McKinley Bar Trail
Best Hikes in Denali: Our Recommendations
Top 10 Hikes in Denali National Park
From the list of 20 trails, here are our top 10 favorite hikes in Denali National Park
- Thorofare Ridge Trail (Eielson)
- Savage Alpine Trail (Savage Area)
- Horseshoe Lake Trail (Park Entrance)
- Mount Healy Overlook Trail (Park Entrance)
- McKinley Station Trail (Park Entrance)
- Gorge Creek Trail (Eielson)
- McKinley Bar Trail (Wonder Lake)
- Savage River Loop (Savage Area)
- Triple Lakes Trail (Park Entrance)
- Tundra Loop Trail (Eielson)
We really liked the Thorofare Ridge Trail at Eielson, the Savage Alpine Trail in the Savage River Area, and the Horseshoe Lake and McKinley Station Trails near the park entrance.
Best Hikes in Denali with a view of Denali
If you want a view of Denali, we recommend the Thorofare Ridge Trail and/or the River Gorge Trail at Eielson, the Savage Alpine Trail, the McKinley River Bar Trail at Wonder Lake, and the Mount Healy Overlook Trail near the front of the park. In my opinion, the Thorofare Ridge Trail offers the best view of Denali.
Best Short, Easy Hikes in Denali
If you are looking for a short, easy hike, we recommend the Horseshoe Lake Trail, the Savage River Loop, the Tundra Loop at Eielson, or the McKinley Station Trail near the Visitor Center.
Best Hikes in Denali to Escape the Crowds
If you want to leave the crowds behind, the Triple Lakes Hike is a nice hike at the front of the park. Or, venture out to Wonder Lake and hike the McKinley River Bar Trail. Or, simply hike off-trail.
If You Can Only Do One Hike…
Finally, if you are short on time and only have time for one hike in Denali, I have two recommendations. The Savage Alpine Trail offers spectacular views of the park and it’s easy to get to on your own. Or, ride the transit bus out to Eielson and hike the Thorofare Trail or the River Gorge Trail…it is a gorgeous drive and you will get arguably one of the best views of Denali.
Savage Alpine Trail | Best Hikes in Denali
If you have any questions about the best hikes in Denali, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Alaska
BEST OF DENALI: For more information about what there is to do in Denali National Park, read our article Best Things to Do in Denali.
DENALI PARK ROAD: Taking a park shuttle on Denali Park Road is one of the top experiences in the park. In our Guide to Denali Park Road, learn what there is to see and do along the road. It’s also important to know that currently there is a road closure on Denali Park Road, which will impact your experience.
DRIVING IN ALASKA: The Seward Highway connects Anchorage and Seward is one of the most popular scenic drives in Alaska. We also have a detailed guide to driving from Anchorage to Valdez, yet another amazing road trip.
KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK: While in Kenai Fjords National Park, hike the Harding Icefield Trail, cruise the Northwestern Fjord, go ice climbing on the Exit Glacier, or go kayaking in front of Aialik Glacier.
BEST OF WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS: Top experiences in Wrangell-St. Elias include hiking the Root Glacier Trail, taking a flightseeing tour, and hiking to Bonanza Mine. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do in Wrangell-St. Elias.
LAKE CLARK NATIONAL PARK: Learn how to plan your visit in our Lake Clark National Park Travel Guide. We also have a article about the Best Things to Do in Lake Clark and photos from Lake Clark National Park.
NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries. You can also learn more about the national parks and get a FREE printable checklist in our US National Parks Checklist.
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