Hiking to the Mount Healy Overlook is one of the most popular hikes in Denali National Park & Preserve.
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.
The view from the overlook is nice, but the views of the Alaska Range deeper into the park are much better. The highlight of this trail was seeing the top of Denali in the distance, but you can see more of Denali the further you go into the park.
In addition, the trail itself is not that interesting. This moderately challenging trail is all about getting you up to the Mount Healy Overlook for the panoramic view. For most of the hike, you will be walking uphill in a forest. You will be able to see some of the front country of the park during the upper portion of the trail but there are no other features or views along the way.
For these reasons I would suggest hiking the Savage Alpine Trail or the Thorofare Ridge Trail before hiking this trail. The Savage Alpine Trail is only 15 miles further into the park but you get much better views of Denali and the surrounding peaks. Plus the trail is much more fun to hike. The Thorofare Ridge Trail is 66 miles further into the park and the views of Denali and the Alaska Range are absolutely spectacular!
Mount Healy Overlook Trail Stats
The following trail stats are round-trip from the Denali Visitor Center parking lot.
Distance: 4.9 miles
Total Ascent: 1,800 feet
Elevation at Denali Visitor Center: 1,800 feet
Elevation at Mount Healy Overlook: 3,530 feet
Time: 2.5 hours to 4 hours
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, 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.
Parking and Trailhead
Park at the Denali Visitor Center. From the visitor center parking lot, cross Park Road and walk to the Taiga trailhead (GPS coordinates of the trailhead: 63.730876, -148.919232).
How to Hike the Mount Healy Trail
Step-By-Step Trail Guide
The first half mile of the hike is along the Taiga Trail. You will be hiking along an almost flat, compacted dirt and crushed gravel trail through the trees. During this portion of the hike follow the well-marked signposts for “Mount Healy,” as there are some trail splits in this area.
At about 0.5 miles into the hike you will cross a bridge. The trail is now called the Mount Healy Overlook Trail. You will continue to hike through the trees but you no longer need to look for trail markers as there is only one way to go from this point onward. This is also where the ascent starts. The trail will now switch back and forth between moderate ascents and easy ascents with a few short downward dips sprinkled in.
The Mount Healy Overlook is the rocky outcropping on top of the hill
At 1.6 miles into the hike you’ll get a break in the trees for your first view out towards the visitor center complex and the mountains behind it.
The trail now becomes rockier and you will notice that the trees become shorter, giving you more opportunities to look out at the valley and mountains.
As you keep going you will have some more aggressive ascents added in but they are accompanied by stoned steps which help keep them manageable.
At 2.25 miles into the hike you will get a break in the trees. As you look up the mountain, you can see where you are headed. You will also get your first good view of Denali. The trail remains steep until you get to the overlook.
At 2.45 miles into the hike you reach the Mount Healy Overlook. The Mount Healy Overlook is not the peak of Mount Healy. Rather it is the beginning of a ridgeline that offers panoramic views. And it is the official end of the managed trail. Enjoy the view here, you’ve earned it!
This is the view of Denali from the Mount Healy Overlook
This is the same view but this photo was taken with a 300 mm lens
From the Mount Healy Overlook you can descend or you can continue hiking higher by following the clear trail up the ridgeline. If it is not cloudy, then it is worth hiking a little higher for better views. Just going another quarter mile from the overlook, the views get substantially better without much elevation gain.
According to the Denali National Park website: “Hiking the ridges of Mount Healy beyond the trail is permitted but can be dangerous. People have died in falls on Mount Healy, so be cautious if you intend to hike toward the true summit, which is approximately 1,500 feet higher on the mountain and another 1.5 miles or so past the overlook.”
About Our Experience & is It Worth It?
We hiked this trail on a crystal clear day and had excellent visibility. We felt that the views were nice, but not as spectacular as you will find deeper into the park. The highlight was definitely seeing the top of Denali in the distance and I question if this trail is worth the effort if we couldn’t see Denali.
If you only have time to do one moderate to strenuous hike in the front country portion of Denali, then consider the Savage Alpine Trail instead. That trail is much more fun to hike and it offers much better views of Denali and the surrounding peaks.
And if you have a cloudy day that will prevent you from seeing Denali, then I recommend hiking the Horseshoe Lake Trail instead.
What to Pack
- Insect repellant
- Bear spray
- Rain jacket – just in case bad weather moves in or in case it is windy at the overlook
- Wear long pants – the trail starts out wide but then narrows as you keep ascending. Long pants can protect your legs from the vegetation along the narrower parts of the trail.
If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.
Be bear aware, moose aware, and wolf aware. Posted signage in the visitor center parking area provides the following advice:
1. Talk and/or sing while you are hiking to make your presence known so you don’t surprise a bear. If you run out of things to say then simple repeat the phrase “Hey Bear”.
2. If you see a bear do not run as they may then see you as prey. Put your arms up to make yourself look bigger and back away slowly while keeping your eyes on the bear. Get at least 300 yards away from the bear.
3. If the bear charges at you then use bear spray.
1. Stay at least 25 yards away from a moose.
2. A moose may charge if you are too close, especially a mother protecting a calf. If this happens then run and get away as fast as you can. They will try to trample a perceived threat.
1. Stay at least 25 yards away from a wolf.
2. If a wolf approaches you then shout aggressively and throw rocks at it.
A moose and her calf crossed the lower portion of this trail about 25 yards in front of us. It surprised us but there was no threat as they just keep proceeding further away from the trail. We also saw a moose along the side of the road near the visitor center. And a park employee told us that moose do frequent the area around the visitor center.
Get updates on road conditions and trail closures, as you plan your trip and just before your visit, on the National Park Service website.
If you have any questions about how to hike to the Mount Healy Overlook, or if you would like to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Alaska
HIKING IN DENALI: For more great hikes in Denali, check out our Denali Hiking Guide.
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: Check out our Kenai Fjords National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
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.
MORE GREAT HIKES IN THE NATIONAL PARKS: From hikes to the tallest peaks to beautiful coast trails, read our Guide to the Best Day Hikes in the US National Parks. If you prefer to keep your hikes short and sweet, read our guide to the Best Short Hikes in the National Parks. Learn more about the national parks in our Guide to the US National Parks.
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