Hiking & Camping at Denali National Park

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While likely one of the most tourist-y places in the state, it isn't truly a trip to Alaska without visiting the acclaimed Denali National Park and hoping for a brief glimpse of majestic Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, if only for a minute. Here are the routes to get you there.

- Take the camper bus. At only $35 a person for the entire time you are camping in the park, you can spend a few nights at a bus-accessed campground, equipped with bear boxes and pit toilets, and spend your days hopping on and off any park bus (the green buses) to travel around the park. See a full list of buses available here. The bus travel takes some time, so plan on riding the bus all day for at least one of the days you are visiting the park. And the trip to Wonder Lake? Definitely worth it if you've got a chance of clear skies in the forecast. Either way make sure you make it to Eielson Visitor Center.

- Keep your eyes open. Wildlife is everywhere. In just two days riding the bus we saw many moose (both massive bulls and cows with calves, countless caribou, a fox digging up his dinner, Dall sheep near and far, and 18 brown bears. On hikes we saw moose from afar, watched golden eagles soar in the canyons below and came within 20 feet of Dall sheep rams butting heads on a ridgeline near Mt. Margaret. Denali NP is a truly wild habitat and both a privilege and pleasure to experience.

- Pave your own trail. In Denali, you can hike anywhere you'd like, and, with little maintained trails, the park encourages back country travel. Grab a good map of the park, preferably a topo map, and set out toward your favorite tundra hill or alpine saddle. While hiking in the backcountry, try to keep off trails that look like they've been created by other humans, as the park truly encourages "no trace left behind." Find a map and list of trails near the park's entrance, as well as some more tips for hiking off-trail here.

- Go on a day hike. Bring water and perhaps a water filter, camera, binoculars, compass, extra socks, rain gear, sunscreen, first aid kit and enough food for the entire day. Avoid cotton. Invest in bear spray. You'll likely never need to use it, but on the chance that you encounter a brown bear on a trail, it is important to have a means of protection.

- Camping overnight at a designated site? Bring all of the above plus: food and cooking means / stove and pot(s) (always bring food for at least an extra day out in the park), rain gear, an extra pair of clothes (including socks), fire starter, tarp(s) and rope, emergency blanket / ponchos or plastic bags. For a complete backcountry camping list see the NPS website.

- Visit the kennels. The park has a rich history of sled dog use and is proud to introduce your dogs to you. The park's first superintendent, and climbing leader for Mount McKinley's first summit 100 years ago, Harry Karstens, patrolled the park via sled dog. He and his climbing crew also utilized sled dogs on their McKinley expedition. At the sled dog kennels you'll get some time to pet the dogs, learn about their daily routines and see them in full pulling action. These sled dogs are still used today in the winter months to patrol the park's vast interiors. Find more information here.

With only one road and no public car access, Denali is truly a magnificent place and well worth the visit. For more information, National Geographic has a great article on the park and goes into depth on some visitor necessities. Check it out.

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Check out the park's blog
. / View more photos on Flickr.

6 comments

  1. Awesome Deanali is at the top of my personal bucket list!

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  2. Denali... how I miss it! The Dall sheep picture is incredible! Once you're inside Denali and hiking "off trail" it doesn't feel touristy at all. Yet, you know you're close enough to civilization to feel safe (especially with bear spray). Can't believe how many bears you saw! What's the temperature like?

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  3. Oh, look at that poochers. Your pics are stunning, looks like you're having the adventure of a lifetime!

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  4. You are truly fortunate to experience places most people will see as photos or film.
    The Majesty of Denali reminds me of mans true place in nature. Not above, but only part of and dependent on.

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  5. LOVE these photos! Looks like you both are having the time of your lives!

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  6. OK these photos are beyond unreal. LOVE the wildlife. SO RAD!!!!

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