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Backpacking Tour of Denali’s Whale’s Tail Route

Denali | Alaska
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to go backpacking in Denali

  • Trip Highlight

    Marvel at Alaska’s landscapes full of captivating glaciers and epic peaks

  • Trip Highlight

    Witness Denali’s rich wildlife, from peaceful moose to grand grizzly bears

  • Trip Highlight

    Experience a truly wild backpacking adventure free of campsites and designated routes

With no roads, no backcountry campsites, and no roped-off routes, backpacking through the sublime Denali National Park is an experience like no other. Step into the heart of Denali, far from highways and beaten paths, where a steep ridge curves between two glaciers, appropriately called the Whale’s Tail. What you get is unlimited freedom to explore Alaska’s boundless and dramatic landscapes! Between the gigantic glaciers, towering mountains, and grizzly-populated tundra, Denali’s authentic wilderness can be intimidating. It’s a proper exercise in self-reliance and patience and it requires an immense level of respect for nature. However, if you come prepared and with an experienced guide that is familiar with every square inch of the park, you’ll find one of the most liberating and exciting outdoors adventures anywhere in the world. Learn more about hiking in Denali National Park from Karl Sander, skier, hiker, and cyclist in the PNW.

Season

July

Nearest city

Anchorage, AK, is 4 hours away 

Duration

7 days

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced

Itineraries

Book this adventure

Backpacking Tour of Denali’s Whale’s Tail Route

7 day

Experience Denali’s wilderness up-close on a week-long backpacking tour of the legendary Whale’s Tail! Join your experienced guide for a 20-30 mile (30-50 km) journey across Alaska’s towering mountains and massive glaciers and spend your days traversing epic ridgelines, summiting peaks, and marveling at the wildlife. Re-energize with delicious food, enjoy the serene atmosphere and make memories with fellow adventurers!

Trip Highlights

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Anchorage

Arrive in Anchorage and check into your lakeside hotel anytime before 5 pm. Meet your guide to talk about your upcoming adventure, share goals for the trip, go over the gear, and enjoy a tasty dinner.

Anchorage, Alaska

Day 2: First taste of Denali

After a filling breakfast, head over to the Lake Hood Seaplane Base. Experience Alaska’s stunning wilderness from the sky, before landing on a small lake tucked in the path of a receding glacier. Unload your gear on the beach, say goodbye to your pilots, and take in the silence and remoteness of the place! Set up camp and enjoy a good night’s sleep under the stars.

An airplane takes you to the heart of Denali, Whale's Tail

Days 3-6: Wandering the Whale’s Tail

Get ready for 4 days of hiking Denali’s magnificent Whale’s Tail! You’ll be wandering through high alpine meadows, climbing small peaks, crossing glaciers, spotting moose and bears, and marveling at the persistent alpenglow dance across the snowy Alaska Range. And when you’ve had your fill of walking, head back to the camp to tell stories, eat delicious meals, and connect with fellow adventurers.

A tent and camping equipment in Denali

Day 7: Farewell

Spend your final morning in the backcountry relishing the memories, soaking in the atmosphere, and reflecting on your Denali experience. The floatplane will pick you up early in the morning. Enjoy a final flight over the majestic Ruth Gorge and Tokosha Mountains before returning to Anchorage and saying your goodbyes. 

Enjoy a final flight over the majestic Ruth Gorge
Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in Denali National Park, Alaska

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity. 

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, their guides, and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Denali National Park, AK, please refer to the Official site of the State of Alaska and the National Park Service’s guidelines for Denali NP.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get on this adventure:

  • An experienced backpacking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
  • Seven days of backpacking 
  • Accommodations in Anchorage on the first night
  • Tent accommodations for the rest of the tour
  • Air and ground transportation for the duration of the tour
  • All breakfasts and dinners for the duration of the tour
  • All group supplies
  • Denali National Park entrance fees

What’s not included:

  • Transportation to and from Anchorage
  • Transportation from the Anchorage Airport to your hotel and back
  • Personal gear
  • Lunches and snacks

How fit do I need to be?

Backpacking in Alaska can be quite challenging. You’ll be hiking 4-7 miles (6-11 km) per day off-trail across scree slopes, over mountain passes, and through the occasional thick Alaskan Alder, all while carrying a loaded backpack. That said, if you have previous backpacking experience and are in good physical shape, you’ll do fine. Keep in mind that you’ll also be expected to manage your pack, set up and break down your own tent, and carry a portion of the group equipment.

What do I need to bring?

Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:

  • Backpack large enough to carry all the items listed
  • Hiking poles — optional
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder (2L capacity)
  • Warm backpacking clothes
  • Spare clothes for layering
  • Waterproof rain gear
  • Sunhat
  • Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
  • Eating utensils
  • Headlamp
  • Lunches you can eat on-the-go
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera — optional (but recommended)

Group supplies, such as first-aid kits, cooking equipment, emergency communication devices, and others will be provided by your guide.

Dress comfortably and for the weather in clothes you can move in. We suggest bringing clothing appropriate for the season.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and prices:

  • For this adventure, the max client-to-guide ratio is 6:1.
  • The cost per person decreases as the group grows, so it’s the perfect opportunity to go backpacking with friends and family! 
  • Prices are based on double occupancy of rooms. If you’re traveling solo or want to have a room to yourself, you’ll have to pay a one time supplement of $200 to cover the extra cost of the room.

Backpacking in Denali National park can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

  • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
  • Minors younger than 18 may be permitted to join the backpacking trip on a case-by-case basis, but must be in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.

If your group has backpackers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Deposits and cancellation policy

A $1000 deposit to secure your place is due upon booking. Once the trip is confirmed by the guide, the cancellation policy stated below applies. The remaining amount is paid 4 months (120 days) prior to departure.

If you choose to cancel your trip up to 120 days prior to departure, you’ll receive a full refund minus a $300 per person service fee which covers all non-refundable costs.

Cancel between 119 and 61 days prior to departure, and you’ll receive a 50% refund.

Within 60 days of departure, there’s a 100% cancellation fee.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to Anchorage, AK, the starting point of this tour, most people fly into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. From there, you can take a bus or taxi to your hotel, where you’ll be meeting your guide.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet, which will usually be at your hotel in Anchorage. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.

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Wired for a better world

Outdoor adventuring makes us fall in love with our planet and people, it gets our brains rewired differently and forces us to rethink our life priorities.

For years, we’ve dreamt of building a company that can make an impact on things that we deeply care about. Here are some initiatives we are grateful to be contributing to.

1% of our sales goes to environmental non-profits
We provide work to thousands of local guides worldwide
We operate on carbon neutral and renewable energy
1% for the education and diversity in guiding

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