Spanning a staggering 6-million acres, Denali National Park and Preserve offers an entire world of hiking opportunities all by itself. You won’t follow many established trails, though, which is a conscious decision by park management to preserve as much wilderness for visitors as possible. Fortunately, however, for those who aren’t quite ready for route finding and unprepared surfaces, you can explore a handful of Denali hiking trails marked for ease of use. Most are near the park entrance, but you can find a few marked trails farther inside the park.
Getting deeper into the park requires riding one of the busses. Limited vehicle traffic is also part of the effort to minimize human impact.
Hike the steep face of Thoro Ridge to gain impressive views of Denali
By the time you reach the Eielson Visitor’s Center, you might be ready to stretch your legs a bit, and the Eielson Alpine Trail will do the trick! Even when clouds obscure Denali itself – which was the case for us – the view across the valleys to the west is panoramic.
It’s a short but steep trail, climbing the ridge across the Park Road from the Visitor’s Center in a series of switchbacks. When we visited Denali National Park for hiking, marmots seemed quite fascinated with watching humans make their way up and quite happy to pose for pictures. The ridge is broad where the trail reaches the top, and you can easily walk a bit west and take in the expansive valley to the north. This view of Mount Galen and the distant hills is completely hidden from those who never stray from the busses.
Most people return the way they came, though you could continue west and descend back to the highway about a mile or so west of the Visitor’s Center. More ambitious hikers could head east and make the steep trek up 5,629-foot to Thoro Peak. You won’t regret taking more time for hiking in Denali.