Backpacking Tour of Denali'S White Tail

Backpacking in Denali’s Remote Wilderness

With no trails, designated routes, or campsites, backpacking through Denali is as rugged as it gets. And while the tallest peak in the Anchorage skyline might be the most obvious attraction of the eponymous national park, it’s just the beginning of the story. 

Embark on a week-long backpacking tour of Whale’s Tail and experience the sublime wilderness of Alaska. Between the gigantic glaciers, towering mountains, and grizzly-populated tundra, Denali’s authentic wilderness will leave you breathless in every way possible.

The crowning jewel of the North

At 20,310 feet, the solitary mountain dominates the great Alaskan wilderness with an unmistakable presence. As its colossal crown engulfs the horizon, one cannot help but gasp in awe and admiration.

The National Park and Preserve surrounding Denali encompasses more than 6 million acres of forests, glaciers, pristine lakes, taiga, and tundra—all rich in wildlife and biodiversity. To put it into perspective: the park is larger than the state of New Hampshire. So no matter how you decide to explore the unspoiled wilderness, you can count on all of it being big. Epically big.

  • 63° 8′ N and 149° 7′ W
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Adventure in
the heart of Alaska


Your journey begins in Anchorage where you’ll board floatplanes for an hour-long flight through magical glacial gorges of Alaska. After the plane leaves you in the wilderness and heads back to Anchorage, prepare for an exciting sound you don’t often get to hear: complete silence only disturbed by an occasional gust of wind and animals roaming in the distance.

Far from roads and beaten paths, where a steep, narrow ridge curves between the Ruth and Tokositna glaciers, you’ll discover a landform appropriately named the Whale’s Tail. 

Heaven-piercing peaks, serene alpine meadows, and crystal-clear glacial lakes are just a snippet of the miracles adorning this hidden hiking gem. 

A plane flying over the Ruth glacier and Denali's valleys. A hiker enjoying the view of Denali

Captivating glaciers and epic peaks

As you travel over Alaska’s boundless terrain, enjoy the view of the Teton-esque Tokosha mountain peaks, Mount Bradley, and thousands of years old glaciers outlining the Whale’s Tail. 

The Ruth Glacier is a fearsome thing to behold as you fly over it, especially during the summer months, when the glacier’s crevassed “Great Gorge” starts resembling an icy river. 

Above the surface, the glacier is surrounded by towering granite cliffs almost 5000 ft tall. Combined with the depth of the glacier, they create an abyss deeper even than the Grand Canyon. 

Experience unlimited freedom to explore neverending landscapes and sights that will stay with you for the rest of your life. If you’re looking to find peace and solitude in a truly awe-inspiring setting, it doesn’t get better than this.

Enjoy a flight over the majestic Ruth Glacier Backpackers admiring the glacial landscape of Denali.

A surreal experience awaits

Legendary wildlife and big adventures

The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park in 1917 and changed the name into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, preserving the true old Native American name meaning ”the Great One.” Three years earlier, in 1976, it was designated by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. With its cerulean lakes, snowy white mountain tops, beige and copper hues of tundra, and green valleys soaked in the warm light of day’s end, the area is like a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.

The tundra lights up with fall colors on Kesugi Ridge, in Alaska's Denali State Park.
A Dall sheep on the slopes of Denali mountains
A caribou reindeer feeding in the wilderness of Denali.
Fireweed and other 430 species of flowers thrive in Denali when summer comes.
There is a big chance of encountering a grizzly bear in Denali.


As there are no roads where you’re going, prepare for some rocky terrain and occasional scrambling. The coppery tundra zone is filled with plants adapted to the short growing season: blueberries, tiny wildflowers, and cottongrass.


Wildlife is abundant in the park and preserve, including moose, brown grizzlies and black bears, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep.


The most iconic, large mammals can be seen by few lucky visitors. The caribou reindeers spend the summer feeding on grasses, mushrooms, and plants in the tundra.


Permafrost underlies much of the park’s area, but come June and July, the ground’s surface layer releases an amazing 1,500 species of plants, including over 430 species of flowers.


There’s a big chance you’ll encounter one or two bears on the way. The grizzly bear is characterized by a distinctive hump on the shoulders and a slightly dished profile to the face. Although they look fluffy and friendly, they are anything but. Still, no need to worry as your guide knows how to keep them away!


Denali’s authentic wilderness can be intimidating—especially when there’s only one road that services the park’s six million acres.

Due to this, few visitors ever step off the beaten path to see what Denali is like up close and personal. But if you embark into Denali’s backcountry equipped with the right know-how, you’re in for one of the most inspiring backpacking adventures out there! 

During this week-long journey, you’ll have a chance to experience a truly wild backpacking adventure free of campsites and designated routes.

The green mountains of Denali.
A grizzly bear gazing into his lake reflection in Denali.


While Denali is any hiker’s dream in terms of biodiversity and landscapes, the easily-accessible terrain near the road is often soft, mossy, and difficult to walk across. This is why a floatplane takes you to the less accessible part of the park where the ground is firm and views even more spectacular.  

Each morning, you’ll set the plans and goals for the day, and every evening, you will re-energize with delicious camp food, enjoy the eternal alpenglow, and make memories with your new friends!

This adventure hosts 3 to 8 hiking enthusiasts ready to experience the uninhibited freedom of Denali’s vast landscapes.

Sunsets in Denali NP last from midnight to 4am!
A tent and camping equipment in Denali

Meet your guide

Your AMGA certified Whale’s Tail tour guide Jack Bynum can rarely be found sitting still. Most of the time he’s out looking for adventure with his trusty backpack in tow. After nearly a decade of guiding around the world, Jack wanted to provide his customers with something new—custom expeditions to the remotest parts of the globe. That is why, in 2017, he founded Indigo Alpine Guides. His company’s mission is to celebrate the great outdoors and preserve the natural world we partake in—while having tons of fun in the process.


Jack Bynum is the owner and guide for Indigo Alpine Guides.
Arthur Baines

Adventure was great. Classis Alaska experience. Exciting flights on small planes to get in and out of backcountry. And a wide variety of massive terrain features every day; tundra, river beds, and glacier travel. Jack is fantastic! We booked a 7 day backpacking trip in Alaska with Jack, and it was a great experience. All the logistics were seamless, and Jack\’s professionalism was outstanding guiding us through the Alaska backcountry. He greatly assisted us with pre-trip planning: gear selection, etc. And he customized the route and food to our preferences. Extremely well done from start to finish.

Annie S.

Backpacking with Jack taught me so much! You can tell he’s made the mountains his home — thanks for an awesome trip!

Jesse F.

Wow! This trip showed me what a waste a heavy backpack is. Thanks for changing the way I experience the mountains. Less is more.

Sam J.

I’ve hired a lot of guides over the last two decades and by far Jack is the best. My time in Alaska with him was phenomenal. He’s funny, humble, thoughtful and kept us safe on our remote trip. The views of Denali totally rocked my world. From the very flight in I was dumbfounded. I’ve always dreamed of backpacking in Alaska and I’m so grateful I got to live out that dream with Indigo Alpine Guides. The whole trip had so much attention to detail, logistics, and good risk management. If you’re thinking about this trip… DO IT! I would (and do) recommend this trip to everyone I talk to. Thanks Jack and Indigo Alpine Guides for such a memorable experience.

Laura R.

No words. Wow. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. The food and the company were great. The views of the mountains and flying in low over the glacier was soooo cool. Just being out there I was always in awe. I was intimidated to go so far into the backcountry and worried about bears, but Jack made me feel totally at ease. And more importantly, taught us how to stay safe in bear country. He’s an incredible guide and an awesome human to spend time with in the mountains. I’m already planning on more Alaska trips with Indigo Alpine Guides for next summer.

April S.

I honestly still tear up a bit remembering how beautiful it was out there. Those mountains are so massive. Denali is the real deal. I’d backpacked a lot before in the lower 48, but never in mountains like that! I’m glad I had a guide! Jack is hilarious and incredible at what he does. I was super impressed by his competence. You can tell he’s put in the time to become excellent. Even the days it rained were awesome. We played cards under the tarp and drank hot chocolate looking out over the glacier. It’s not for everyone (there’s rain and some bugs) — but if you’re up for a bit of a challenge I totally recommend it. Just sign up. Just do it. You’ll thank yourself later 🙂

Jamie L.

This was a trip of a lifetime for me. I was a bit worried about spending that kind of money, but I’m so glad I did. Everything was perfect. Our guide, Jack went above and beyond to make the trip special. He’s a kind and thoughtful human and an awesome person to talk to about life. The food was excellent, the wilderness was mind boggling, the travel was hard but rewarding, and the group was the perfect size. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to come alone, but we all ended up really meshing well. Alaska has captured my heart. Overall 11 / 10… I was super impressed by Jack, his guide company, and Denali itself.

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