Zac Peterson
Zac Peterson
Outdoors icon category

Hiking in Denali National Park

Hiking in Denali National Park is an experience that you’ll never forget. The national park and abutting national preserve encompass 9,460 square miles (24,500 km2) of protected wilderness. Here you can hike through taiga forest, wander across endless tundra, and explore mountains, valleys, and glaciers. During your time in the park, you are very likely to encounter caribou, grizzly bears, moose, and maybe even wolves. Also, if you’re lucky you will get to see Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America. The 20,310 foot (6190 m) tall mountain is actually significantly taller than Mount Everest when measured from base to summit. It is often obscured by clouds, so catching view of it is a special occasion (the best time to see the mountain is before noon, before the clouds usually move in).

Despite the park’s huge area, it only has one road, starting from the information center at the park gates. For the first 14.8 miles of the road, the park is accessible to personal vehicle traffic, but after that, all travel must be done on park buses, and you will have to pay the $10 park entry fee, as well as the bus ticket price. The road is open from May 20th to the second week of September.

All people who choose to hike in Denali should carry bear spray with them. There are 5 ways to experience Denali National Park, all of which require paying the entrance fee.


The first way is to stay in the entrance area of the park and travel around with the free buses. Riley Creek Campground is at the park entrance, and costs $15 a night for first-come-first-served walk-in tent camping. This is a great spot because even if the park is busy, it usually won’t fill up. Other camp sites require advanced reservations.

There are quite a few good trails accesible from the park entrance. The best is the Mount Healy Overlook Trail, which takes you up the nearby mountain. The Horseshoe Lake Trail is a much quicker hike, with some good views.

You can also use the free shuttle buses to get to the Savage River Loop Trail, located at mile 14 of the park road, a few feet before the park gate. It’s a short (but beautiful) level hike along a stream through a narrow gap in the mountains, and is perfect for hikers of any ability. If you desire a longer hike, take the Savage Alpine Trail from the same trailhead, which is a much more strenuous hike up a mountain and back down to the Mountain Vista / Savage River Campground. You can then grab the bus back to the park entrance.

If you want to hike off-trail, a great option is climbing up to Primrose Ridge, on the opposite side of the river from the Savage Alpine Trail. It is best accessible via the turn-around point of the Loop Trail.


The second way is to drive in the park with your car. In addition to the Riley Creek Campground ($24 to car camp), there is also the Savage River Campground, and many hotels outside the park entrance. You can drive as far into the park as the Savage River Trailhead at mile 14 and hike the Loop Trail. If you want to hike the Alpine Trail, you can travel back to your car at the end via the free Savage River shuttle.


The third way to explore the park is probably the most popular. This is to take a tour bus past the park gates, and drive down the park road. This is the best way to spot wildlife. The park road is very long, narrow, and unpaved, so the trip out and back can take all day. There are several different tours, which are similar, but the guide will stress different aspects of the park, such as its history or its geology. The bus cost depends on how deep you travel into the park. Kids under 15 ride for free. It is highly recommended to book buses ahead of time on The earlier your bus, the better chance you have of viewing Mount Denali.

You can get off your tour bus and onto another one if there is room, should you decide to stay at a place longer than the 15-30 mins that the buses stop. Because of this system, you can take a short backcountry hike if you want. There are also bathroom breaks. You can tell “stop” at any point if you spot wildlife.

Bus tickets are bought at the Wilderness Access Center from 7am-7pm. Tour buses can be taken to the following points:

Toklat River – mile 53 – 6.5 hrs round trip – $31.25
This is a visitor center a little over half way into the park, by a river surrounded by mountains. On the way you will stop at Teklanika River (mile 29) for a bathroom break, and a good view. A few miles later, you will go over Sable Pass, with views on the left of Cathedral Mountain. Afterwards is Polychrome Pass, where the south side of the road drops down hundreds of feet. The bus will stop at the Overlook there, where you can get a great view out at the tundra and the mountains on the other side of the expansive valley.

Eielson Visitor Center – mile 66 – 8 hrs round trip – $40.00
This is the best bus pass to buy, as you see all of the best spots on the road, and it isn’t too long. The visitor center has incredible views out into the valley, and has two trailheads, the Thorofare Ridge Trail up to a mountaintop (recommended), and one down to the river. On the way there from the Toklat River stop, you will stop at the Stony Hill Scenic Overlook, which gives you the best view of Mount Denali (the one seen on the Alaska state quarter).

Wonder Lake – mile 85 – 11 hrs round trip – $55.00
Getting to Wonder Lake is a long trip, and only worth it if you leave early, and Denali is visible, or if you have time to stay. There is less wildlife in this section as well. Don’t let that advice detract you from the trip though, as the views south from the bus out into the wide open valley are stunning. The lake itself is nice, but nothing unique. If you have time to stay you can hike the McKinley Bar Trail down to a gravel bar, which is a great hike, with a higher chance of spotting wildlife. You can also make your way over to the Reflection Pond, off of the road on the way to Kantishna, which gives the best mirrored view of Denali.

Kantishna – mile 92 – 13 hrs round trip – $60.00
The only reason to take the bus out this far is if you are going to take a flight tour out of the airport, or if you are staying at the campground. You can also use this bus to get closer to Reflection Pond.


The forth way to experience Denali is by camping in the park. You can camp in the park for as many days as you want, as long as you have a campsite reserved. Reserving campsites ahead of time is highly recommended. Some can be reserved online, while others can only be reserved in person at the Wilderness Access Center. Sites cost around $15 per night. Access to the campgrounds is provided via the $40 camper bus. You must have a campsite reserved before you can buy the camper bus ticket. The ticket lasts for as many days as you have campsites reserved in the park. As long as you don’t leave the park entrance, you can travel back and forth within the park via the camper buses using the same ticket.

There are 4 campgrounds within the park:

Sanctuary Campground – $15
Although it only has 7 tent sites, this is a good campground to stay at, as it can only be reserved in person at the Wilderness Access Center, so there are often spaces available. Use it as a base to explore the park, but it’s not the best place to hike from. It is more forested than most other areas of the park.

Teklanika Campground – $25
This is a special campsite for RVs, and requires a 3 day minimum stay. There are a few tent sites as well.

Igloo Creek Campground – $15
The reservation process is the same as Sanctuary Campground. There are 7 campsites here. It was closed in 2017 due to bear activity.

Wonder Lake Campground – $16 + $6
Wonder Lake is the biggest campground within the park, and is the best place to stay if you want to wake up with a view of Mount Denali. It cost $6 to reserve a site online.


The last way to experience Denali is the greatest, and most extreme: backcountry camping. Denali has very few trails, so most hiking done within the park is off-trail. This can be as easy as waking on a wide gravel bar, or as difficult as bushwhacking through willows in a gully. Backpackers should be prepared for any weather condition, pack extra food, and be prepared to deal with animal encounters.

The park is divided into 87 backcountry units. If you want to backcountry camp, you have to reserve a spot in your desired unit. Half of the units have a quota, where only a certain number of people (~4-8) can camp at a time. You can tent anywhere in the park, provided you reserved a spot in that unit for that night, and you are not visible from the park road. You can reserve each unit for a maximum of 7 nights in a row, but you have to reserve it the day of your trip into the park, so come to the park with several alternate itineraries.

In order to get into the backcountry, you have to first reserve units at the Backcountry Information Center, which opens at 8am. At the BIC, rangers will issue your permit and give you a bear-proof container for food and toiletries. If you have questions about your planned route, they can help.

Before you can get your permit, you need to watch a video. To save time, get to the Wilderness Access Center at 7am, watch the video there, sign your name on the list there, and take a picture of the list to show to the rangers when the WIC opens at 8am. Since it takes so many hours on the camper bus to get to many of the units, any time saved is valuable.

After getting your backcountry camping permit, you can head over to the Wilderness Access Center to buy your camper bus ticket.

The most desirable backcountry units are the ones accessible from the road with interesting topography. 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 18, 29, 30, and 31 are all good options.

A good 3 night loop hike can be done by starting at the Eielson Visitor Center, hiking down the trail to the gravel bar, then sleeping in Unit 12 (Sunset/Sunrise Glaciers). The next day, cross west over one of the mountain passes to Unit 13 (Mount Eielson). To get over a mountain, hike up a gully or stream until you get to the top. From Unit 13, you can climb Mount Eielson and explore Muldrow Glacier. If you hike up the glacier (use extreme caution and beware of crevasses), you can spend you last night in Unit 18 (Upper Glacier Creek), then hike out the next day back to the Visitor Center.

For people who want to spend an extended amount of time camped in the park for free, a great trick is to reserve large blocks of time in Unit 1. From Unit 1, it is a short hike back to the Denali Visitor Center, where you can take a shower, buy supplies, or take a free bus ride into town. If you want to go farther into the park, hike out to the park road and use your camper bus ticket. This is a way to stay in the park but be able to leave without repaying the entry fee and bus ticket costs.

Make sure not to hike where you see others have hiked before. The point of Denali is to experience Wilderness, and to leave no trace behind you, including paths caused by people frequently taking the same route.

Always make loud sounds while hiking to avoid surprising an animal, which might attack if it is startled. If you see an animal, don’t approach it. Moose and grizzly bears should be treated with extreme caution. Stay at least 75 feet away from moose and other animals. If a moose charges you, run away in a zigzagging line, and it will give up once it no longer feels threatened. If you are within 1000 feet of a grizzly bear, then you’re too close. If it approaches, stand your ground, and get ready to use your bear spray. If it gets too close to you, protect you head with your arms and stomach with your knees and play dead. Never run away from a grizzly, as it will see you as prey.

Always bring extra clothing into the field, and avoid cotton items. Always bring an at least an extra day of food with you as well. Also, let a friend or family member know which units you will be in when, and on what date they should expect to hear back from you. There is no cellphone service within the park, and it is bigger than Massachusetts, so no one will find you otherwise. The gps on smartphones works well though, so I recommend loading an offline satellite and topographic map on your phone to help with navigation. You can do this in google maps.

-light, high calorie food (1+ day extra)
-bear spray
-bear-proof canister (provided free by the park)
-rain pants and rain jacket
-hiking boots
-wool socks
-athletic clothing (non-cotton)
-topo map and smartphone or gps

Tiplr Highlights

Discover more Outdoors travel tips in United States

Wakulla County

Visit the Wakulla Welcome Center

The Welcome Center is a beautiful old building set back in the salt marsh and pine forests of Panacea Florida It is worth a visit to learn a bit about the area and see photos from both the past and present There is a great series of photographs of the local

Camping Essentials 101

Camping is a pretty low maintenance activity While you don t need much to enjoy it there are still some things you need to have a good time Light It gets dark when camping at night really dark I think a headlamp works best as it is hands free trying to

Enter email and new password

By continuing you agree to our Terms and Policy

The Tiplr Travel Groups on Facebook

The community of smart travelers is real and ready to help you travel smart. We are active on several specific Facebook groups. Join us now yo get direct travel tips about the most exciting destinations

Oh there you are!

Login via Instagram will be removed soon

If you previously created your Tiplr account using Instagram, we kindly request that you change your login access using one of the options below, in order to keep using your Tiplr account with all of your data and tips. Thanks!
Have an account using Instagram? Login here


By continuing you agree to our Terms and Policy

Contest Official Rules

NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE OR PAYMENT WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Void where prohibited by law. Subject to all federal, state and local laws. Contest begins at 12:01 a.m. US Eastern Time (“ET”) on 5/8/2018 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on 7/31/2018. (the “Contest Period”). Sponsor’s computer is the official time keeping device for this Contest.

1. Eligibility: The Tiplr’s Best Travel Tip Award (the “Contest”) is open to all the users of the digital platform Tiplr who are 21 years of age or older as of time of entry. Employees, officers, and directors of Tiplr, Inc., and any of their respective parents, subsidiaries, divisions, affiliated companies, dealers, sales representatives, licensees, service agencies, independent contractors, advertising and promotion agencies, web hosting and service and fulfillment providers (all of the foregoing, collectively, “Contest Entities”), and their immediate family members (spouse, parent, child, sibling and their respective spouses) and those living in the same household of each (whether legally related or not), are ineligible to enter or win the Contest. Participation constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to these Official Rules and to Sponsor’s decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to the Contest. Winning the prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein. Sponsor reserves the right to verify the eligibility of the Grand Prize winner.

2. Sponsor: The Sponsor is Tiplr, Inc., 195 Plymouth St. Brooklyn, NY 11201

3. How to Enter: There is NO PURCHASE NECESSARY to participate. A purchase does not increase your chances of winning. There is one (1) way to enter the Contest:

Via microsite: To enter, visit, complete all required fields of the onscreen registration form and follow the instructions to receive one (1) entry into the Contest. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on 7/31/2018 to be included in the Best Travel Tip contest.

By entering, you agree to receive emails and join the newsletter lists of Sponsor. No information regarding entries, other than as otherwise set forth in these Official Rules, will be disclosed. Limit one (1) entry per person/email address per method of entry. Any attempt by any entrant to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations and logins, or any other methods will void such entries and that entrant may be disqualified. Use of any automated or computer system to participate is prohibited and will result in disqualification. Normal Internet access and usage charges imposed by your online service may apply. If entering via mobile device, normal phone/data and usage charges imposed by your phone service may apply. Standard data rates may apply if entering via mobile device.

Incomplete, corrupted, or untimely entries are void and will be disqualified. Sponsor and its agencies are not responsible for late, illegible, incomplete, or misdirected entries; lost, interrupted, or unavailable network, server, or other connections; or miscommunications, computer or software malfunctions, telephone transmission problems, technical failures, garbled transmissions, damage to a user’s computer equipment (software or hardware), or other errors or malfunctions of any kind, whether human, mechanical, electronic or otherwise. Proof of submission will not be deemed to be proof of receipt by Sponsor. In the event of a dispute as to the identity of an entrant, the authorized account holder of the email address used to enter will be deemed to be the entrant. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person assigned an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, Internet service provider, or other organization (which may include an employer) responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted address. Potential Grand Prize Winner may be required to show proof of being the authorized account holder. Entries specifying an invalid, non-working, or inactive email address will be disqualified and ineligible to win.

4. Selection of Grand Prize Winner and Winner Notification: One (1) Grand Prize Winner (“Grand Prize Winner”) will be assigned to the “Best Travel Tip” created on the platform Tiplr (website or iOS app) and the winner will be defined on writing and other skills basis by a panel of judges selected by Sponsor and communicate via email or web channels before the end of 2018 . The potential Grand Prize Winner will be selected from the Travel tips submitted by contest participants on Tiplr during the Contest Period. The potential Grand Prize Winner will be notified via e-mail to the e-mail address provided on the contest entry form. Potential Grand Prize Winner must respond to the email within 48 hours of notification attempt or prize will be forfeited and an alternate Grand Prize Winner will be selected and notified. Once the potential winner has responded, Sponsor will send, via email, an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release which must be executed and returned within 5 days. The contest will be conducted by Sponsor, whose decisions on all matters relating to the Contest shall be final and binding. At the sole discretion of the Sponsor, disqualification, forfeiture and the selection of an alternate Grand Prize Winner may result from any of the following: (1) a potential Grand Prize Winner’s failure to respond to any email notification by the deadline stated within the notification; (2) the return of an email notification as undeliverable after three (3) attempts; (3) potential Grand Prize Winner’s failure to provide Sponsor with satisfactory proof of age, identity and residency; (4) potential Grand Prize Winner’s failure to confirm address and validly claim the prize by the deadline stated within the notification; (5) the potential Grand Prize Winner’s failure to execute and return an Affidavit of Eligibility/Liability/Publicity Release by the deadline stated within the notification; and (6) any other non-compliance with the Official Rules. In the event of prize forfeiture, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, award or not award the forfeited prize to an alternate Grand Prize Winner. Prize will be awarded, provided that it is validly claimed within a week from the announcement, after which no alternate Grand Prize Winner will be selected, nor will an unclaimed prize be awarded. Potential Grand Prize Winner is subject to verification by Sponsor, whose decisions are final and BINDING IN ALL MATTERS RELATED TO THE CONTEST. An entrant is not the Grand Prize Winner of the prize unless and until entrant’s eligibility has been verified and entrant has been notified that verification is complete.

Tip’s Creation Guidelines

Tips must be in English (Quality of English will be evaluated and any tips in another language will not be accepted)
Each tip must be at least 150 words
Topic of tip must be travel
Each entrant must create at least 10 tips using their Tiplr account (But there is no limit to the number of tips created)
Each tip must have a good quality photo (When using the website, photos should be at least 800 pixels in width)
Best Tip’s Evaluation Criteria

Quality of text (i.e. well-written, in fluent English, unique/original, off the beaten path, avoids mainstream travel topics, etc.)
Authenticity of information provided
“Smartness” of tip
Title catchiness
Picture quality
Ability to select the proper category and location for each tip

5. Grand Prize is a Gift card valued at $1,000 (USD) and it will be delivered to the winner via regular mail or digitally.

Prize Restrictions: Prize cannot be substituted, assigned, transferred, or redeemed for cash; however, Sponsor reserves the right to make equivalent prize substitution at its sole discretion if any advertised prize (or portion of prize) becomes unavailable. Grand Prize Winner is responsible for any loss of prize or portion of prize after it has been delivered. Sponsor will not replace any lost or stolen prize. Any and all applicable federal, state, and local taxes and all fees and expenses related to acceptance and use of prize not specifically stated herein are the sole responsibility of the Grand Prize Winner.

6. General Conditions: By entering or participating in the Contest, entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules, and by the decisions of Sponsor, which are final and binding in all respects. Contest Entities are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information or technical failures of any kind, (2) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Contest; or (3) any other computer, network, technical, human or other error, problem or malfunction that may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing of entries, or the selection or notification of Grand Prize winner. Further, if, for any reason, the Contest is not capable of running as planned for reasons outside the control of the Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, may corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Contest (or portion thereof), Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest (or portion thereof) and in the event of cancellation, the prize will be awarded in a random drawing from among all eligible entries received prior to cancellation. Sponsor also reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify the entry of any individual found to be (a) tampering or attempting to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Contest or any website operated by the Contest Entities; (b) using any robotic, macro, automatic, programmed or like entry methods, which will void all such entries; (c) violating these Official Rules or the terms of service, conditions of use, and/or general rules of any Sponsor property or service; or (d) acting in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any other person. Contest Entities are not responsible for claims, injuries, losses or damages of any kind resulting, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from the awarding, delivery, acceptance, use, misuse, possession, loss or misdirection of the prize; participation in this Contest or in any activity or travel related thereto or from any interaction with, or downloading of, computer Contest information.

7. Release and Limitations of Liability: By entering, each entrant agrees to defend, indemnify, release and hold harmless Contest Entities from and against any and all losses, demands, damages, rights, claims, actions and liabilities of any kind arising out of or related to (i) entrant’s participation in the Contest or (ii) entrant’s participation in any prize-related activities (including, without limitation, any property loss, damage, personal injury or death caused to any person(s). The Grand Prize Winner and travel companion(s) assume all liability for any injury, death, or damage caused, or allegedly caused, by participating in this Contest or use or redemption of the prize. Any disputes that may arise hereunder shall be governed in all respects by the laws of the State of New York without regard to the conflicts of laws principles of any jurisdiction. Venue with respect to any such disputes shall be had in the state and federal courts of the State of New York. All taxes are the responsibility of the Grand Prize Winner, who may receive an IRS Form 1099 reflecting the final actual value of the prize, if applicable.

Entrants, by participating, agree that the Contest Entities, and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives and agents will have no liability whatsoever for, and shall be held harmless by entrants against, any liability, for any injuries, losses or damages of any kind, including death, to persons, or property resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from acceptance, possession, misuse or use of a prize or participation in this Contest.

8. Publicity. As a condition of entry into the Contest, except where prohibited by law, each entrant and potential Grand Prize Winner by accepting the prize grants to the Contest Entities, a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free license and right, to publicize, broadcast, display and/or otherwise use the Contest entrant’s name, city, state, biographical material and Instagram handle in any media now known or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity for advertising and publicity purposes, without additional review, compensation, permission or approval of Grand Prize Winner.

9. Disputes: Except where prohibited, entrant agrees that: (1) any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Contest or prize awarded shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by the United States District Court for the District of New York or the appropriate State Court located in New York; (2) any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering this Contest, but in no event attorneys’ fees; and (3) under no circumstances will entrant be permitted to obtain awards for, and entrant hereby waives all rights to claim, indirect, punitive, incidental and consequential damages and any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses, and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of the entrant and Sponsor in connection with the Contest, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the State of New York, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the State of New York or any other jurisdiction), which would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the State of New York.

10. Privacy: The personal information collected through this Contest is subject to Tiplr, Inc. Policy, located:

11. Official Rules and Winner List: To obtain a copy of these Official Rules or for Grand Prize Winner list requests, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: “Tiplr, Inc. 195 Plymouth St. Brooklyn, NY 11201”. Requests for Grand Prize Winner lists must be received no later than three months after the end of the Contest Period.

The information you provide will only be used in connection with this Contest or in connection with promotional or other activities of Tiplr, Inc.

The Tiplr Travel Groups on Facebook

The community of smart travelers is real and ready to help you travel smart. We are active on several specific Facebook groups. Join us now yo get direct travel tips about the most exciting destinations

Oh there you are!

Login via Instagram will be removed soon

If you previously created your Tiplr account using Instagram, we kindly request that you change your login access using one of the options below, in order to keep using your Tiplr account with all of your data and tips. Thanks!
Have an account using Instagram? Login here


By continuing you agree to our Terms and Policy