Looking for Denali hiking tours? Famous for its stomach-churning heights and pristine wilderness, Denali National Park offers a treasure trove of bucket-list experiences for daredevil adventurers looking for an adrenaline fix.
The park is home to North America’s highest peak, the eponymous Denali mountain. This snow-capped giant is not a force to be trifled with ”“ steep vertical climbs, extreme cold that can freeze humans in an instant, and a lack of man-made trails can easily spell danger for the unwary traveler, but don’t worry.
At the foot of this mountain is a wilderness paradise just waiting to be explored.
If you’re looking for the best Alaskan experience, Denali hiking tours can make your hiking journey safer, more comfortable, and satisfying.
Here’s everything you need to know about one of the best places to visit in Alaska.
Table of Contents
- Why is hiking Denali so popular?
- How many hiking trails are in Denali National Park?
- What should you expect while hiking Denali?
- Hiking on a marked trail
- Hiking off-trail
- Wildlife encounters
- Is hiking inside Denali safe?
- Follow do’s and don’ts
- The best Denali hiking tours
- 1. Denali Backcountry Adventure
- 2. Denali: 5-Hour Guided Wilderness Hiking Tour
- 3. Wilds of Alaska
- 4. Alaska Alpine Adventures
- 5. Walk Denali Backcountry Guides
- 6. Camp Denali
- 7. Denali Park Village
- 8. Stampede Excursions
- 9. Alaska Nature Guides
Why is hiking Denali so popular?
It’s easy to see why hiking in Denali is so popular.
For starters, it’s home to Mount Denali, a massive mountain with otherworldly views that can make visitors feel utterly infinitesimal.
Situated in south-central Alaska, Denali’s peak rises 20,310 feet above sea level the third-highest among the world’s Seven Summits.
Be that as it may, its sheer size doesn’t deter several hundred hikers, mountain climbers, and thrill-seekers from exploring its snow-capped peaks and glacial valleys each year. For the intrepid adventurer, Denali is the perfect playground for an out-of-this-world adventure experience.
Denali’s setting, Denali National Park and Preserve is as much a spectacle as its fabled peaks. When hiking Denali National Park, you’ll be exploring a vast boreal forest, over 6 million acres of tundra, and massive ice-capped mountains.
For the record, this article will not be discussing Mount Denali hiking tours, which involve hiking in the mountain itself. Instead, this article focuses on hiking around Denali National Park. If you’re planning on signing up for Denali hiking tours, here’s what you need to know.
How many hiking trails are in Denali National Park?
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources listed only eight hiking routes in the area, but some seasoned hikers have listed down around 20 in official blogs.
Denali National Park aims at offering its visitors a raw and trail-less wilderness experience, and as such, there are only around 35 miles of hiking trails here.
See Related: Horseshoe Lake Trail Tour | Denali National Park
What should you expect while hiking Denali?
Hikers will find two ways to hike Denali, so you’re bound to encounter one of these methods in your Denali hiking tours.
You can hike Denali on a marked trail or go off-trail to your heart’s desire in whatever direction you wish to go.
Hiking on a marked trail
You won’t find that many marked trails when you’re in Denali. The few marked trails the park has to offer are short and located near the park entrance. The limited trail network aligns with Denali’s philosophy to provide a trail-less wilderness for its visitors.
The chance to hike without trails to follow is exciting but at the same time intimidating. The truth is, off-trail hiking in Denali isn’t as scary as some people think.
Thanks to the park’s bus system and the terrain itself, trail-less hiking in Denali can be very approachable, even for hikers who are starting out. With a size akin to that of Massachusetts, Denali National Park offers plenty to explore.
Bears are common sightings on Denali National Park trails. Be sure to bring bear spray with you and brush up on bear safety before going on Denali hiking tours.
Apart from bears, you’re bound to catch sightings of other large mammals such as wolves, caribou, and Dall’s sheep. Small mammals like red marmots, foxes, and squirrels also run afoot.
Birdlife is thriving in Denali National Park. From bald eagles and golden eagles to mew gulls, ptarmigans, ravens, and gray jays, birdwatchers have plenty to see here.
Is hiking inside Denali safe?
The short answer is both yes and no. Always remember that Denali is an untamed wilderness, and as such, being prepared is essential.
Bears and moose run amok, rivers flood without warning, and the weather can change in a snap. Exploring off the trail without a compass on an overcast day is an easy way to get lost. This and other unforeseeable dangers can turn your hiking vacation into a nightmare.
However, in a wild location inherent hazards and dangers can be thoroughly mitigated to ensure a safer and more pleasurable experience. Here are some tips for a safer Denali hiking experience.
Packing well is the key to surviving the Alaskan wilderness. Here’s what you should bring with you.
- Sign up for travel insurance. From medical assistance to accident coverage and lost possessions, purchasing travel insurance spells the difference between a smooth sailing vacation and a holiday disaster. The best travel insurances include World Nomads, Travelex, Aardy, and Travel Insurance.com.
- Appropriate clothing: Always plan for the worst weather. In summer, snow and rain are possible. Opt for clothes with insulating layers, such as a down jacket, rain jacket, gloves, hat, leggings, and durable Denali hiking boots. Try to avoid cotton and go for quick-drying wool or synthetic materials. Consider bringing sunscreen and or a ballcap as well.
- Adequate water and food: There are no amenities or restaurants on Park Road west of mile 3, so bring the right amount of sustenance that aligns with the length of your trip. This includes meals and snacks. Consider bringing methods to treat water such as a water filter and purification tablets.
- Navigation systems: GPS, compass, or map
- Tools to light a fire: waterproof matches, fire starters, or lighters
- Illumination: Headlamp or flashlight
- A first aid kit
- Bear spray
- Emergency shelter: This can be a tent, space blanket, tarp, or bivy
Follow do’s and don’ts
- If you’ve never been to Denali, Denali hiking tours are the best and safest way to experience the area. Nothing beats the safety of adventuring with a trained guide.
- Avoid high ridges and exposed areas during a storm.
- Consider hiking with at least one person, especially if you don’t have much wilderness hiking experience.
- Always stay in areas where visibility isn’t an issue. This allows you to see wildlife at a distance and avoid them if you have to.
- Brush up on wildlife basics. Stay still in the presence of predators (bears, wolves, etc.), and run away amid dangerous prey like the moose.
See Related: Savage River Loop Trail: Hiking Denali National Park
The best Denali hiking tours
Duration: Approximately 13 hours
If you’re looking to explore the best of Denali National Park, this tour should be at the top of your list. This backcountry excursion is one of the best Denali hiking tours for families looking to dive right into the experience without having to worry about planning. It includes round-trip transportation to and from Denali’s major hotels as well.
A driver and guide will take you on a sightseeing tour along the Denali National Park Road, which parallels the Alaska Range and winds through high mountain passes and low valleys.
The tour takes you to the Eielson Visitor Center where you can gawk over stunning views of Mount Denali for photo opportunities.
A naturalist-guided hike is one of the many activities you can opt to include in your experience, along with a botany walk or a gold panning.
Duration: 5 hours
This 5-hour hiking adventure is one of the best Denali hiking tours for travelers looking to learn more about Denali’s natural history and its varied biomes: tundra, taiga, and boreal forest. With an experienced natural guide and a small group of travelers in tow, this tour takes you through Alaska’s breathtaking wilderness in a challenging 5 to 6-mile hike that ascends 1,100 feet.
The licensed guide hikes along with you, offering narration about Denali’s history, geography, glacier topology along the way. The hike stays within established trails and winds through alpine tundras, lush forests, and above the tree line for stunning panoramic views of Alaska Range glaciers and peaks.
A strong physical fitness level is required in this Denali wilderness hiking tour. As such, it is not suitable for people with heart and back problems, mobility impairments, and children under 15 years of age.
Duration: 7 days
Looking for the ultimate Alaskan experience? This one-week tour takes you through four of the best destinations in Alaska and its vast and feral wilderness.
Begin in Anchorage for a taste of Alaska’s natural landscape and jump to Talkeetna for a cultural escapade. Finally, head to Denali National Park via a luxury dome rail car.
Large panoramic windows offer breathtaking views of Denali scenery as you pass through the Indian River and gawk oversights of Hurricane Gulch, Denali mountain, the spectacular Alaska Range. Upon arrival to Denali, you’ll visit the Denali Education Center, where a resident briefs you about life in Alaska.
On Day 5 is where the hiking begins. Spend up to eight hours exploring the massive area with a hiking guide who will help with identifying flora and fauna, capturing photos, and narrating the destination’s natural history.
Alternatively, you can also board a tour bus and journey through Park Road for the best vantage points of the national park’s wildlife!
Duration: 10 days
Looking for the best Denali-guided hiking tours?
Tour operator Alaska Alpine Adventures has been hosting Denali tours since 2003 and they’ve been incredibly good at it. From multisports tours to backpacking and hiking expeditions, the tour operator’s expert guides know all the ins and outs of Denali National Park and how to make an adventure here a memorable experience.
While they host various tours in Denali, the 10-day Backpacking Denali National Park is one of their most popular options. This tour includes 8 days of hiking through the virgin wilderness, massive glaciers, and wild rivers. It also includes a breathtaking flight-seeing tour of the Ruth Glacier and Susitna River valley via a floatplane.
Days 3 to 9 are spent traversing a 30+ mile circuit over open tundra benches, through gun sight passes, creeks, and by Alaska Range glaciers.
The price includes professional guide services at a 4:1 client to guide ratio, 1-night lodging at Anchorage’s Lakefront Hotel, safety equipment, toilet supplies, floatplane flights, and more.
Duration: 4 hours and 35 minutes
Looking to book the best Denali tours? Walk Denali has been offering Denali heli hiking tours, walking tours, interpretive hikes, and overnight trips in Alaska since 1996 with a brilliant roster of guides that have a minimum of five years of guiding experience.
The tour operator offers two types of hiking tours: heli-hiking and a more conventional Denali hiking tour. The heli-hiking version, which includes a flight and a trek, begins at the tour operator’s private riverside heliport. Here, you’ll ride an aircraft that offers stunning birds-eye views of the Alaskan wilderness.
You’ll land directly in the hiking area just beyond the edge of Denali National Park and embark on a gentle trek above the tree-line with impressive views of the alpine ridgelines and rolling tundra. A naturalist guide offers insightful narration about the environment’s flora and fauna.
This tour is open for all ages but participants are expected to be fit enough to walk continuously on uneven terrain for up to three and a half hours.
6. Camp Denali
Duration: All-day outing
Camp Denali offers a variety of guided Denali hiking tours that vary between levels of physical activity. All expeditions are accompanied by a naturalist guide who offers insights into the area’s wildlife, landscape, and history.
The ‘foray’ hike is a great option for travelers with limited mobility and those looking for a more gentle hiking experience. The trip operates from a van with short walks on firmer tundra and unimproved trails.
The ‘moderate’ hike passes through various terrain, including off-trail tundras, alpine hills, and streams. Expect rocky footing and some climbing here as you explore the wilderness and its animal inhabitants.
The ‘strenuous’ hike is for fitter travelers prepared for steep climbs and descents, stream crossings, and exposed hillside traverses. It requires hiking at a steady pace over longer distances and significant elevation.
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Denali Park Village, a seasonal lodge located by the Nenana River and of the best hotels in Denali, offers its own Denali hiking tours for its visitors. Ranging from mild to strenuous, these guided hikes offer an intimate view of Denali’s exhilarating wilderness.
The Triple Lakes Interpretive Hike is a moderately strenuous hike that lasts for 3 to 4 hours while covering 2.4 miles. It offers a spectacular opportunity to get up close and personal with the boreal forest of Interior Alaska.
It starts with a gradual hill climb on an improved trail with breathtaking views of the Nenana River and Yanert Valley, then descends into gorgeous alpine lakes where beavers and arctic grayling reside. Spy on moose and other small mammals while traipsing among wildflowers and wild blueberries that thrive in the area in August.
Duration: 3 hours
Stampede Excursions is an Alaskan tour operator that has been operating since 2011. For the best in their service-centric offerings, try their Denali Helicopter and Hiking Tour.
Begin on a private helipad with a naturalist expert in tow, then fly over the Alaskan Backcountry while keeping your eyes peeled for bear, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep.
Upon touchdown, the choice of where to hike is yours. You may choose to go on a more challenging hike up a steep slope and end up with rewarding views of Denali’s peaks and valleys atop a mountainous ridge or take a more gentle approach while wandering Denali’s peaceful tundra in search of Alaskan wildlife.
Duration: 4 days
If you’re looking for a day trip in Denali, Alaska Nature Guides offers one of the best Denali hiking tours in the market.
One of their offerings, a 4-day Denali Alpine Trek, offers spectacular views of the Alaska Range with an expert guide. The 18-mile trek includes a steady ascent to treeline as you lug around a backpack several trail miles every day.
You’ll drop your luggage off to go on side trips, exploring alpine lakes and hoodoos while stopping for photo opportunities. The tour aims to strike the perfect balance between rest, exertion, and free time.
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