If you have some extra time near the Denali National Park Entrance, you should think about exploring the area by foot. There are a variety of well-established trails, offering beautiful scenery, stunning views, fresh air, and a chance to see the wildlife of Denali. Some of these hikes leave directly from the Denali Visitor Center, and you even have the chance to take a guided hike with a National Park Ranger – a great opportunity to have all of your questions that you may have during your hike answered.
1. McKinley Station Walk
- Difficulty: Easy
- Departs: Visitor Center – 1:00 PM(Guided Hike)
- Distance: 2.6 miles(2 Hours) Round-Trip
Explore an area that once housed early pioneers and, for a time, was the National Park Services’ headquarters in Denali. You may find occasional evidence of the early Pioneers’ time here, including the remnants of a fox-farm. The trail eventually parallels Riley Creek and passes under the Alaska Railroad trestle which spans the creek.
The walk ends at Riley Creek Campground, where folks can catch a courtesy bus back to the Denali Visitor Center.
2. Horseshoe Lake Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Departs: Visitor Center – 10:00 AM(Guided Hike)
- Distance: 3 miles round-trip
The Horseshoe Lake Hike is slow paced, though the trail does change from easy to moderate at various points. The trail winds north of the Visitor Center, travels down a steep hill, and circles half-way around Horseshoe Lake. Horseshoe Lake is an oxbow lake, meaning it was once part of the nearby Nenana River. In wet weather, the trail can be muddy in areas. The hike lasts about 2.5 hours.
3. Triple Lakes Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Departs: Mile 231 Parks Highway
- Distance 2.5 + miles round-trip
You can park your vehicle at a small pullout at mile 231 on the west side of the parks highway. Right from the beginning the trail climbs steeply, and crosses the Alaska Railroad tracks. Shortly after, the trail levels out a bit, and you will come out of the forest to a great view of the Nenana River and the Alaska Range. This is a great place to have a scenic picnic, to enjoy the view, and the (usually) abundant wildflowers dotting the hillsides. If you would like to keep going, the trail follows the ridge, around to visit all three scenic lakes for which the trail is named, and pass over the newly constructed footbridge over Riley Creek. The Park Service has now extended this trail all the way to the Visitor Center, an additional 7.7 miles.