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Backpacker Magazine – January 2011

Our Backyard: Denali National Park

Explore Denali's top dayhikes, photo ops, and epic wildlife treks.

by: Kristy Holland





5. BIGGEST DENALI VIEW
Scree-covered perches on Mt. Eielson’s south side offer some of the clearest views of North America’s 20,320-foot apex, and this 14-mile cross-country loop connecting units 12 and 13 puts you smack in the jaw-drop zone. From Grassy Pass, hike five miles south along the Thorofare River’s gravel bar and the banks of Glacier Creek. Scramble east up Intermittent Creek to the McKinley view. Return: Contact Creek to the Thorofare to Eielson Visitor Center.

6. BEST MULTIDAY
The wide-open ridges north of the park road—accessed between miles 71.5 and 78.5—offer postcard views of the Alaska Range and blueberry picking from mid-July through August. Start at the Toklat River and spend three days traversing west across the Wyoming Hills (north of Mt. Galen). Finish up in Moose Creek on day four.

7. RAINY-DAY ESCAPE
“If you wait for the weather to lift in Alaska, you could wait for awhile,” says Jason Walsh (below). During long bouts of rain, Walsh suggests hopping a shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center. Bear, moose, or caribou sightings are almost guaranteed along the 66-mile, four-hour ride (one-way), and rangers lead hikes from Eielson during weather breaks. Tip: Cloudbreaks are most likely to occur in the morning, so grab an early bus.

8. BEGINNER CROSS-COUNTRY ROUTE
The easternmost corridor into the Alaska Range starts with a well-worn path through brushy backcountry; gravel bar and ridgeline navigation is a snap; and alpenglow on 6,736-foot Fang Mountain is your alarm clock. No wonder Terri Massa (below) names this 18-mile round-trip to the headwaters of the Savage River a first-timer fave. Start from Savage Campground and angle south.




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