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National Parks: Denali

Denali isn’t just for experts. These guinea pigs will prove it. Probably.


Do it From Grassy Pass (1), bushwhack to a ford of the Thorofare River (depth varies with weather and season) at mile .4 (2). Reach Glacier Creek and head 1.1 miles south to a canyon (3) in the Muldrow Glacier. Climb 150 feet southeast to a tundra bench adjoining Mt. Eielson (4). Weave through blueberry patches for two miles, then drop to cross Intermittent (5) and Crystal Creeks (clear-water streams: tank up), then ford calf-deep Glacier Creek above its confluence with Crystal Creek at mile 4.8 (6). Hug the gravel pathways next to the Muldrow until the streambed widens into a braided gravel bar at mile 6.6 (7); expect multiple crossings over the next 2.6 miles. Scout for a flat campsite near a tumbling creek at mile 8.1 (8). Dayhike on day two 5.7 miles (one-way) to Anderson Pass (9). Next day, follow Glacier Creek north to Crystal Creek at mile 22.4 (10); follow it about a mile until Wolverine Creek veers left of a tundra bench (11). Next up: a 3.3-mile, 1,174-foot climb to 4,724-foot Contact Pass (12). Then drop a steep mile along Contact Creek to campable ground (13). On your final day, follow the Thorofare River drainage 2.1 miles, scouting places to ford, before the river cuts west at mile 29.6 (14). Here, ascend a marshy bench, pass a lake at mile 30.5, then ford Gorge Creek at mile 31.7 (15). Close the trip on a 653-foot climb on a user trail leading to the Eielson Visitor Center (16).

Bus stop Hop the Camper Bus ($32, 800-622-7275 for times) across from the Denali National Park Visitor Center (reserve in advance at Ask the driver to drop you at Grassy Pass, two miles past the Eielson Visitor Center, a four-hour ride from the park entrance.

Gear Pack old sneakers for river crossings; trekking poles; bomber raingear; bear spray; deet and headnets. Get free bear canisters at the permit office.

Season September has fewer people, plentiful remnant berries, and typically lower river flows, but it comes with the risk of weathering the first winter storm.

Permits Free; pick up at the backcountry office the day of your trip or one day prior.

Maps $8 each at the backcountry office

Contact (907) 683-2294,

Trip data

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