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Our Backyard: Denali National Park

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

Step off the bus at Wonder Lake and grab one of 28 tent sites ($16/night; Your new backyard has easy access to endless untracked miles through grizzly-frequented tundra with IMAX-like views of the entire Alaska Range—and Mt. McKinley, looming just 26 miles distant.

Denali’s trailless claim holds (mostly) true, but the Triple Lakes Trail stretches nine miles atop taiga-forested ridgelines for tree-framed views of moose-y valleys and a string of blue lakes. Hike south from Headquarters on the McKinley Station Trail and settle in at the park’s only established backcountry sites, near the western and central shores of Triple Lakes. Day two: Go 2.5 miles to the George Parks Highway. Or simply backtrack.

Trace the route climbers once used as an approach to the Great One. Nowadays, summit teams fly to a basecamp on the Kahiltna Glacier, leaving this 20-mile trek (one-way) to 5,700-foot McGonagall Pass people free. Start early from Wonder Lake to ease the crux crossing of the mile-wide McKinley River and follow an intermittent game trail from Turtle Hill. Overnight alongside Cache Creek and follow it to a snowfield climb to a pass overlooking McKinley and the 34-mile-long Muldrow Glacier.

The nearly constant summer sunlight (20 hours a day in June) nourishes a vibrant bouquet along Highway Pass (mile-marker 58.3). Hike through the densest patch on the hillside flanking the north side of the road, on a 3.5-mile hike west to Stoney Hill. “When the poppies are blooming, the slopes turn a fluorescent yellow, and in mid-June, there’s an incredible rainbow of blooms,” says Denali-based Anne Beaulaurier.

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