• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Backcountry Climbing and Mountaineering

With over 1 million acres of glaciers, Denali National Park and Preserve offers an amazing variety of remote climbing and backcountry skiing opportunities which are accessible by ski-equipped aircraft. While Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker are arguably the most well known peaks in the Alaska Range, this page is dedicated to the countless surrounding peaks and glaciers that offer breathtaking views and unique mountaineering challenges.
 
a person climbing on a nearly vertical spire of rock, overlooking a vast, crevassed glacier with other mountains in the distance
Rock climbing in the Ruth Gorge
NPS Photo
 

Backcountry Registration and Permitting

Expeditions attempting Mt. McKinley or Mt. Foraker: Climbers on these two peaks are required to register at least 60 days in advance and pay a mountaineering special use fee.

Backcountry climbers and skiers flying to other glaciated areas of the Alaska Range: Includes popular areas such as the Ruth Glacier, Little Switzerland, Mt. Hunter, the Kichatna Spires, Eldridge Glacier, the Ramparts, and many others. Visitors recreating overnight in these areas are not required to register prior to their backcountry trip. Nevertheless, mountaineering rangers and park management highly recommend that all such expeditions complete a voluntary backcountry registration form prior to departure. Trip and contact information contained on these forms has proven extremely helpful in the event of an overdue party or a rescue situation. The backcountry climbing registration form is available electronically, but the form can be completed in person when the group arrives at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station to pay their park entrance fee.

Backcountry climbers and skiers accessing peaks in the Wilderness area of the park, i.e. areas accessed from the park road or headquarters area: Includes Scott Peak, Mt. Brooks, Mt. Silverthrone and others. All backcountry users in these areas must obtain a permit at the Backcountry Information Center.

Entrance Fees

All backcountry users entering Denali National Park and Preserve are required to pay the park entrance fee. For visitors flying into the mountains, entrance fees are paid at the ranger station in Talkeetna or, if necessary, at the respective air taxi offices. Valid America the Beautiful Federal Lands Recreation Passes are accepted in lieu of the entrance fee, and are available for purchase at the ranger station.

Leave No Trace

  • Removal of human waste is required when camping or travelling within ½ mile of an airstrip. In all other glaciated areas, crevasse human waste using a biodegradable bag or remove it in a Clean Mountain Can (CMC), both of which are available at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station. There is no cost for the use of these cans, however users will be held responsible if the cans are not returned after the climb.
  • Crevasse only human waste. All other trash must be carried off.
  • Efficiently re-package food to reduce trash and overall weight. Read Trash and Waste Policies for Glacier Environments for helpful tips.
  • Everything brought into the park must be brought out. Abandoning surplus gear, food, fuel, or wands is not allowed.
  • Fixed lines and protection should be removed on descent.
  • Caches must be properly labeled with the expedition name and return date. Permanent caches are illegal. Mark caches with 5 to 6 foot (1.5-2M) wands.
  • Bury caches at least 1 meter deep to prevent raiding by ravens.
  • Avoid feeding wildlife. Inspect campsites for spilled food and pack out food waste.
  • Leave what you find. It is illegal to remove natural objects from the park.
  • All caches belonging to other parties should be left intact. Please report all abandoned or unmarked caches to NPS rangers.

Trip Planning

The ranger station offers an extensive climbing library, including binders containing route descriptions and photographs, topographic maps, American Alpine Journals, and hard-to-find books. A photocopier is available to the public for copying non-copyrighted material.

An increasing number of books detailing routes and general climbing areas in the Alaska Range are available for purchase at the ranger station through Alaska Geographic. Consult the Alaska Geographic mountaineering brochure for available publications and related items.

While generally intended for climbers attempting Mt. McKinley, the booklet Mountaineering in Denali National Park and Preserve offers useful information regarding gear choices, pertinent medical issues, and general tips on climbing in the Alaska Range.

Mountaineering rangers with first hand experience in the various backcountry areas of Denali National Park and Preserve are available year-round to assist visitors with trip planning and route selection. Contact us via email or phone (907) 733-2231 for more detailed information.

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