Discovery Hikes

A park ranger speak to to a group of four visitors next to the Park Road.

A ranger speaks with his well-prepared hikers at the Park Road, before setting off into the trail-less wilderness.

NPS Photo / Neil Blake

 
Discovery Hikes are a great way for the adventurous and well-prepared to explore the heart of Denali.

These ranger-led hikes travel everywhere, so expect uneven terrain, small stream crossings, close encounters with dense vegetation and unpredictable weather. Along the way, you can engage the park with all your senses and build memories of this special kind of "walk in the park."


How to Join a Hike

"Disco" hikes are offered daily during the summer, and are limited to 11 people. This limit exists because discovery hikes take place in the wilderness, where there are no trails - the limited number helps reduce human impacts on vegetation and facilitates a small-group experience.

You may sign up for a hike one to two days in advance, and you can only sign up in person at the Denali Visitor Center. There are no exceptions to this rule. For safety concerns, rangers may turn away unprepared hikers.

Please read our preparation guide for more details on how to ready yourself for this specialized program.


Where You'll Go

All disco hikes begin with a bus ride into the park, originating from the Wilderness Access Center. Plan on a bus ride lasting anywhere from one to four hours, to hike for three to five hours, and then a similar-length bus ride back to the park entrance. The disco bus leaves at 8 am every morning.

These ranger-led adventures vary from moderate (elevation gain less than 1,000 feet) to strenuous (elevation gain more than 1,000 feet, or will involve large river crossings). They may start from just about anywhere on the Park Road, which is why the bus ride has such a wide range of duration (i.e., the closer to the park entrance your hike begins, the shorter your bus ride will be).
 

Upcoming Hikes

Hikes begin on June 8 each year. Two occur each day thereafter, until they end in early September. Refer to the park map to find place name locations.


Date Location
Difficulty
Description
Friday, July 17 Sanctuary River Moderate (negligible gain) Explore the Sanctuary River bar for flowers, prints, bones and scat. View the beautiful, distant hills and mountains will hearing the river roar north to the Bering Sea.
Friday, July 17
Mile 61 Strenuous (>1,000' gain) Hike up and down a rolling hill of gravel and tundra while looking at wildflowers, signs of wildlife, and potentially breathtaking views.
Saturday, July 18 Mile 32 Moderate (349' gain) Come explore the Igloo Forest, examining the forest floor for lichens, flowers and signs of wildlife. We will pop out on the Teklanika River and follow its braids back to the bridge.
Saturday, July 18 Mile 62 Strenuous (1,250' gain) In search of fleetingly beautiful wildflowers? Scanning the hills to find charismatic Alaskan wildlife? Have your sights on exceptional geology? Join Ranger Ali on a mountain hike where you just might find what you have been seeking in the Denali Wilderness all along.
Sunday, July 19 Mile 28 Strenuous (1,400' gain) Time is a predator. It lulls prey into complacency. Before you can blink time is upon you, turning moments into memories. Make the most of your time in Denali. Say hello and goodbye, on Goodbye Mountain with Ranger PT.
Sunday, July 19 Mile 63 Moderate (125' gain) Join me for an exploration of Denali's wonderful alpine tundra. We will contemplate the values of wilderness as we admire summer flowers and other signs of life.
Monday, July 20 Mile 22 Strenuous (2,000' gain) Join Emily for a shwaky climb through the spruce forest up to the alpine tundra of Primrose Ridge where you can identify wildflowers, get a glimpse of the Alaskan Range and see a beautiful meandering Sanctuary River below.
Monday, July 20 Mile 58 Moderate (632' gain) On this hike, we will travel up a gravel creek bed and on squishy tundra to reach a viewpoint where a surprise awaits! Along the way, we will search for other surprises hiding in Denali's wilderness landscape.
Tuesday, July 21 Cathedral Mountain Strenuous (1,100' gain) Come and explore the west side of Cathedral Mountain –as we make a steep climb up a tundra slope in search of Dall Sheep, Golden Eagles, and beautiful mountain scenery.
Tuesday, July 21 Mile 49 Moderate (857' gain) Come on an adventure up a drainage of Polychrome Mountain. Along the way we will check out a variety of wildflowers and animal signs.
Wednesday, July 22 Mile 22

Strenuous (1,400' gain) You must be willing to get your feet wet and push yourself as we cross the many braids of the Teklanika River, hike through forest, and climb the mountains on the NW side of the road.
Wednesday, July 22 Mile 58 Moderate (800' gain) Come "color outside the lines" and hike off trail in Denali's playground! We'll rediscover our youthful curiosity for the natural world as scramble up some tundra slopes, crawl amongst the wildflowers, and splash in the creek.
Thursday, July 23 Mile 43 Moderate (500' gain) Come explore the Plains of Murie as we hike along the East Fork River in search of animal tracks and dramatic views.
Thursday, July 23 Mile 49 Moderate (900gain) Come hike across the scree into the mountains and look for wildlife as we explore the Polychrome area.
Friday, July 24 Mile 37 Strenuous (1,500' gain) If ye be hearty, join us. If ye be of the wild, join us. We will foray into the realm of the mountain kings of yore, climbing mainly through tundra and wide open landscapes west of Cathedral Mountian heading for stunning views of the Teklanika River afar.
Friday, July 24
Mile 60 Moderate (454' gain) In search of fleetingly beautiful wildflowers? Scanning the hills to find charismatic Alaskan wildlife? Have your sights on exceptional geology? Join Ranger Ali on a tundra hike where you just might find what you have been seeking in the Denali Wilderness all along

Did You Know?