• 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

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  • Road Open To: Mile 3 (Park Headquarters)

    The Park Road is currently open to Mile 3, Park Headquarters. Wintry conditions beyond that point prevent vehicle travel, though pedestrian travel is permitted. More »

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

Refer to the park map to find place name locations.

Date Difficulty Location Ranger Description
Saturday, August 23 Strenuous (1885' gain) Mile 23 Sanctuary CG Ranger Jake McCommons Leave the road behind, push through the brush, and let's explore the tundra of Mt. Wright. The berries are out so come prepared for some taste testing as long as the bears didn't beat us to them!
Saturday, August 23 Moderate (481' gain) Mile 59 Join me in a leisurely hike as we climb up on rolling tundra benches to get a nice view while looking for signs of wildlife and signs of fall.
Sunday, August 24
Moderate (600' gain) Ellen Grover Mile 30 Teklanika Join me for a tromp in Denali’s colorful autumn tundra. We will hunt for berries and enjoy the fall colors along our way.
Sunday, August 24 Moderate (negligible) Mile 53 Toklat River Brien Barrett The Toklat trek wanders along the Toklat River bar. Enjoy this braided river while searching for wildlife.
Monday, August 25 Moderate (negligible) Mile 34 Igloo Forest Kathy Gross We’ll be slowing down to look for berries and animal signs while enjoying the fall colors as we hike through the woods and along the gravel bar of the Teklanika River.
Monday, August 25 Strenuous (1200' gain) Mile 49 S side drainage Katie Mikulla This challenging hike will give you a taste of Denali’s many terrains. From squishy moss to wet bogs, brushy willows to loose rocks, we will explore it all while enjoying the crisp fall air and searching for bones, scat, and interesting rocks.
Tuesday, August 26 Moderate (420' gain) Mile 28 Emily Lester Join Emily on a beautiful brushy fall colored hike down a drainage meeting with the mighty Teklanika. As we hike through the thick birch our appreciation for the open space of Teklanika will grow!
Tuesday, August 26 Strenuous (1681' gain) Mile 56 Joseph Whelan Take a strenuous hike with a ranger to a mountain that overlooks the Toklat River and see the park from the top a mountain, not just through the window of a bus. Everybody can use a little bit of perspective.
Wednesday, August 27 Moderate (negligible) Mile 23 Sanctuary River Bill Reynolds Let's face down the coming winter by exploring summer's last moments on the Sanctuary River. With luck we will enter the magic of Denali's fall colors. Scattered bones, telltale scat, wondrous prints will mark our way.
Wednesday, August 27 Strenuous (1200' gain) Mile 56 Caribou Creek Jakara Hubbard Come “color outside the lines” and hike off trail in Denali’s autumn playground! We’ll rediscover our youthful curiosity of the natural world as we splash across Caribou Creek, crawl amongst the berries, and scramble up the steep tundra slopes of Wolf Mtn.
Thursday, August 28 Moderate (400' gain) Mile 28 Jake McCommons We will get our feet wet exploring some marshy tundra, looking for wildlife, and hopefully gorging on berries as we head to an unnamed hill east of the Teklanika Campground.
Thursday, August 28 Strenuous (616' gain) Mile 53 Toklat Daniel Leifheit Come for a journey up a hill near the Toklat River where we will possible gain good views of Dall sheep. Along the way we’ll look for signs of other animals and learn to scree ski down a rocky slope. If you’re up for a fun adventure, this hikes for you.
Friday, August 29 Moderate (900' gain) Mile 35 Igloo Mtn. Jessica Drain Join me as we hike through some brush up to a tundra slope in search of wildlife signs and changing fall colors!
Friday, August 29 Strenuous (900' gain) Mile 60 Alina Pontynen This strenuous hike will explore Stony Dome and Highway Pass. We will climb up from the road on some tundra benches, hike up and over a pass with nice views of the mountains, and then drop back down to the road on a rocky drainage.
Saturday, August 30 Moderate (negligible) Mile 30 Teklanika River PT Lathrop The Teklanika tromp traverses tricky terrain tangential to a tranquil tributary. Tip-toe through the timeless topography!
Saturday, August 30 Strenuous (1300' gain) Mile 53 Toklat River Jeanette Meleen Come experience Denali’s fall colors on the Toklat! We will hike up the Toklat River and then climb up a drainage onto a high tundra bench in search of some beautiful fall scenery.

Did You Know?

snowy landscape and distant snow-covered mountain

Recent climate warming has affected Denali in ways that are readily apparent, such as reduced spring snowfall, earlier snowmelt, earlier green-up and thawing of permanent snowfields. Subarctic ecosystems, like Denali, are extremely sensitive to climate variability and change.