“An Act of Congress designated this park in 1917, originally naming it Mount McKinley National Park. Congress "established [the park] as a game refuge," and instructed park managers to craft "regulations being primarily aimed at the freest use of the said park for recreation purposes by the public and for the preservation of animals, birds, and fish and for the preservation of the natural curiosities and scenic beauties thereof."
Over the years, additional Acts impacted the size and management of the park, most significantly the passage of ANILCA (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act) in 1980. The passage of ANILCA tripled the park's size, and renamed it Denali National Park and Preserve.
General Management Plan (GMP)Download the 1986 GMP
“A ‘Backcountry Use Plan’ was developed and implemented in 1976 and updated in 1984 in response to an unprecedented increase in use of the backcountry. The plan is revised annually. The primary objectives of the plan are to provide backcountry opportunities for visitors while (1) preventing vegetation damage which would not recover within one growing season, (2) preventing the creation of trails, campsites, and other signs of human use which compromise wilderness values, and (3) minimizing human impacts upon wildlife…
The wilderness area is zoned into a number of backcountry units, and only a limited number of overnight permits are issued for each unit. Fires, littering, cutting of vegetation, and other activities that would mar the environment are prohibited. Some vegetation trampling and trail formation occurs, but overall impacts are minor.
To the extent possible, visitor use will remain dispersed so that no areas become overused. If visitor pressure for use of the backcountry increases, park managers may add accessible areas in the new park and preserve additions to the backcountry permit system. The proposed development of new facilities on the south side of the park (see ‘Visitor use and General Development’) will facilitate access to and use of backcountry areas in this part of Denali. Future increases in demand for backcountry recreation can be met on the south side, allowing the perpetuation of appropriate levels of use throughout the entire park. The south side will be included in a ‘Backcountry Management Plan.’
The park intends to maintain primarily a “no formal trails” policy for the designated Denali wilderness area. Generally, hiking routes in this portion of the park follow natural drainages and therefore do not require designation or maintenance. The no-trails policy will be extended to include the northern additions to the park wherever possible. The trails near the park entrance and the short loop trails along the park road corridor will be maintained for continued use. A formal trail plan will be developed for the Riley Creek/hotel area. The McGonagall Pass trail from Wonder Lake will be retained. The feasibility of building and maintaining trails in the southern additions to the park will be studied as part of the south-side development concept plan.” (p.60-61)
“Provide short, formal trails and ‘harden’ surfaces where resources are being damaged or where extensive informal trails are developing.” (p.18)
Front-country DevelopmentDownload the 1997 Road Corridor and Entrance Area (Front country) DCP/EIS
Front country developments would be limited to actions in which the National Park Service has traditionally specialized, such as interpretive centers, environmental education opportunities, trails, resource protection programs, and campgrounds… Visitor opportunities along the first 15 miles of the park road would be enhanced. Trail construction, wider road shoulders, new picnic areas, and improvements to rest areas would provide additional opportunities for leisurely day use experiences viewing animals and landscapes.
Hiking opportunities would be increased and enhanced through more and better defined trails in the entrance area and at certain locations along the park road corridor. Visitors could escape their ties to mechanical transportation systems for brief encounters with the natural and cultural resources along many short trails, especially in the concentrated visitor use areas between the Nenana and Savage Rivers. Conditions and accessibility of existing trails would be upgraded and maintained. These trails would feature both natural and cultural resources along with splendid mountain scenery. (p.23, 24, 25)
A bicycle/foot trail would be constructed and maintained to connect the Nenana River canyon to the entrance area. Gravel shoulders constructed along the paved section of the park road to enhance wildlife viewing would be available to cyclists also. (p.30)
Construct an additional 8-foot gravel shoulder along the paved section of the park road from mile 8 to the Savage River where topography and resource conditions allow. This would provide for more safer (sic), more leisurely scenery and wildlife viewing as well as a margin for safety for bicycle traffic.
Ten backcountry campsites would be designated in the Kantishna Hills along former mining routes so that new trail construction would be minimal. (p.31)
Other entrance area actions proposed include improving information and orientation at the railroad depot resources in the Riley Creek campground area with a 1-mile, accessible trail. (p.33)
Existing pedestrian trails would be used with trailhead modifications and new connections to link the new visitor services center, the camper conveniences center, and the interpretive and discovery center. A connect visitor services inside the park with those outside via a bridge over the Nenana River….Each rest area in the front country would include interpretive exhibits, a shelter and comfort station, and a short (1/4–1/2 mile) loop trail. (p.35)
TrailsReroute the steep portions of the Rock Creek trail and the section near the transit bus parking lot (approximately 1 mile total).
The existing trail system in the entrance and headquarters areas would be upgraded, accessibility improved, and routine maintenance provided. Extensive rehabilitation would be completed in the Horseshoe Lake area. The following trails would be constructed and maintained (also see the Proposed Trails map).
The access route to the Jauhola cabin would be maintained as a trail, with motorized access by all-terrain vehicles allowed only for major rehabilitation projects.
Guided hiking by the two Kantishna limited concessions permit holders would be allowed in designated areas along the park road west of mile 84, the Wonder Lake campground access road, and the McKinley Bar trail. These guided activities would be available only for overnight guests of the two permit holders. A maximum of two permits would therefore be available for guided hiking. These restrictions would not apply to the historic operator in Kantishna. (p.44)
The VERP process defines carrying capacity as “the type and level of visitor use that can be accommodated while sustaining the desired resource and social conditions that complement the purposes of the park units and their management objectives.” VERP emphasizes managing to achieve and maintain predetermined social and resource conditions. Providing for a high quality visitor experience and resource protection are the goals of management as opposed to simply providing for unlimited use of park resources. (p.45)
Highest Priority – “…construct bicycle/foot trail connecting Nenana River canyon to visitor services area…construct rest areas and trail system in Savage River and Toklat areas…construct Triple Lakes Trail; construct short loop trail at Primrose and river access trail at Teklanika”
Second Highest Priority – “…construct Yanert Overlook campground and Nenana River trail…construct cultural resources trail…reconfigure sled dog demonstration trail at headquarters; construct trails at north end of Wonder Lake…provide additional visitor opportunities in Kantishna (guiding, rehabilitate the Jauhola cabin.)”
Lowest Priority – “…construct gravel shoulders along sections of paved road…upgrade existing trail system in entrance area; construct loop trail north of Eielson visitor Center; upgrade/relocate McKinley Bar trail” (p.51)
Environmental assessments may be required to fully implement the following elements of the proposed action:
4. Nenana River Trail and Yanert Overlook campground, looking at specific route and location and trailhead development
7. Savage River short loop trail
9. Savage River ridge trail (location, connections to other trails)
10. Primrose, Triple Lakes, Mt. Healy, Eielson and Wonder Lake trails; also McKinley Bar trail relocation (p.74)
Download the 1996 South Side DCP and EIS
TrailsUnder the proposed action, interpretive trails and/or hiking trails, where possible leading through the brush to alpine terrain in the state and national parks, would be developed in the Tokositna area, Chelatna Lake, the central development zone of Denali State Park, and the Broad Pass/Dunkle Hills areas. The trails would generally be less than 5 miles in length (one-way) and would be developed for a diverse public with varied abilities and interests. Detailed trail locations would be developed through subsequent trail planning by NPS and state of Alaska personnel. Appropriate measure would be taken to minimize or eliminate impacts on vegetation and wildlife (see the Mitigating Measures Common to All Action Alternatives section).
Backcountry Management PlanDownload the 2006 Backcountry Management Plan/EIS
The hub and spoke concept would provide the general vision for trail systems in the South Denali region: the main parking area and information center at Byers Lake would serve as the transportation and information hub, with access to trails and rivers occurring at strategic locations. All trails are conceptual and would require additional site investigations to determine exact locations.
Trails Maintenance Plan
Read up on how Denali plans maintenance of trails.
Last updated: June 21, 2021