Mount Healy is a ridge system that runs east-west and reaches elevations of up to 6,000 feet. The top of the ridge is mostly loose rock with jagged peaks and spires. The topography is very steep with ridge tops and narrow rocky creek bottoms providing the main travel routes through the unit. Due to the significant elevation difference between the southern edge of the unit near the Park Road and the northern boundary at the top of the ridgeline, the vegetation ranges from boreal forest all the way up to barren alpine ridges and snowfields.
This is the closest unit to the park entrance, making it quick to access. Within an hour walk from the Backcountry Information Center, you can be in alpine tundra, and if you climb up high enough you can see Denali on a clear day. Though the unit is close to the park entrance area, it is possible to get out of view of the Park Road and development and not see many people once you are away from the trail systems. This area is very popular for day hikes.
You can access this unit with your own vehicle or with the free Savage River Shuttle that travels the first 15 miles of the Park Road. The Healy Overlook Trail takes you quickly above tree line and begins from the Denali Visitor Center, via the Taiga Trail. Meanwhile, if you take the shuttle, you can get off at the creeks at Mile 5 or Mile 7 and follow them upstream. Other possible points of access are the creeks and ridges on the north and east side of the unit near Otto Lake and along Hwy 3 at Bison Gulch. Respect private property in areas outside the park and never trespass.
Most people venturing to the high ridges of Healy begin their hike from either the Savage River Bridge (Unit 25) or the Denali Visitor Center via the Taiga Trail and Mt. Healy Overlook Trail. The climb to the top is steep and the footing is often precarious. Following the ridge from one end to the other is possible, but is very challenging. There are very few places to camp on top of the ridges.
Possible hikes in the lower elevations of the unit could include ascending any one of the drainages that flow down from this unit and intersect the Park Road; and then contouring across the foothills to descend via a different drainage. Similar hikes from one drainage to another are possible on the northern flank of the unit as well. The Backcountry Information Center can provide more information on how to reach the starting point for these hikes in the Otto Lake area and along Hwy 3.
Traveling west to Unit 25 is possible by traversing hillsides and drainages on either the north or south side of this unit. Following the top of the main ridgeline into other units can be difficult because there is not a continuous ridgeline that goes from Mt Healy to Savage River. Travel over exposed scree slopes or up and down steep gullies is required to get around rock pinnacles and other obstacles.
When following ridges or cutting across hillsides please remember not to walk single file in order to reduce your impact to the sensitive alpine soils and vegetation. Water can be difficult to find on the high ridges, but there are snow patches in many places until early July. Watch out for lightning storms on the exposed ridges in the summer months. High winds are common year round on the ridge tops.
Last updated: September 1, 2015