Alaska Native Place Name: Savage River is known as Tr'at'egheth No' in the Lower Tanana dialect, meaning "From Cottonwood Creek."
Edge of the Wilderness
While most of Denali’s sole road is restricted just to bus traffic, any non-commercial vehicle can drive out to Mountain vista and Savage River in summer, as well as part of the spring and fall.
Located about 15 miles inside the park, the area is scenic, featuring several trails (some short, one long) and a picnic area.
Know Before You Go
- You can park at, or ride the free bus to, either the Mountain Vista Rest Stop (Mile 13) or to the Savage Rest Area (Mile 15). Savage River Campground is situated between the two day-use areas. Trails connect the two areas, or you can walk the road.
- The Savage River Shuttle can accommodate up to two bikes at a time.
- The parking area can get full each day in summer. We recommend using the bus when possible, which you can catch at the Denali Visitor Center (or several other buildings near the park entrance).
- This area can be very windy, so bring layers. It is also several hundred feet higher in elevation than the park entrance, so it can be a bit chillier than conditions at the visitor center.
Why Explore Mountain Vista and Savage River?
The Denali Park Road is near the tree-line in this area. This means most of the vegetation is short and brushy, which lets you see for long distances. The Alaska Range, to the south, is very prominent and Denali can be seen on the way to, and from many points around, Savage River.
On occasion, large animals like bears, moose, Dall sheep and caribou can be seen in the area.
You can get here in your own car when the park road is open (roughly May-September, sometimes in April and October). In summer, you can also use a free bus called the Savage River Shuttle to get here.
Things to Do at Savage River
- Long hike
The Savage Alpine Trail is a strenuous trail. Start at either the Savage River parking lot or the Mountain Vista parking lot and hike one-way on the trail; in summer, you can then use a free bus called the Savage River Shuttle to travel back to your car (or back to the park entrance, if you came to the area originally via shuttle). You may also hike off-trail in this area, as long as you do not see any temporary signs indicating a wildlife closure has been instituted for any reason. Learn more about hiking in Denali.
- Short hike
The Savage River Loop Trail is about 2 miles round-trip. It meanders alongside Savage River for about a mile, crosses the river on a small bridge, and winds back to the parking area.
Picnic tables are available. Please be cautious about your food; mew gulls and squirrels in this area can be very persistent at trying to steal food. Do not allow wildlife to obtain food from you!
In August, this landscape typically erupts into a vivid sea of red foliage, as dwarf birch is prevalent. The exact peak of fall colors is variable, but typically the second or third week of August is the high point.
- Cross-country ski
The road is impassable to this point for most of the early and mid-winter, but we begin plowing the park road in March. Once vehicle access is possible, in late winter and spring, this is a popular area for skiing.