THING TO DO

Hike a Short Trail From the Denali Visitor Center

trail
A typical fall view of a trail in Denali.

NPS Photo / Tim Rains

At 6 million acres in size, Denali is incredibly vast, and hiking is possible almost anywhere in the park. However, there are only a handful of established trails in the park.

Time is limited for many visitors, however, and some people find endless options to be endlessly difficult to play. With that in mind, here are a few recommendations for hikes less than three hours in Denali. These can all be reached from the Denali Visitor Center, and can be seen in the map below.

Horseshoe Lake Trail
  • Access: The trailhead is about half a mile from the visitor center. Reach it via the Taiga Trail or the Bike Path.
  • Highlights: The trail starts with an overlook of a pretty lake. It descends rapidly to the lake, where you have a decent chance of seeing moose, beavers or waterfowl. The trail loops all the way around the lake, so expect a steep uphill section at the end of your hike.
  • Return: Horseshoe Lake is a loop, so you'll return to the visitor center via either the Taiga Trail or the Bike Path.
McKinley Station Trail
  • Access: The trailhead is about a quarter-mile from the visitor center. Reach it via the Spruce Loop (you can take either leg of the Spruce Loop to reach the McKinley Station trailhead).
  • Highlights: The trail descends to and meanders alongside Hines and Riley Creeks, which are the main unique feature of the trail.
  • Return: You can return via the Bike Path (about 1.5 miles) or use a free courtesy bus to return to the visitor center (summer only).
Meadow View Trail
  • Access: This short trail connects the Roadside and Rock Creek Trails. Using both of those trails, as well as a part of the Taiga Trail, you'll end up hiking a loop that starts and ends at the visitor center.
  • Highlights: Roadside, Taiga and Rock Creek Trails are mostly in mixed spruce and aspen forest. The Meadowview Trail overlooks a namesake meadow and offers great views of mountains to the southeast.
  • Return: As mentioned above, this loop will involve a short portion of three other trails - the Roadside, the Taiga and the Rock Creek.
Details

Total time varies depending on the trail you choose and how fast you wish to hike. 

Pets may be walked on the Denali Park Road or on the Roadside Trail and Bike Path, as long as they're on a leash (6-feet long or shorter). Pets are not permitted on any other trail in Denali, such as the ones recommended here. 

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.

All of these hikes can be reached from the Denali Visitor Center, located at Mile 1.5 on the Denali Park Road. 

These trails are accessible year-round. In fall, winter and spring, be careful as surfaces may be slippery or icy. Visitors coming outside of the summer season (i.e., mid-September to mid-May), please be aware that the Murie Science and Learning Center is the primary visitor facility; the Denali Visitor Center is only open in summer. 

Trails in Denali are accessible any time of the day or night, though we recommend you limit your hiking to daytime hours. 

Accessibility Information

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, please pay particular attention to your surroundings, so that you do not accidentally approach too close to an animal. Moose in particular can be surprisingly quiet for their size, and can be very dangerous if they feel threatened by your presence.

All of the trails described below are around 2,000' above sea level, give or take a few hundred feet. 

Horseshoe Lake Trail

  • Surface: Mix of compacted gravel and rougher roots and native soil.
  • Max grade: One significantly steep section, approximately 20% grade.
  • Width: Generally 5' wide, but with some sections less than 3' wide.

McKinley Station Trail

  • Surface: Well-compacted gravel
  • Max grade: 8.5% max, dropping about 100 feet over a long, sloping hill.
  • Width: Generally 5' wide.

Meadowview Trail

  • Surface: Compacted gravel
  • Max grade: Up to 5% on the trail, plus up to 15% on connector-trails (Roadside, Rock Creek). 
  • Width: Very narrow, generally < 30 inches wide.

Last updated: April 4, 2018