(All-)Day hikes in Denali?

Old Sep 23rd, 2008, 02:36 PM
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(All-)Day hikes in Denali?

My BF and I are thinking about going to Alaska for 10 or so days in mid-August 2009 to Kenai and Denali. We are hikers (obviously from my screenname), me more than him. My wish is to hike in Denali Nat'L Park -- real, hard, day-long hikes, not an easy 1- or 2-hour hikes. If I could hike ON Denali in a day-hike that would be doubly fantastic.

I am not arrogant (or stupid) enough to think I could do back-country hiking there by myself. So, does anyone know if the lodges there have guide-led strenuous day-hikes or where I could get information on something like that?

Thanks very much. I've read some of the trip reports here and they've been very helpful.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2008, 02:58 PM
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does anyone know if the lodges there have guide-led strenuous day-hikes

Camp Denali and North Face Lodge have daily guided hikes for their guests, including "strenuous" ones, but it's pretty expensive to stay there. Was just at Camp for a week but was photographing, not hiking, and each day they took 4-8 folks out for the strenuous walkabout.

I am not arrogant (or stupid) enough to think I could do back-country hiking there by myself.

I think it's simple enough to do this on your own, the main caveat being that a group of four or more is much safer if you bump into a grizzly bear. You can certainly hike with 2 or even solo but have to be more bear-aware. I've hiked alone or with my wife in the open areas a good bit, but I avoid the brushy lower areas and avoid the river channels, and have had a lot of experience with bears, so feel pretty comfortable.

The area between Highway Pass to Eielson visitor center is pretty open tundra and you can hike up the drainages here safely. You could catch an early shuttle to Eielson and probably start hiking around 10 AM, then be out in time to catch one of the late busses back to the visitor center. Even better would be camping at Wonder Lake and catching the early camper bus to Eielson so you would have much longer to hike. But if you have the $$ then staying at Camp Denali or NFL is the way to go.

Bill
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 07:59 AM
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Hi,

Most of Denali doesn't have trails, and unless you go way out to the end, there aren't lodges. We camped with tents.

There aren't many trails either. But to give you ideas, I'd highly recommend this guide: http://www.denaliguidebook.com/

It was a great resource for us. We hiked out by Wonder Lake, at Polycrome, and the trailed Mt. Healy Overlook.
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 08:51 AM
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We are not hikers (disclaimer) but were in Denali this summer. The bus driver told us that after the paved road in Denali ends (about 15 miles in) there are no formal trails at all in the Park. There is a "camper bus" that will drop you off at whatever bend in the road looks good to you - and you flag it down when you want to leave.

You sound experienced and not stupid, but while we were there a couple of experienced hikers managed to get lost for a few days, even starting out on a marked trail at the beginning of the Park. Cell phone service is poor, if available at all.

August is baby bear season - so please be especially careful.
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Just a couple of things ... you won't be allowed to take the "camper bus" out of the visitor center unless you have a camping permit. You want one of the green "shuttle" busses (not the tan-white 'Tundra Wildlife Tour' busses), which will let you off anywhere except near wildlife sightings. Catch an early bus to Eielson and you'll have plenty of time for hiking all day. You can catch the camper bus BACK to the visitor center if they have room but there are many more shuttle busses than camper busses.

while we were there a couple of experienced hikers managed to get lost for a few days

I'm pretty sure you mean the two 20-something women who managed to get lost for several days on a one-night camping trip. They were seasonal workers at the Princess Lodge and had little experience hiking. They were only a few miles from paved roads the entire time and didn't have a map or a compass, and even when they got cell phone reception they gave the rescuers the wrong location and only got saved because they could hear the choppers and direct them toward where they really were. If they had a map and compass they could have walked out in four hours but instead it took $117,000 to rescue them.

I would just say that they hiked in an area (Savage River downstream from the bridge) that is very brushy, which is not where I'd choose to day-hike. Even here there's no excuse for getting lost if you have a map because you can just follow a creek out.

The areas I mentioned as best suited for hiking are much higher and have less brush, more open tundra. It would be almost impossible to get lost there since the drainages point downstream to the main rivers running parallel to the park road, though I guess anything is possible.

Here's a link to the story of the lost hikers ... http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/440111.html ... you might read the comments at the end to see how the locals felt about it.

Bill

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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 12:00 PM
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Bill - you clearly have very accurate information on the lost hikers - all I have is what we were getting from media when we were there. I was just glad they got rescued.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 09:58 AM
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Thanks for the help. This is not sounding so easy and to be honest I am starting to get cold feet. I spent 2 1/2 months hiking in New Zealand last year and I thought Denali could be the same sort of thing. I guess not.

I know nothing about bears -- I live a hop skip and a jump from NYC and the only bears I know are down on Wall Street -- so there's no way I'm going out there on my own. I know how to use a compass and read a topo map but I'm used to following blazes or a trail or something.

I guess I am going to have to do a lot more reading. It also is starting to sound very expensive.

Thanks again.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 11:08 AM
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I'm also planning a trip to Denali and wanted to stop by and get some info from all the Fodorites! Thanks for the info

Hill
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