DENALI NATIONAL PARK

When we drove past Denali National Park on our way toward the Dalton Highway, the sky was clear and blue, and we could see Mt. Denali from the road, but when we returned to explore the park we found heavy rain and fog had set in.

With storm clouds rolling in, we quickly set up camp in Healy, a small town just north of the park entrance.

The next morning rain continued to pour as we made our way to the park. When we arrived we were overwhelmed by the crowds and cost. We settled for a short hike around Horseshoe Lake in the rain.

Before leaving, we drove as far as we could into the park without having to get on a shuttle, which was about 15 miles. 

LEAVING EARLY

When we headed to Alaska, we’d assumed that Denali National Park would be a major part of the trip, but because of the weather, crowds and cost we decided to leave after just one day.

For just a moment we worried we’d be missing out or regret leaving, but that anxiety convinced us we were right to move on. We didn't want to be somewhere we felt obligated to be, so we set off to find somewhere free of crowds and shuttle buses, and hopefully, with slightly better weather.

As we drove along the Denali Highway it became clear we would not be able to outrun the rain, so we set up camp on a remote hillside overlooking a creek that cut through forest and mountains.

Here we relaxed, worked, and tried to clean Red Zeppelin a little bit.

After a few days the weather began to clear up, and we decided to get back on the road. 

BACK ON THE ROAD

This felt like a turning point in our trip. Until now we’d been pushing further north or west, but now we were heading east towards the Canadian boarder and the lower 48.


FINAL THOUGHTS

We were and are disappointed we didn't spend more time in Denali National Park, but the experience taught us it’s okay to skip something considered a “must see”. We’re sure we missed some amazing landscapes and hikes, but that’s just unfinished business. We’ll be back some day during the low season.

We'd recommend driving down Denali Highway rain or shine. There appeared to be tons of side roads that lead to dispersed campsites, and the road conditions were much better than anticipated.

CAMPING

Otto Lake Rd., Free
[63.8452480, -149.0170740]

Healy, Free
[63.8823960, -149.0303460]

Denali Highway, Free
[63.10469, -146.64413]
*approximate coordinates

HIKING

Horseshoe Lake Trail
3.2 miles
[63.73882, -148.91034]