Denali State Park, which is located 100 miles north of Anchorage, is situated in the middle of the Talkeetna Mountains to the east and the Alaska Range — which includes Mt. Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley and is the park’s namesake – to the west.
Denali National Park and Preserve, formerly known as the McKinley National Park, also lies to the west. Denali State Park encompasses 325,240 acres and is bisected from north to south by the George Parks Highway; travelers along that route will enjoy the spectacle of the 35-mile-long Curry and Kesugi Ridges towering over the eastern half of the park.
Denali State Park, which was established in 1970 and expanded in 1976, features diverse natural environments such as alpine tundra, craggy ridges, lakes, lowland streams, and the glacier-fed Chulitna River.
The park’s variety of ecosystems provides the perfect backdrop for an abundance of activities all year long. Wildlife is just as plentiful as the breathtaking views in Denali State Park, and there are also several manmade attractions, such as the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial and the visitor’s center and gift shop.
Denali State Park provides opportunities for an extensive variety of activities, including trail hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, bird-watching, rafting, hunting and trapping, snowmobiling, dog-mushing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and more; note that horseback riding and mountain biking are not permitted in this Alaska State Park.
Boating and Rafting at Denali State Park
Boating within the state park is limited to the use of kayaks, sailboats, canoes, rafts, or other non-motorized boats on all bodies of water, including Byers Lake and the Chulitna and Tokositna Rivers—although electric motors are permitted on Byers Lake.
There is a boat launch at Byers Lake and a put-in for the Chulitna River north of the park at milepost 186 of the George Parks Highway. Kayak rentals and guided tours are also available at Byers Lake.
Hiking at Denali State Park
Denali State Park features a network of seven trails, most of which could not be described as easy. Depending on which route you choose, some of the sights you’ll enjoy along the trails include views of Denali’s south face, the Alaska Range, the Talkeetna Mountains, waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife.
Here are some of the more popular trails at Denali State Park:
- K’esugi Ridge Trail: Challenging, 22-mile point-to-point trail with a 2,000’ elevation gain that offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range; best to hike north to south.
- Ermine Hill Trail: Moderately challenging, 6.9-mile out-and-back trail with a 1,000’ elevation gain that includes many switchbacks and a creek crossing.
- Byers Lake Loop Trail: Moderately challenging, 4.8-mile loop trail with a 100’ elevation gain, a suspension bridge, views of Denali, and the spectacle of spawning salmon in July and August.
Snowmobiling at Denali State Park
There are 8 areas for snowmobiles in Denali State Park. All snowmobiles must be registered, and no one under the age of 14 is permitted to operate any vehicle within the park without direct adult supervision.
Other Winter Activities at Denali State Park
This year-round park is custom-made for all manner of outdoor winter activities. The K’esugi and Curry Ridges offer ideal cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities, and dog mushing is permitted in the Tokositna River and Peter Hills areas (trails are open to dogsleds when the snow depth reaches permissibility for snowmobiles).
Fishing and Hunting at Denali State Park
Denali State Park permits hunting, fishing, and trapping in accordance with all Alaska fishing and hunting regulations; state fishing licenses for both fishing and hunting are required, and all Alaska fishing/hunting seasonal restrictions apply.
Note that Denali State Park is not noted for fishing, due to the high levels of glacial silt in the lakes and streams; burbot, as well as lake and rainbow trout, can be caught in the park, however.
Nature & Wildlife at Denali State Park
The Denali State Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including black and brown bears, moose, beaver, spawning salmon, loons, golden eagles, and trumpeter swans. Visitors can also enjoy spectacular panoramas of the mountain ranges and various water features from the viewpoint platforms along several of the trails.
Pets at Denali State Park
Dogs are welcome in the state park—as long as they are under control at all times, whether on-leash or off.
Camping at Denali State Park
There are three ADA-compliant campgrounds at Denali State Park, all with toilets and water: K’esugi Ken Campground (7-day limit; 42 sites; 32 with power, 27 of which accommodate up to 75’ RVs, and 5 for up to 100’ RVs; 10 are for tents only; 3 cabins also available), Lower Troublesome Creek Campground (15-day limit; 20 sites; no RV size limit), and Byers Lake Campground (15-day limit; 73 sites, 35’ RV limit; cabins also available).
All sites feature fire pits and picnic tables and are close to fresh water and latrines or flush toilets. Amenities vary depending on the campground; some include firewood for purchase, picnic pavilions, tent platforms, and group camping areas.
Denali State Park
Mile 135 to Mile 164 George Parks Highway
Trapper Creek, AK, 99683
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Denali State Park:
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