Since I live only 2 hours away from Denali National Park & Preserve, it's an easy option for me when a nice day trip along with some hiking and wildlife viewing are in order. On this beautiful July day, my friend Margaret and I decided to drive 15 miles into the park to the Savage River to hike the newly completed Savage Alpine Trail. This is an easy, safe trail to hike if you're in relatively good shape. It's pretty steep but it's nicely groomed and you'll pass quite a few other day hikers so it's not like you're out in the boonies by yourself. Trust me, if you make it all the way to Denali National Park, this hike is a must - even if you're not a hiker. As you can see I wore jeans and my Teva sandals and had a great time! ~Audrey
What: Savage Alpine Trail
How Long: 4 miles
How Long: 4 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate.
Where: Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
What to Wear: Comfortable walking/hiking clothes and shoes. No special attire required but wear layers.
What to Bring: Small day pack, water,and a camera.
Cost: $10 park entrance fee
Best time to go: May through September
Duration: 1.5 - 2 hours total (we took our time)
Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed on this trail.
We stopped for a late breakfast at Black Bear Coffee House (my favorite little coffee house when I'm in Denali). It's located right off the Parks Highway on the main strip nestled between gift shops and restaurants right outside Denali National Park. The berry oat bars and buckwheat brownies are to die for :)
Entrance into the Park is at milepost 237 on the Parks Highway.
Once you turn onto Park Road, it's about a 15 mile drive to the Savage River. It's a nice paved road with lots of pullouts for photo opportunities. Along the way you may get lucky and see some wildlife. We saw a couple moose the day we went. You'll most likely pass some of the tour buses. If they are stopped and everyone is pointing their cameras out the window you can almost be certain they are viewing wildlife.
Once you reach the Savage River, there's a small parking lot, restrooms and maps of the surrounding area. This is the farthest you can drive into the park in a private vehicle. If you want to go beyond this point you have to take a tour or shuttle bus that will take you 92 miles into the Park all the way to Kantishna. The Denali National Park website is a great resource when planning your trip.
If the parking lot is full, you can drive across the bridge and park in the overflow lot.
There are three trails to choose from at the Savage River.
This is looking up the Savage Alpine Trail at Savage Rock from the parking lot.
Since it's a fairly steep trail, you immediately start getting some great views of the river, canyon and surrounding mountains.
The trail has recently been completed (as of 2013) and has nice walking paths and stone steps. A lot of hard work went into this trail over the years and you can tell.
There are lots of different flowers and plants along the way.
Me standing right above Savage Rock with Savage Canyon behind me.
Some parts of the trail are narrow with steep drop offs but nothing dangerous if you take your time and stay aware of other hikers.
View from the top of Healy Ridge. This is looking at the "braided" Savage River and the Alaska Range. The Savage River is called a braided river because it was carved out by glaciers. The mountains send down silt, rocks and other debris which choke off the river's course forcing the water to cut new paths and channels as it weaves it's way downstream.
Mt. McKinley is out there (about right of center) but was covered by clouds on this day.
The trail continues on to the Mountain Vista Rest Area, another 2.5 miles or so. We decided that we were more than pleased with our little adventure so we decided to go back down the way we came. There's always another day to hike the entire trail :)
If you choose to hike the entire 4 mile trail, you can take the free Savage River Shuttle back to your car.