Do you want the ultimate Denali wilderness experience? Join us for a 4-day backpacking trip on Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park. More than a guided hike, this is a chance to experience the wonders of Denali with the people who know it best. Find out why Alaskans consider this one of the best hikes in the state! No previous experience is necessary, but you should be in good shape, ready for adventure, and able to carry a 35-pound pack up moderate hills.
Our trip begins along Little Coal Creek in the birch and spruce woodlands of the Chulitna Valley's lush boreal forest. As you make the long, steady ascent to treeline, you are rewarded with increasingly spectacular views of the Alaska Range's icy giants. We'll take our time reaching our first alpine camp as civilization recedes into the distance. The trail leads us 18 miles along the ridge and down to Ermine Hill Trailhead. We carry our backpacks several trail miles each day, then drop the packs for side trips to explore alpine lakes and granite hoodoos, pick wild blueberries, photograph Denali, see your guide's favorite secret spots, and make your own discoveries. This allows you to find your right balance of challenge, rest, and free time. Your guide will keep you safe and comfortable, serve you wonderful meals, and help you to understand and appreciate the landscape and wildlife around you.
PRIVATE TRIPS: $1295 per person, two person minimum . When booking, you can opt to open the trip up for others to join. If you do and someone joins, meeting the three-person minimum for a group trip, the rate goes down to the group trip rate for everyone.
It’s an amazing privilege to see these large mammals in the wild, and doing so requires some specific practices to keep both humans and bears safe. It helps that the bears here are not interested in people or our camps. We make noise on the trail to avoid surprising a bear at close range, and all guides carry capsicum bear spray as a non-lethal deterrent, just in case.
We practice leave-no-trace principles to avoid attracting bears or allowing them to get human food. Food is stored in bear resistant containers away from camp and we cook away from camp. Guides are trained in bear safety and proper wildlife viewing etiquette. We view bears from a safe distance and in their natural environment. We take the safety of our local wildlife and guests very seriously, and we have never had a problem with a bear on one of our trips.
Many visitors come to Alaska seeking wilderness and majestic wildlife. Although we can’t guarantee you’ll see specific animals on our trips, you will certainly be traveling through pristine wildlife habitat. Keep an eye out for brown and black bears, moose, red, ground, and flying squirrels, coyote, the elusive lynx, and the bumbling porcupine to name a few. Denali State Park is home to many species of birds, mammals, one amphibian, and an abundance of unique plant species that play host to these critters. Luckily for you, your guide is well versed in the plant and animal life in the area and would love to share their knowledge with you!
Denali State Park offers varied terrain and a trail system that caters to trips of different lengths and difficulty. All of our backpacking trips currently utilize the Kesugi Ridge trails. Trails are maintained by the park, but can be narrow, rocky, or wet in places. The first day of your hike is typically a 3-mile gradual climb, ascending 1200 feet in elevation to camp our first night on the ridge. Alaska’s long summer days allow us to take our time enjoying the scenery along the way, but a good level of fitness is required for the hills and mixed terrain. Once on the ridge, the trail meanders amongst alpine lakes, rocky outcroppings, lush valleys, and sweeping vistas.
Kesugi Ridge can be accessed by multiple side trails, and therefore allows a few options when it comes to backpacking trips. The majority of our trips are four days in length and cover between 17 and 28 miles. On trips covering a shorter distance we will set up camp for multiple nights and do side hikes during the day. This gives you more time to discover hidden gems and take in the unique details of this magnificent terrain. If the trip covers a greater distance, we will hike longer each day and move our camp nightly to see as much of the area as possible. Regardless of the length of your trip you will have time to relax and explore at each camp location.
All trips will have a set time and mileage, but be aware that this can change due to inclement weather or other hazards as assessed by your guide.
A balanced, delicious diet is a necessity for an enjoyable and successful backcountry adventure. We take food seriously and you won’t find any boring pre packaged dehydrated meals on our trips.
For each provided meal, your guide will cook, serve, and clean up, allowing you time to relax and enjoy your surroundings. We do our best to cater to the specific needs of our clients. Please let us know if you have any allergies, dietary restrictions, or other needs.
Weather in Alaska is varied, and to a large degree, unpredictable. Summer is our warmest time overall, but each month has qualities that offer unique treats and challenges.
Denali State Park sees average daily summer temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit with cooler nighttime temperatures rarely below 40. In the height of summer this area experiences approximately 21 hours of daylight, allowing for plenty of time for exploring. Trips leaving in late summer will experience slightly cooler temperatures and lessened daylight hours. This is an easy trade for crisp nights, blushing tundra colors, and the chance to see the northern lights.
We run backpacking trips between June and September because these are the months when we get the most abundant sunshine and daylight. That being said, the lush terrain is fed by rain. Regardless of what month you come backpacking, it can and likely will rain. This is why we require clients to have durable rain gear. With the right gear you’ll see why Alaska Nature Guides don’t let a bit of rain stop us from enjoying our beautiful backyard.
Will the weather stop you from seeing Denali? The short answer is, it might. Denali State Park has many amazing features to offer, one of which is of course is unparalleled views of Denali and the Alaska Range. On your trip you might see the mountain in full clarity, partially obscured by clouds, or completely covered. There is in fact a fair chance that you won’t see Denali at all during your backpacking trip. Luckily your guide is extremely knowledgeable about the mountain and can share many stories that will bring the Denali region to life. If you approach the trip with an openness to whatever may come, you will be able to appreciate the views and this beautiful terrain with the same mentality as the locals. You’ll come to find that when you’re lucky, it’s pure magic.