Best Hikes in Alaska
Denali Trekking Company offers a variety of hiking experiences in pure Alaskan wilderness where the only access is by airplane. Our hikes span all skill levels and experience levels. We have beginner hikes that are easy, moderate hikes for folks that have some limited experience and challenging hikes that may be considered hard or difficult for anyone other than experienced wilderness travellers.
The easy hikes we offer take place in magnificent wilderness settings, a thousand feet above the boreal forest. They are staged out of one of our base camps. The camps are very comfortable. We use the highest quality tents, have cots for each guest and foldable chairs for wildlife viewing, mornings and evenings. The surrounding terrain in our base camps are nothing short of spectacular. These base camp hikes have included families with small children, grandparents with grandchildren, novices eager to learn basic wilderness hiking skills and hikers just wanting a taste of walking in the wilds of Alaska.
Moderate hikes can combine a base camp with a cross-country overnight hike into country that would not be available without shouldering a backpack, hiking into a distant valley and setting up a spike camp. Again, the finest mountaineering equipment is issued and available to every hiker.
Denali Trekking Company’s signature wilderness adventure is the seven day Odyssey Trek. This small group excursion is for experienced hikers and campers. You will fly deep into mountainous terrain with hanging glaciers and jagged peaks. It is some of the most photogenic topography you will encounter in your entire life. After setting up camp, we take a half day romp with a very light pack to get accustomed to hiking without established trails. The following morning, we break camp, buckle up our backpacks and begin the long traverse of mountain passes and tundra carpeted alpine valleys on our way back towards civilization. There isn’t another hike available anywhere in North America with the same quality, wildlife viewing opportunities and exploration potential. Everyday is an exciting adventure for the men and women hiking our Odyssey Trek. Our most experienced guides thoroughly enjoy these trips. They are simply awesome.
Day Hikes in Alaska, Easy and Magnificent
Starting in 2019, Denali Trekking Company will be offering day hikes. These hikes start with an orientation at our home and base of operation. Afterward, we’ll drive to our departure point, Christiansen Lake in Talkeetna and fly out to one of our many superb destinations.
Day hikes require each person to have high quality boots, a backpack for rain gear, camera’s, water bottle, hiking poles (if preferred), extra warm gear like a “puffy” jacket, and a warm hat. Lunch and snacks will be provided by Denali Trekking Company. Mosquito repellent, first-aid kits and air horns are also provided.
These hikes take place in pure Alaskan wilderness where the only access is float-equipped aircraft. We can accommodate up to four people for this special offering. Email, text or call for details.
Day hikes need to be confirmed with a minimum of seven days advanced notice. Email: email@example.com Cell phone: 907-350-4455
What to Wear Hiking in Alaska
Wilderness hiking in Alaska requires being prepared for extreme weather conditions. The temperatures in the mountains can fluctuate from a low of 40 degrees to a high of 80 degrees and those extremes can occur inside a 24 hour period.
Most of our hiking trips take place between May and October with the summer months of June, July and August hosting the lions share of outings. Clothing selection is critical to comfort. It includes everything from your outermost layer of down, to the boots you lace up each morning.
Let’s start with your hiking boots. There is not another piece of equipment that you will bring to Alaska that’s as important as your footwear. Over the years, options have improved considerably. Leather boots with thick, lug soles are almost obsolete. Boot manufacturers have dialed in on the need for light-weight, durable, somewhat breathable, somewhat water-resistant footwear. Every company out there makes a wide assortment in their attempts to accommodate the multi-variety of users.
Even in the hiking world alone, there is quite a variety and a good reason for it. Hikers that walk on groomed trails need different equipment than the pure wilderness trekker who often encounters rocky, uneven terrain. Your boots are for protection but they also need to be comfortable and sturdy when carrying a backpack. This is true whether you are day hiking with a light load or carrying a heavy backpack on a cross country trip.
Like most tools and equipment, you get what you pay for. Do yourself a huge favor and purchase high quality boots. Denali Trekking Company suggests that you have a minimum of 50 miles of hiking in the boots you are going to wear during your trip with us.
Socks, the cushion between foot and boot, is also essential for comfort, protection and avoidance of blisters, the bane of all hikers. We recommend having a fresh pair of socks for each day you will be in the mountains. Years of experience have taught us that a combination of wool and synthetic fabrics make the very best socks for hiking.
Top quality rain gear is right up there with boots for being essential equipment on a backpacking trip to Alaska. We highly recommend a two piece system; hooded jacket and pants. These garments also serves as wind protection, bug protection and that perfect added layer for retaining body heat in tough conditions.
Every multi day hiker in Alaska should have long underwear, tops and bottoms, in their backpack. A “layering clothing system” has become the norm for outdoor enthusiast, regardless of pursuit. When you wake up to the sound of rain drumming on your tent, nothing quite offsets discomfort like a pair of thin, dry undergarments. Warmth will hug you like your best friend.
Outer layers should include lightweight, durable pants, a sweat-wicking breathable shirt, a warm jacket and some type of “puffy”, the outermost layer in every system. We prefer to have our guests bring a synthetically filled jacket as opposed to a down jacket. Down, when wet, looses most of it’s heat retaining properties. Synthetic-filled jackets are not near as sensitive.
Other essential items for your wilderness backpacking trip include a very warm hat, light-weight gloves and a pair of fly-weight camp shoes; even flip-flops work just fine. I always bring a pair of shorts and a tee shirt or tank top depending on forecasted weather conditions.
Is it Safe to Hike in Alaska? Bears, Wolves, Moose and Behavior Around Wildlife
I have been living, working and guiding hikers in Alaska for over 40 years. Although there have been several close encounters with wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and wolverine, all potentially dangerous Big Game animals, I have never been attacked or harmed in any manner. The same is true for each and every one of my hiking guests since we founded our business many, many years ago.
This fact is not attributed to luck. It is due to our behavior and diligence around the animals that live in the habitat we are visiting. Every hiker has a strong desire to observe wildlife during their traverse of the Alaska wilderness. It is absolutely essential that you understand that the animals you see are wild. This is not a walk in an animal park. This is not Denali National Park, where animals are so habituated to humans that they pay little attention to buses passing within 20 yards. No, our hiking trips are conducted in pure wilderness and respect for the welfare of every animal we encounter is our highest priority.
Each group of hikers is equipped with two, fully-charged air horns to signal our presence should the wind be unfavorable for detection. We have rarely used our air horns and only when the guide has determined that it was absolutely necessary for the safety of our hikers and the animals we are observing.
Our objective is comfortable observation. We tread softly, we talk softly and we do everything we can to minimize the impact of our presence. No group of nature guides has ever done more on behalf of reducing wildlife encounters than the well-trained men and women working for Denali Trekking Company. Our flawless record is undeniable proof.
Alaska Hiking Tips
In order to maximize the wilderness experience for our guests there are a few tips that we would like to share. The very first consideration should be your physical condition. You do not need to be an elite athlete to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness. However, we do encourage all our guests to be comfortable walking 4 to 5 miles a day.
Hiking in pure wilderness means there are no trails. There will be a few times when we can walk on game trails. Smaller passes and ridge saddles is where they are often found and sometimes we get lucky as caribou hug one side of a valley and the repetition of their hooves on the tundra create narrow paths. However, for the most part, we are picking the line of least resistance while hiking in the alpine tundra.
There are tussocks, grass and moss covered rocky areas and plenty of damp bogs lined with beautiful wildflowers. We are often picking our way through the tundra to avoid heavy brush along streams or really wet areas. You can’t prepare for this type of terrain, but if you arrive in good condition, you will have a much easier time negotiating the obstacles that are part of hiking in Alaska mountains. This is another reason why high quality boots are key to a good hiking experience.
There are a few equipment additions to consider. A mosquito head net, does not weigh much but provides excellent protection from flying insects. I always brining along good reading material. I enjoy relaxing and reading at night and sometimes early in the morning. A book is terrific company if you are weathered in. Every where I go I bring binoculars. I thoroughly enjoy glassing for wildlife and finding them! I am also an avid birder and need my binoculars to make positive identification of many of the tundra nesting migratory birds. Over the years we have identified about 40 species that nest in the alpine taiga above the highest reaches of the boreal forest.
Additional Things To Do in Alaska
Besides wilderness hiking in remote areas where we conduct our hiking trips, there are some wonderful hiking opportunities that can be accessed by driving to trailheads. The Chugach Mountains around Anchorage have many walking and hiking trails carved into them directly adjacent to ample parking lots. Denali State Park, Hatcher Pass State Park, the Resurrection Trail off the highway to the Kenai Peninsula are just a few of the many hiking opportunities available as well.
Besides hiking, there are other adventurous activities that offer fun and excitement. River rafting is very popular. South central Alaska has some incredible white water options for the thrill seeker but there are also many other rafting trips that are mellow and relaxing. Glacial rivers outside mountain terrain are often slow and meandering. They have fairly good possibilities to see wildlife, especially beaver, eagles and the occasional black bear or grizzly fishing for salmon.
Sportfishing for rainbow trout or salmon is also very popular with guests visiting Alaska. We also recommend a visit to the Alaskan coast. With few exceptions, the coastline of Alaska is where mountains meet the sea. The viewable wildlife here is often spectacular. Whales, seals, sea otters, brown bears, mountain goats and thousands of birds are often seen during small boat or kayak excursions anywhere in Prince William Sound.
There are several seaside towns of interest. Homer, Seward and Whittier come to mind immediately. For the avid sportsman, no trip to Alaska is complete without booking a halibut fishing charter. Every seaport in Alaska offers opportunities to harvest one of these delicious bottom dwellers.
Alaska is a wonderful land with a tremendous variety of options to consider for exploring our natural world. The friendly folks at Denali Trekking Company are happy to share their stories and their ideas of the best options to consider in addition to your fantastic wilderness hiking adventure. We look very much forward to meeting you this summer!