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Choose Your Pace: Hike & Explore Denali’s Backcountry Wilderness

Program No. 22254RJ
Go off the beaten path in and around one of Alaska’s premier parks as you hike at your pace and learn with expert educators.
9 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at

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At a Glance

Discover the beautiful landscapes in and around Denali National Park on this backcountry hiking adventure. On a trek that is truly off the beaten path, you’ll explore the National Park's unique subarctic ecology with local experts and educators, experience dog-power first hand with a local musher, and travel south to hit the trail in remote Denali State Park. Pick your pace each day and set out on expert-led hikes that explore Denali's sweeping tundra and Alaska’s unparalleled beauty.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Watch for grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose and caribou in Denali National Park.
  • Stretch your legs and minds on expert-led hikes throughout the week across alpine tundra, through boreal forests and along mountain ridgelines.
  • Learn from a local musher what it takes to train for and run one of the world’s toughest sled dog races and go on a training run with the dogs.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Seventymile Kid: The Lost Legacy of Harry Karstens and the First Ascent of Mount McKinley
by Tom Walker
The Seventymile Kid tells the remarkable account of Harry Karstens, who was the actual—if unheralded—leader of the Hudson Stuck Expedition that was the first to summit Mount McKinley in Alaska. All but forgotten by history, a young Karstens arrived in the Yukon during the 1897 Gold Rush, gained fame as a dog musher hauling U.S. Mail in Alaska, and eventually became the first superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park (now known as Denali National Park and Preserve). Aided by Karstens's own journals, longtime Denali writer and photographer Tom Walker uncovered archival information about the Stuck climb, and reveals that the Stuck "triumph" was an expedition marred by significant conflict. Without Karstens's wilderness skills and Alaska-honed tenacity, it is quite possible Hudson Stuck would never have climbed anywhere near the summit of McKinley. Yet the two men had a falling out shortly after the climb and never spoke again. In this book, Walker attempts to set the record straight about the historic first ascent itself, as well as other pioneer attempts by Frederick Cook and Judge Wickersham.
Snapshots from the Past: A Roadside History of Denali National Park
by Jane Bryant
Visitors come to Denali National Park and Preserve for many reasons - spectacular scenery, wildlife, the continent's highest peak, and the cultural experiences. This amazing book does a wonderful job of presenting snapshots of Denali's past and telling many of the stories that have shaped its history. This book included user-friendly maps of the Park's road and innumerable historic photos to highlight its content. It is arranged to follow the park road from east to west, from the park entrance to Kantishna, and is a must-read for anyone interested in delving into the Park's rich history.
Shopping for Porcupine A Life in Arctic Alaska
by Seth Kantner
Seth Kantner’s Ordinary Wolves told the story of a white boy raised in a sod igloo on the Arctic tundra. A heartbreaking vision of a vanishing world, it established Kantner as one of the nation’s most original and authentic writers. Here, he returns to the setting of his debut novel with an autobiographical account of his own life in a rapidly changing land. Beginning with his parents’ migration to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1950s and extending to his own attempts to balance hunting with writing, Kantner recalls cold nights wrapped in caribou hides, fur-clad visitors arriving on dog sleds, swimming amidst ice floes for wounded waterfowl, and his longstanding respect for the old Iñupiaq ways. Captured in words and images, these details combine to reveal a singular landscape at a pivotal moment in its history. Both an elegy and a romp, the book illuminates a world few will see as Kantner has.
Wildflowers of Denali National Park
by Verna E. Pratt
This book is considered a classic plant ID guide for the Denali area and is a good "picture guide" to many of the flowering plants of central Alaska, more specifically the Denali National Park & Preserve area. It is arranged by color of the flower and then loosely by the family of plant.
Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
by Velma Wallis
Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking, ultimately inspirational tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine. Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying. In simple but vivid detail, Velma Wallis depicts a landscape and way of life that are at once merciless and starkly beautiful. In her old women, she has created two heroines of steely determination whose story of betrayal, friendship, community, and forgiveness "speaks straight to the heart with clarity, sweetness, and wisdom" (Ursula K. Le Guin)
Denali's Howl
by Andy Hall
In the summer of 1967, twelve young men ascended Alaska’s Mount McKinley—known to the locals as Denali. Engulfed by a once-in-a-lifetime blizzard, only five made it back down. Andy Hall, a journalist and son of the park superintendent at the time, was living in the park when the tragedy occurred and spent years tracking down rescuers, survivors, lost documents, and recordings of radio communications. In Denali’s Howl, Hall reveals the full story of the expedition in a powerful retelling that will mesmerize the climbing community as well as anyone interested in mega-storms and man’s sometimes deadly drive to challenge the forces of nature.
Alaska Native Cultures and Issues
by Edited by Libby Roderick
Making up more than ten percent of Alaska's population, Native Alaskans are the state's largest minority group. Yet most non-Native Alaskans know surprisingly little about the histories and cultures of their indigenous neighbors, or about the important issues they face. This concise book compiles frequently asked questions and provides informative and accessible responses that shed light on some common misconceptions. With responses composed by scholars within the represented communities and reviewed by a panel of experts, this easy-to-read compendium aims to facilitate a deeper exploration and richer discussion of the complex and compelling issues that are part of Alaska Native life today.
Two in the Far North
by Margaret Murie
This enduring story of life, adventure, and love in Alaska was written by a woman who embraced the remote Alaskan wilderness and became one of its strongest advocates. In this moving testimonial to the preservation of the Arctic wilderness, Mardy Murie writes from her heart about growing up in Fairbanks, becoming the first woman graduate of the University of Alaska, and marrying noted biologist Olaus J. Murie. So begins her lifelong journey in Alaska and on to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where along with her husband and others, they founded The Wilderness Society. Mardy's work as one of the earliest female voices for the wilderness movement earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rhythm of the Wild
by Kim Heacox
Rhythm of the Heart is a memoir about Kim Heacox’s 30+ year relationship with the most iconic landscape in Alaska, Denali National Park. Woven throughout the personal narrative are stories on the human and natural histories of the Park, garnished with a conservation polemic. Heacox shows how a place like Denali can touch a life, even save a life, quietly, profoundly, day after day, year after year, and how that saving multiplied by millions of lives over a century makes the world a better place. Heacox makes the argument, through his beautiful and impassioned prose, that we must save these places so they in turn will save us. Denali National Park is the most accessible subarctic sanctuary in the world, and has awakened millions of people to what’s authentic, priceless and true.
Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir
by Ernestine Hayes
Told in eloquent layers that blend Native stories and metaphor with social and spiritual journeys, this enchanting memoir traces the author’s life from her difficult childhood growing up in the Tlingit community, through her adulthood, during which she lived for some time in Seattle and San Francisco, and eventually to her return home. Neither fully Native American nor Euro-American, Hayes encounters a unique sense of alienation from both her Native community and the dominant culture. We witness her struggles alongside other Tlingit men and women—many of whom never left their Native community but wrestle with their own challenges, including unemployment, prejudice, alcoholism, and poverty.

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