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22254
Alaska

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

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.
Rating (5)
Program No. 22254RJ
Length
9 days
Starts at
5,199
Alaska

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

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.
Length
9 days
Starts at
5,199
Length
9 days
Rating (5)
Starts at
5,199
Program No. 22254RJ

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 24 - Jul 2, 2022
Starting at
5,199
Jul 8 - Jul 16, 2022
Starting at
5,199
Aug 19 - Aug 27, 2022
Starting at
5,199
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 24 - Jul 2, 2022
Starting at
5,949
Jul 8 - Jul 16, 2022
Starting at
5,949
Aug 19 - Aug 27, 2022
Starting at
5,949

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.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Choose Your Pace
Each day, choose from multiple hiking options based on your desired level of challenge and pace, ranging from four to nine miles on varied terrain. Elevation change during hikes can range from 400 to 2000 feet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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9 days
8 nights
23 meals
8 B 7 L 8 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Orientation, and Welcome Dinner
Fairbanks, AK
D
River's Edge Resort

Activity note: Welcome to Alaska! Check into your hotel, meet your fellow participants and Group Leader, and kick off your learning adventure.

Dinner: In the River's Edge Resort dining room, we’ll have dinner with coffee, tea, and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation. Just before dinner, the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a great time to get to know your fellow Road Scholars. Topics that will be covered during your orientation include evening presentation topics and local presenters, free time options, and any changes to scheduled programming.

DAY
2
Train trip to Denali National Park
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on and off the train; 130 miles to Denali Railroad Depot. Getting on and off a bus; 10 miles total over 20 minutes. Up to 4-miles walking possible throughout the day on compact surfaces and forested paths.

Breakfast: Enjoy a breakfast buffet at the River's Edge Resort that offers a variety of options such as eggs, breakfast meats, breads, cereal, as well as coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We'll board a train bound for Denali National Park. As the Alaska Railroad winds it's way south, we'll encounter sweeping views of the Alaskan landscape.

Lunch: After our arrival in the Park, we'll enjoy lunch al fresco at the Visitor's Center campus. Lunch will include fresh local options and a beverage.

Afternoon: After lunch we'll make our way to the Denali National Park kennels to catch the 30-minute ranger-led presentation on Denali's canine rangers. Afterward, it's choose your own adventure on your first afternoon in Denali! Spend some time exploring the boreal forest on a front country trail with one of Denali Education Center's field educators. Or you can spend this time exploring the Denali Visitor Center, the Morino Grill restaurant, and Alaska Geographic bookstore. We’ll then travel by bus to the Denali Education Center, our home for the next seven nights.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy delicious local fare for dinner. This may include locally sourced vegetables, homemade breads, and a dessert that will leave you wanting more. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided.

Evening: After dinner, we’ll have a short orientation to DEC, its amenities, and the 10-acre campus. Snacks such as toast, fruit, and granola bars, as well as coffee, tea, and water are available at all times. Alcoholic beverages are not available for sale on campus but can be purchased at a nearby general store. The rest of the evening is yours to explore campus, get settled in your cabin, or rest and relax.

DAY
3
Savage River Area Trail Hikes
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on and off a bus; 40 miles total over 1 hour. Hiking up to 4-miles over maintained trail; uneven terrain, rock steps and some rugged areas. 1,500 ft of elevation gain possible (depending on your choice of hike).

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Pick your pace! After breakfast, you'll choose to embark on either a moderate or strenuous hike. The strenuous option is the breathtaking Savage Alpine Trail. You'll begin at the Savage River and gain approximately 1500 feet of elevation as you ascend to the Mount Healy ridgeline. Weather permitting, this hike will be your first opportunity to view Mt. Denali. During the hike, make sure to be on the lookout for marmot, caribou, Dall sheep and possibly grizzly bears. Wildflowers and bird life abound in Denali- even at the higher elevations you'll visit on the trail! This 4-mile hike concludes at the historic Savage River Campground. -OR- If the moderate option is more your speed, you'll explore a shorter stretch of the Savage Alpine Trail. Again, weather permitting, this trail gives hikers the opportunity to see Mt. Denali in the distance. Keep your eyes peeled for arctic ground squirrel dashing around the rocky terrain and Dall sheep clinging to the rocky slopes of nearby ridgelines. This trail offers an excellent opportunity to witness the diversity of flora that exists in the transition zone between Boreal forest and subarctic tundra.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll eat to-go lunches that we packed after breakfast, featuring cold cuts and other sandwich fixings, snacks, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: After wrapping up our hikes, we'll return to DEC. We'll gather for a 1-hour interactive lesson from one of our expert field educators about the sometimes surprising, always extreme, conditions that shape life in Denali and define a subarctic ecosystem.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy delicious local fare for dinner. This may include locally sourced vegetables, homemade breads, and a dessert that will leave you wanting more. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided.

Evening: We’ll meet up with a member of Denali Education Center's year-round staff to learn about the seasonal joys and trials of life in Denali. Groceries, babies, outhouses — we'll hear about it all.

DAY
4
Heart of the Wilderness, ride into Denali National Park
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving into Denali National Park, approximately 5 hours total aboard, with rest stops every 1-1.5 hours. Walking up to 2-miles throughout the day; opportunities for more walking dependent on personal preference.

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: After breakfast, we'll head to Denali National Park for a short hike before our bus trip into the park. Our field educators will point out historic building remains as we embark on a trip "back in time" to the early days of the Park. Once we've completed our hike, we’ll board a bus and travel deep into the Park on a journey into the wilderness. Along the way, we’ll enjoy commentary about the park from our bus driver and on-board educator while we take in breathtaking views of the many peaks of the Alaska Range. Have your cameras ready, the ride offers a good chance to view Denali's wildlife, which may include caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose, and more!

Lunch: Out in the field, we’ll eat the to-go lunches we packed after breakfast, featuring cold cuts and other sandwich fixings, snacks, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: As you traverse the landscape, your on-board educator will keep their eyes peeled for wildlife and learning opportunities. Throughout the day, your educator will explain the history, ecology, and cultural significance of Denali National Park. Opportunities to stretch your legs will be available throughout the trip. Typically, restrooms are available every 1-1.5 hours. We will stop periodically to observe wildlife when sighted and for photo opportunities.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy delicious local fare for dinner. This may include locally sourced vegetables, homemade breads, and a dessert that will leave you wanting more. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided.

Evening: We'll join together for an evening presentation. Evening presentation topics and locations will vary depending on local speaker availability. Presentation topics range from predator-prey relationships to climbing Denali. The schedule for evening presenters at the Denali Education Center will be announced on the first day of the program.

DAY
5
Boreal Forest Hikes: Mt. Healy or Rock Creek
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on and off a bus; 16 miles total over 1 hour. Hiking up to 5.5-miles over maintained trail; uneven terrain, rock steps and some rugged areas. 1,700 ft of elevation gain possible (depending on your choice of hike).

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Choose your own adventure with a strenuous or moderate hike. Our strenuous hikers will embark on an invigorating climb up Mount Healy! This challenging 5.5 mile round-trip hike takes about 4-6 hours to complete and includes 1700 feet of elevation gain. Weather permitting, this hike provides panoramic views of the Alaska Range as the trail ascends above the treeline. While catching your breath on the trail's switchbacks, look for evidence of recreational ski runs used by soldiers in 1942. -OR- Our moderate hike will explore the Rock Creek Trail as it winds through Denali's boreal forest. During the hike, our field educator will highlight the ecology, botany, geology, and history of interior Alaska, and will invite you to investigate how life thrives in the subarctic. The Rock Creek trail is approximately 3.5 miles in length and includes about 400 feet of elevation change.

Lunch: Out in the field, we’ll eat the to-go lunches we packed after breakfast, featuring cold cuts and other sandwich fixings, snacks, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: We'll finish up our hikes and head back to DEC, where we'll meet up with an educator to learn about the extraordinary animals that call Denali home. Together we'll discover their marvelous adaptations to life at high latitudes in a one hour “Wildlife of Denali” class.

Dinner: At Alaska Cabin Nite, you'll pull up a chair and enjoy a hearty homestyle meal featuring Alaskan salmon, seasonal vegetables and hot berry cobbler! Coffee, tea and water will be provided. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: You'll join Fannie Quigley and her crew in Alaska Cabin Nite! You'll be transported back to Denali's Gold Rush days through a mix of colorful storytelling, spirited music and cheeky humor.

DAY
6
Hit the trail in remote Denali State Park
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving to Denali State Park, approximately 3 hours total aboard. Hiking up to 6.5 miles throughout the day, with up to 1,050 feet up elevation gain possible (depending on choice of hike).

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We'll board a bus and travel south to Denali State Park, where we'll choose between a strenuous or moderate hike. Strenuous hikers will travel along the 6.5 mile Curry Ridge trail. From the trailhead, we'll gain over 1,000 feet of elevation, and hike above the treeline. Weather permitting, hikers will be treated to breathtaking views of Mt. Denali and the Alaska range. -OR- If you decide on he more moderate option, you'll explore a shorter stretch of the Curry Ridge Trail. You'll also be treated to sweeping panoramas of the Alaska Range and Mt. Denali, if the weather permits. Expert field educators will point out the differences in flora and fauna from what you've encountered in the National Park. Keep an eye out for moose and other wildlife as you wind your way out of the boreal forest and onto Curry Ridge.

Lunch: Out in the field, we’ll eat the to-go lunches we packed after breakfast, featuring cold cuts and other sandwich fixings, snacks, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: We'll continue our Curry Ridge trail trek. Construction begain on this trail in 2016 as part of the first phase of the South Denali Project. The trail will eventually connect Curry Ridge with the K'esugi Ridge trail network to the North and provide hikers with over 45 miles of trail to traverse on the neighboring ridgelines. After completing our hikes, we'll board a bus and head back to the DEC.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy delicious local fare for dinner. This may include locally sourced vegetables, homemade breads, and a dessert that will leave you wanting more. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided.

Evening: Relax in your cabin or explore DEC's 10-acre campus, the evening is yours!

DAY
7
Visit a local musher; Enjoy free time or a guided hike
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on and off a bus; travelling 43 miles total over 1 hour. Optional hiking up to 4 miles over maintained trail, with up to 400 feet of elevation gain.

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: After breakfast, we'll board a bus and travel to the kennels of a local musher to learn about the life of a working sled dog, the art of mushing, and what it's like to train for races like the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. We'll get a chance to interact with these furry athletes and experience dog power first hand.

Lunch: In our Riverside Hall dinning room, enjoy a hot lunch featuring healthy, homemade local fare. Water, tea, and non-alcoholic beverage included. Other beverages not available for purchase.

Afternoon: Choose your own adventure on a free afternoon in Denali. Earlier in the week, you'll have a chance to sign up for area excursions like flightseeing or river rafting that you can enjoy this afternoon. If hiking is more to your liking, set off into the Park once more with one of our field educators. You'll have a chance to stretch your legs and expand your knowledge of Denali's ecosystem.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy delicious local fare for dinner. This may include locally sourced vegetables, homemade breads, and a dessert that will leave you wanting more. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided.

Evening: After dinner, you're free to return to your cabin to rest and relax or explore the area. Ask your Group Leader for suggestions of things to do if you just can't decide!

DAY
8
Get off the beaten path with a backcountry hike
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on and off a bus; travelling up to 40 miles total over 1 hour. Hiking up to 6 miles, with up to 1,500 feet of elevation gain, depending on the hike you choose.

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We'll meet an expert local guide to take the road less travelled on a backcountry hike in the Denali area. Once again, you'll have a choice between a strenuous and moderate hike. Whatever your choice, the hike will afford beautiful views and give you a chance to experience Denali's landscape in a more intimate manner as you traverse squishy tundra or rocky ridgeline.

Lunch: Out in the field, we’ll eat the to-go lunches we packed after breakfast, featuring cold cuts and other sandwich fixings, snacks, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: Our backcountry adventure continues! Keep an eye out for wildlife, big and small. Your guides will help you discover the wonderful natural world hiding in plain sight along the trail.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy delicious local fare for our final program dinner. This may include locally sourced vegetables, homemade breads, and a dessert that will leave you wanting more. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided.

Evening: During the program wrap up, we’ll tell stories and share some of our favorite experiences from our time together in Alaska. We'll recount our explorations of Denali National Park and Denali State Park and share some of the new knowledge that we'll take home with us. Once we've finished, the remainder of the evening is yours to explore or prepare for departure in the morning.

DAY
9
Breakfast, bus to airport, program conclusion
Denali National Park
B

Activity note: Bus bound for Fairbanks airport departs from DEC at 8:30 AM; 126 miles over 2 hours. Independent departures once at airport.

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a breakfast with rotating selections, such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: After breakfast we'll board a motor coach to the Fairbanks Airport. This concludes our program. If you have some additional time to explore the Fairbanks area before your flight please see your Group Leader for suggestions regarding sightseeing, restaurants and transportation. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.