loading spinner
22254
Alaska

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

Explore one of Alaska’s premier parks as you hike at your pace, learn with expert educators and travel 90 miles into the heart of Denali to stay at a backcountry lodge.
Rating (5)
Program No. 22254RJ
Length
9 days
Starts at
5,199
Alaska

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

Explore one of Alaska’s premier parks as you hike at your pace, learn with expert educators and travel 90 miles into the heart of Denali to stay at a backcountry lodge.
Length
9 days
Starts at
5,199
Program No. 22254 RJ

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

Enroll with Confidence

We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
Plan ahead.
What kind of weather can you expect? Take a look!
Select your type of room
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

Denali National Park's wilderness area takes center stage on this backcountry hiking adventure. Explore the Park's unique subarctic ecology with local expert educators, and get to know Denali in a way that few visitors are able. Journey into the heart the Park and stay for three nights at a backcountry lodge nestled into the tundra. Pick your pace each day and set out on expert-led backcountry hikes that explore Denali's sweeping tundra and 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 4-9 miles on varied terrain. Elevation change during hikes can range from 400' to 2000'
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 beside mountain lakes.
  • Spend three nights at a backcountry lodge exploring Denali’s wilderness in the shadow of the Alaska Range.
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.
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.
Make Prayers to the Raven
by Richard Nelson
An ethnographic study of the customs and culture of the Koyukon Indians of Alaska focuses on their attitudes toward the environment and the use of natural resources.
Jimmy Blue Feather
by Kim Heacox
Old Keb Wisting is somewhere around ninety-five years old and in constant pain and thinks he wants to die. He also thinks he thinks too much. Part Norwegian and part Tlingit Native, he’s the last living canoe carver in the village of Jinkaat, in Southeast Alaska. When his grandson, James, a promising basketball player, ruins his leg in a logging accident and tells his grandpa that he has nothing left to live for, Old Keb comes alive and finishes his last canoe, with help from his grandson. Together (with a few friends and a crazy but likeable dog named Steve) they embark on a great canoe journey. Suddenly all of Old Keb’s senses come into play, so clever and wise in how he reads the currents, tides, and storms. Nobody can find him. He and the others paddle deep into wild Alaska, but mostly into the human heart, in a story of adventure, love, and reconciliation.
Boots, Bikes, and Bombers
by Karen Brewster
Boots, Bikes, and Bombers presents an intimate oral history of Ginny Hill Wood, a pioneering Alaska conservationist, and outdoorswoman. Born in Washington in 1917, Wood served as a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot in World War II and flew a military surplus airplane to Alaska in 1946. Settling in Fairbanks, she went on to co-found Camp Denali, Alaska’s first wilderness eco-tourism lodge; helped start the Alaska Conservation Society, the state’s first environmental organization; and applied her love of the outdoors to her work as a backcountry guide and an advocate for trail construction and preservation. An innovative and collaborative life history, Boots, Bikes, and Bombers, incorporates the story of friendship between the author and subject. The resulting book is a valuable contribution to the history of Alaska as well as a testament to the joys of living a life full of passion and adventure.
Coming Into the Country
by John McPhee
Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.
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)
Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley
by Art Davidson
Minus 148 is one of the few true classics in the literature of mountaineering. It is no simple tale of heroism and valour, like Annapurna, but rather a vexed, uneven story of doubt, failure, whim, courage, tragedy. The expedition was unbalanced, with the strong members far superior to the others. Perhaps the strongest of all was killed in an absurd accident within the first hours. The leader himself seemed to lose heart in mid-stream. Yet everything was redeemed by the magnificent accomplishment of the summit in early March, and then by the even more magnificent survival of Art, Dave Johnston, and Ray Genet.
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.
Arctic Village
by Robert Marshall
This classic is an original work of literature by one of America's foremost conservationists and is an account of the people of the north, both Native and white, who give Alaska its special human flavor. First published over fifty years ago, the book is still a favorite among old-time Alaskans and, over the years, has prompted numerous readers to pack up and move to Alaska.
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
View Map
Expand All
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 the fellow participants, and start getting to know the program.

Dinner: In the dining room at the River's Edge Resort in Fairbanks, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee, tea, 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. Distances and durations of hikes may be affected by weather/local conditions. We will have evening presentations by local experts at the Denali Education Center. Topics will vary from natural history to mountaineering to living in the interior. Occasionally, presentations are part of a community offering, integrating us into the local culture. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Train 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 breakfast in the River's Edge Resort's dining room. Breakfast will include a variety of hot and cold options to choose from. Coffee, tea, and non-alcoholic beverages are included.

Morning: Ride the Alaska Railroad south to Denali, taking in sweeping views along the way. Once in Denali we'll transfer to the Denali Education Center's campus where we'll check into our rooms and your home for the next three days.

Lunch: The Denali Education Center strives to serve healthy and flavorful meals that highlight Alaskan fare. Meals will be served in Denali Education Center's Riverside Hall. Coffee, tea and light snacks are available at all times.

Afternoon: Take in your first guided hike with one of our expert naturalists and get your first look at Denali National Park. -OR- Spend some time at Denali's Visitor Center or meet Denali's sled dogs and tour their working kennel.

Dinner: Enjoy a homemade dinner in Denali Education Center's Riverside Hall. Options change daily, but will feature local produce that highlight what Alaskan dinning has to offer.

Evening: Hear from a local year-round resident about what it's like to live in Interior Alaska! Groceries, babies, and outhouses... we'll talk about it all.

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

Activity note: Stretch your leg and take in Denali's Alpine area with your first full-day hiking opportunity.

Breakfast: Breakfast is served in our Riverside Hall and will include a selection of hot and cold options each day. After breakfast today a to-go lunch line will be set up for us. Choose from a selection of meats, cheeses, toppings- and tailor your lunch to your own tastes.

Morning: Pick your pace! This day begins with your choice of either a moderate or strenuous hike. The strenuous will set off into the subarctic tundra along the newly-constructed Savage Alpine Trail in Denali National Park. Begin at the Savage River and gain approximately 1500 feet to the Mount Healy ridgeline. This will be the first opportunity to gain views of Mount Denali- weather permitting. During the hike be on the lookout for marmot, caribou, Dall sheep and possibly grizzly. Wildflowers and bird life abound in Denali- even at our higher elevations!This 4-mile hike, with up to 25 percent grade, concludes at the historic Savage River Campground. -OR- Decide on a Moderate hike. Our moderate hikers will explore a portion of the Savage Alpine Trail, taking in Denali's splendor while stretching their legs. Marvel at, and learn about, the scope of Denali from the tiny lichen that paint our landscape to the mountains that make up our skylines. Watch for arctic ground squirrel dashing around your feet and Dall sheep clinging to rocky slopes above. This trail offers an excellent opportunity to explore the diversity of flora that exists in the transition zone between our Boreal forest and subarctic tundra.

Lunch: Along the trail we'll stop to enjoy the to-go lunches we packed this morning.

Afternoon: After wrapping up our hikes, post lunch, we'll be returning to the DEC's campus. Here we'll spend time relaxing, as we learn about the sometimes surprising, always extreme, conditions that shape life in Denali and define our subarctic ecosystem during this one hour “Welcome to the Subarctic" class.

Dinner: Served in our Riverside Hall

Evening: Guest speaker TBA. Schedule for expert local evening presenters in Denali will be announced on the first day of the program. Topics vary from natural history to mountaineering to lifestyle, and may be part of a community offering, integrating you into the local culture.

DAY
4
Boreal Forest: Mt. Healy(Strenuous) or Rock Creek(Moderate)
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: A change of scenery and another chance to explore! Today's learning will focus on Denali's largest forested ecosystem, the boreal forest!

Breakfast: Served in Riverside Hall. After breakfast we will once again pack to-go lunches to take with us on the trail.

Morning: Again, choose your adventure with either a strenuous or moderate hike. Our strenuous hike will enjoy an invigorating climb up Mount Healy! Highlights could include views of the Alaska Range- weather permitting. As you catch your breath on the switchbacks, look for evidence of old ski runs used by soldiers in 1942 during times of recreation. Gain a birds-eye view above treeline with 1700 feet of elevation change, and up to 25 percent trail grade. The Mount Healy Trail crosses native soils with exposed rocks and roots. This challenging hike takes about 4-6 hours for the 4-mile round trip but can afford you sweeping views of the surrounding landscape that can make every step worth while. -OR- Decide to take in our moderate hike and explore the Rock Creek Trail as it winds through Denali's boreal forest. As you traverse the landscape, our field educator will highlight the ecology, botany, geology, and history that have shaped interior Alaska. Take time to investigate how life thrives in Denali and the subarctic. Rock Creek trail consists of compact gravel with some roots and rocks to navigate. This hike is approximately 3.5 miles in length with about 400 feet of elevation change and up to a 15 percent trail grade.

Lunch: Along the trail we'll stop to enjoy the to-go lunches we packed this morning.

Afternoon: We'll wrap up our hikes after lunch before heading back to DEC. Once we return to campus we'll meet with an educator to learn about and discover the extraordinary animals that call Denali home. Together we'll learn about their marvelous adaptations to life at high latitudes in this one hour “Wildlife of Denali” class.

Dinner: In Riverside Hall

Evening: Spend the evening resting and relaxing as you prepare for your travels into the heart of Denali tomorrow.

DAY
5
Journey to the Heart of Denali: Kantishna Roadhouse
Kantishna, AK
B,L,D
Kantishna Roadhouse

Activity note: Travel the whole length of Denali's Park Road. This one-way, 90-mile, journey ends at Kantishna Roadhouse.

Breakfast: Served in Riverside Hall. After breakfast we will once again pack to-go lunches to take with us on the trail and for the day.

Morning: Take the morning to rest and relax, spend your morning exploring the park independently, or with one of our field educators on an optional guided hike at the park's entrance. Other optional activities include visiting the park kennels or spending time at the Visitor Center.

Lunch: Enjoy the picnic lunch you prepared this morning at your own pace.

Afternoon: After our morning of exploration, we will meet the Kantishna Roadhouse buses at the Denali Railroad Depot. There, you will be greeted by the Roadhouse's drivers, who will be sharing their knowledge of the park with us throughout our drive into the Park. Throughout the day, they will interpret Denali's geology, ecology, and history as they transport you along the length of Denali's 94-mile park road. This ride is a full day of adventure, with stops for restroom breaks, wildlife viewing, and photographic opportunities along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for caribou, Golden Eagle, grizzly bear, or the peaks of the Alaska Range as participants will enjoy stunning scenery and opportunities for wildlife viewing on this journey into the heart of Denali National Park. Upon our arrival, we’ll check in to the lodge and our rooms. Throughout our stay, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for various hikes, wildlife viewing, bike rides, fishing, panning for gold, and lectures, etc, with equipment and instruction provided by lodge staff. These activities take place at various times over the next few days’ 'free time sessions' and are included in your program cost.

Dinner: Dinners while at the Kantishna Roadhouse will be in their lodge dining room. Here we will enjoy meals as a group. Coffee, tea, and water are provided. Other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: Spend the evening resting, relaxing, and settling into your new home after your full day of travel.

DAY
6
Explore the areas surrounding Kantishan Roadhouse; Free Time
Kantishna, AK
B,L,D
Kantishna Roadhouse

Activity note: Free time to explore remote alpine valleys and tundra-covered ridges. Each day choose from a selection of guided hikes, independent, and guided activities. Activity level will be specific to the free time activities you choose each day.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the Kantishna Roadhouse will be in their lodge dining room. Enjoy a selection of breakfast items. Milk, juice, coffee, tea, water provided. If you plan to be away from the Lodge during lunch time, you should plan to pack a sack lunch after breakfast to take with you during your explorations.

Morning: Free time. This time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You may wish to sign up for various levels of hikes with experienced leaders, try out some of the other available activities, or just rest and relax in beautiful surroundings.

Lunch: Lunches at Kantishna Roadhouse will be in the lodge dining room, where we’ll have a selection of soups, sandwiches, and salads with coffee, tea, water. You may also choose to pack a sack lunch in the morning to take with you if you plan to go out for a lengthy activity this day.

Afternoon: Continue to explore Denali National Park through the activities of your choice. Lodge staff and your Group Leader will always be available to help you choose what activities you may enjoy most.

Dinner: We'll meet as a group to enjoy a family style dinner in the dining room and share the day's adventures with each other.

Evening: Enhance your understanding and appreciation of the Far North by joining lodge staff for an evening presentation or set out on your own on a quiet evening walk.

DAY
7
Hike, Bike, Fish, or Fly: The Sky's the Limit; Free Time
Kantishna, AK
B,L,D
Kantishna Roadhouse

Activity note: Spend the day hiking with the group, or opt to strike out on your own independent day activity. Choose to spend the day biking the Park's road, panning for gold or fishing for trout in one of Denali's streams. The activity level will be specific to the free time activities you choose each day.

Breakfast: Enjoy breakfast in the dinning room. If you plan to be away from the Lodge during lunch time, you should plan to pack a sack lunch after breakfast to take with you during your explorations.

Morning: Free time. Choose from a variety of activities with experienced leaders or rest and relax in beautiful surroundings.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch in the dinning room, or the to-go lunch you packed for your day of adventures and exploration.

Afternoon: After lunch continue your exploration of the area with one of the available free time activities, or spend this time relaxing.

Dinner: Family dinner in the Roadhouse dinning room. Come prepared to share some with the group some of the highlights form your day's adventures!

Evening: Once again join the Lodge staff for an optional evening presentation that seeks to explain some of the wonders of the Far North. Afterwards, our Group Leader will review the travel details for tomorrow. This is also a great time to pack and prepare for an early check-out and transfer back to the DEC campus in the morning.

DAY
8
Depart Kantishna, Hiking Denali, Program Wrap-up.
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Journey back to Denali's east end. Getting on and off a bus- 100 miles total travel. Once at DEC we'll strike out for the Horseshoe Lake Trail hike where we'll enjoy to-go lunches along the trail- 3.5 miles total.

Breakfast: Enjoy an early morning breakfast before departing the Roadhouse.

Morning: Travel back along the park road from the Kantishna Roadhouse to the Denali Railroad Depot. Take this time to reflect on your time in Denali, savor the stunning scenery, or watch for wildlife viewing opportunities on this journey from the heart of the park back to Denali's entrance area.

Lunch: We'll enjoy to-go lunches once we arrive at the Denali Railroad Depot.

Afternoon: After our lunch break you can choose to spend some additional time at the Denali Railroad Depot, head back to campus to rest and relax, or explore one of Denali's trail's with an educator.

Dinner: Gather for one final dinner at the Denali Education Center's Riverside Hall.

Evening: Spend the evening with your fellow participants and your Group Leader. Reflect on your time in Alaska, the friends you've made, and the memories you'll take with you.

DAY
9
Breakfast, Shuttle to Fairbanks, Program Concludes.
Denali National Park
B

Activity note: Getting onto and off of a Motorcoach. Driving 125 miles to the Fairbanks Airport.

Breakfast: In our Riverside Hall

Morning: After breakfast we'll board a motor coach that will take you 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 Preparatory Materials for a list of transportation options, a list of things to do, and restaurant suggestions. If you have any additional questions please feel free to call the Denali Education Center at 907-683-2597. 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.