Have you heard of the Mount Healy Overlook Trail in Denali National Park? If you are planning on hiking in Denali, this trail should definitely be on your list. Read on to find out more.
Along with seeing the mighty mountain itself, the thing I was most excited about when visiting Denali National Park was the hiking. I mean, hiking in Alaska is just epic, and visiting Denali is one of the best reasons why you should visit Alaska.
Although most of Denali National Park is a trail-less wilderness, there are a few trails near the entrance area and at different points along the park road. Most are quite short – between 0.3 and 2 miles – but there are also a couple of longer ones.
There was one hike in particular that stood out for me: the Mount Healy Overlook Trail.
Located near the entrance area, the Mt Healy Overlook trail is one of the longest trails on offer in the park at 5.4 miles return. It offers dramatic views over the Nenana Valley, and the surrounding mountains and ridges. It also gains 1700 feet of elevation in only 2.5 miles.
It sounded like my kind of hike.
I was lucky during my time in Denali National Park that I found different people from the hostel to hike with each day. I am generally quite content to hike by myself but with Denali being home to so many animals that could tear me apart on a whim, I was more than happy to have someone to join me. Safety in numbers and all that.
I met Veronika the evening before the hike when she was checking into the hostel. At only 18 years old and so far from her home in Germany, I was blown away by her courage. I certainly wasn’t brave enough to travel by myself at that age.
We both wanted to do a hike the next day so we decided to do the Mt Healy Overlook trail together.
Hiking the Mt Healy Overlook Trail
After catching the shuttle into the park we walked the forested bike trail from the Wilderness Access Centre, which added another mile onto our hike. From there we took the Taiga Trail until it joined the Mount Healy Overlook Trail – our adventure hiking Denali had begun!
The trail started off with a gentle incline, leading us slowly upward through a forest of spruce, aspen, and alder trees. It quickly got steeper but it wasn’t as steep as I had imagined.
A wild raspberry bush was growing off the path along the way – my favorite and perhaps one of the most elusive of the wild berries. I filled my pockets then soon after, my mouth.
Gradually the trail rose above the thick forest and we started seeing views of dark green mountains. The windy turquoise of the Nenana River flowed below us, with the small town of Canyon nestled in the river valley.
The last stretch to the Mount Healy overlook was steep and exposed. Sharp switchbacks and dusty earth heralded our arrival into another eco-system: alpine tundra.
The heat had risen as the day progressed and we stopped to rehydrate and eat our lunch on jutting rocks with spectacular views. We could now see 360 degrees and over to the lofty mountain ranges of the park.
A rocky ridgeline led to the summit of Mt Healy with rock outcrops punctuating it along the way.
We decided to keep going, it was too beautiful to ignore.
Hiking through patches of wildflowers and over jagged rock staircases, we continued on. Low bushes carpeted the ground on either side of the path, bursting with hundreds of wild blueberries ripe for the picking.
Curious ground squirrels poked their heads out of their burrows to find out who was passing by. They called to each other in high-pitched chirps, their whole bodies convulsing with the effort.
After hiking a further mile from the overlook, we reached Healy Ridge at 4217 feet above sea level.
The scenery was even starker and moon-like. There was a large boulder that we took turns to clamber up onto for photos.
Others continued another mile to the precarious summit of Mount Healy, a steep fortress that looked impenetrable. And dangerous.
We had come far enough, and our Denali National Park hiking experience was already so rich.
Are you planning on visiting Denali National Park? Have you been hiking in Alaska? Have you done the Mount Healy Overlook trail?
How to Hike the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
Getting to the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
Drive or catch the free shuttle to the Denali Visitor Centre then take the Taiga Trail to approx. mile 0.3 where the Mount Healy Overlook Trail begins. Or walk the extra mile each way from the Wilderness Access Centre along the Bike Path.
Length of the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
5.4 miles/8.7 km return to Mount Healy Overlook or 7.4miles/12 km return when hiking further to Healy Ridge.
Elevation Gain of the Mt Healy Overlook Trail
1700 feet/520 meters
Difficulty of the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
I would rate the trail Intermediate/Difficult if you aren’t an avid hiker.
What to Take For Hiking the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
For day hikes, the Cotopaxi Luzon is an awesome backpack choice and is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.
Pack a CamelBak to make it easier to hydrate while you are hiking and to store lots of water in a lightweight way.
Take some trekking poles to help with the downhill – your knees will thank you! Pack a raincoat in case it rains, and a thermal underlayer top, because you never know when the weather will turn cold in Alaska – even in summer!
Where To Stay To Hike the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
The Denali Hostel and Cabins is located 12 miles south of the park entrance in the small settlement of Carlo Creek. The hostel has cozy dorm rooms, private rooms, cabins, and rustic wall tents, as well as a communal kitchen, fire pit, and lounge area. There is a free shuttle to Denali National Park from here too.
McKinley Creekside Cabins is another great option in Carlo Creek with private rooms and cute cabins with mountain views. The onsite Creekside Cafe has hearty and delicious meals and don’t miss their famous cinnamon rolls.
Carlo Creek Cabins has rustic but comfortable log cabins in the woods and private rooms. It’s a peaceful spot by the river and it’s only a 15-minute drive from the park.
If you have your camping gear, there are six established campgrounds within the park. This is by far the cheapest option with campsites starting at $17 per night plus a reservation fee.
If you are traveling with a group of friends or with family, renting a vacation home is a great choice. These are the best affordable options for vacation rentals that are highly rated and close to the entrance of the park:
Modern Log Cabin – This rustic but comfortable log cabin can sleep five and is only a few minutes from the park entrance.
Tiny Rustic Cabin – A cute cabin that is located 24 miles from the park. It can sleep three people.
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Alaska content:
- Sitka: My Favorite Place in Alaska
- Hiking in Alaska: Scrambling to the Summit of Mount Verstovia
- Juneau, in the Rain
- Discovering the Frontier Spirit in Talkeetna, Alaska
- Overcoming my Fears on a Denali Flightseeing Tour
- Ultimate Denali National Park Guide for the Budget Traveler
- Hiking in Alaska: Spectacular Scenery on the Harding Icefield Trail
- An Aquatic Safari Through Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
- Seaside Seward, Alaska and Riding the Alaska Railroad
- Eating Anchorage and Other Tales from the City
- The Best Day Trip from Anchorage: Hiking Flattop Mountain
- Summer in Alaska Itinerary