Savage Alpine Trail

Enjoy fantastic views of Denali from the alpine tundra that this beautiful trail passes through.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
6.8 km
Ascent
521 m
Descent
476 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
790 m
High Point
1.3 km
Gradient
12˚
Savage Alpine Trail Map

The Savage Alpine Trail is one of the highest-value day hikes in all of Denali National Park! This gorgeous point-to-point hike ascends into the alpine and spends a few miles climbing along the side of a stunning mountain ridge. On a clear day, you'll enjoy spectacular views of 20,310-foot Denali all along the way.

Description

This hike measures about 4.2 miles end-to-end, and it can be completed as a one-way hike thanks to Denali National Park's incredible shuttle system. Getting to hike a point-to-point route with a free shuttle is a rare treat, so this is one hike that you shouldn't miss! Shuttles run regularly between the Mountain Vista Trailhead and the Savage River Trailhead, which are only 2 miles apart via pavement. Check with the National Park for the current shuttle schedule. If you want more miles and don't mind road walking, you could also turn this into a loop.

You can hike the trail in either direction, but the hike has a very different feel depending on your chosen direction. If you begin from the Mountain Vista trailhead, the ascent into the alpine is much more gradual, following a well-graded switchbacked trail. As you descend from the trail's high point, you'll also enjoy great views as you hike, instead of having to look over your shoulder if coming the other way. However, if you hike this direction, the descent down to Savage River is quite steep, descending a never-ending series of rock ledge steps. This steep downhill is much more difficult on the knees when going down, but if you begin with this as an uphill, it's a true punch-in-the-gut right from the gate.

Personally, when I hiked this trail, I chose to park at Mountain Vista, as the trailhead there is much larger than at Savage River. Then, we took the shuttle to Savage River, so we could hike back to our car and not have to wait for a shuttle after several hours of tough hiking. The strenuous uphill but an easier downhill was just fine by me.

While the climb from Savage River is steep and relentless, the trail is well-built and well-maintained, making for a non-technical hike. Yes, you'll have to hoof it up some big steps and grind up a long climb to reach the traversing sections of trail, but the views make it all worth it!

As you climb, the views just keep getting better and better. Denali will peek out from behind the low mountain ranges in front quite soon, but the higher you get, the more of the far mountain range you'll be able to see. Be sure to stop at several of the viewpoints along the way to soak in these incredible vistas! If the clouds have peeled back far enough to afford you views of Denali, you're enjoying scenery that most people will only dream of experiencing. This might very well be a once-in-a-lifetime hike, so soak it up as much as you can!

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

July, August, September

Features

  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque

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