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Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead

Denali State Park

Central Alaska Range + Denali, Alaska

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Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead

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  • Beaver pond along the Little Coal Creek Trail.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Beaver pond along the Little Coal Creek Trail.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View north up the Chulitna River Valley from the Little Coal Creek Trail.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View west toward Denali (shrouded in clouds) and the Chulitna River.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View west toward Denali (shrouded in clouds) and the Chulitna River.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Hiker along the Little Coal Creek Trail en route to K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View north from K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View looking northwest into Denali's Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View looking northwest into Denali's Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • A cairn marks the way on the K'esugi Ridge Trail with a view of the Chulitna River.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • The barren tundra-like landscape of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Unidentified moss species on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • An arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii) on K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • View southwest to the Chulitna River.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Unidentified moss species on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Unidentified moss species on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Backcountry campsite on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Backcountry campsite on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Sunset view of the Chulitna River, Denali's eastern foothills and Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Sunset view of the Chulitna River, Denali's eastern foothills and Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Sunset view of Denali's eastern foothills and Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Sunset view of Denali's eastern foothills and Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Sunset view of Denali's eastern foothills and Eldridge Glacier.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
  • Backcountry campsite on the northern end of K'esugi Ridge.- Northern K'esugi Ridge via Little Coal Creek Trailhead
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Incredible views of Denali. Wildflower-filled meadows.
Cons: 
Denali rarely visible. Wind exposure.
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Region:
Central Alaska Range + Denali, AK
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,200.00 ft (670.56 m)
Parking Pass: 
State Park Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Summer
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
10.00 mi (16.09 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,300.00 ft (396.24 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The iconic behemoth, Denali, is a beacon of adventure and mystery that rises to a height of 20,320 feet above sea level and proudly assumes the title of the tallest mountain in North America. Formerly known as Mount McKinley, the Alaskan Native Athabaskan people, the Koyukon people, have known the peak as Denali for centuries. In August 2015, the U.S. Department of the Interior finally restored the official government-recognized name to the original. Full of mystery, adventure, and an icon of Alaskan history, Denali is one of the most difficult mountains to access in the world, and this hike serves up breathtaking views of its eastern slopes.

Meander along a switchbacked incline through a temperate forest of ferns, white spruce, and birch to begin this hike before reaching one of what will be many glacially fed, placid lakes you’ll encounter (this one is home to a behemoth beaver dam). After a mile, the trail climbs above tree line, and expansive, rolling tundra stretches for miles over gentle hills and adjacent rugged peaks. The trail serves up some relatively substantial elevation gain and requires a bit of care and attention when it comes to route finding, but it’s nothing that a seasoned hiker or backpacker will find unreasonable.

The broad ridge known as K’esugi translates to “the ancient one” in native dialect, and offers a stellar vantage point for catching a peek of Denali and the distant Talkeetna mountains though the misty clouds. Though outlined here as an out-and-back, many choose to forge onward instead of turning back, converting this adventure to a thru-hike—clocking a total of 27 miles—and ending up at Byers Lake Campground, where a ferried car awaits. Truly, you can’t go wrong either way. Regardless, be sure to pitch your tent at least a half mile off of the trail. This is bear country: Always keep bear spray close by, and it’s imperative to bring along a bear-proof food storage solution.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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