Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
280.00 ft (85.34 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
2.20 mi (3.54 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Denali National Park is known for sweeping tundra landscapes and the tallest mountain in North America. Thus, when imagining a visit to Denali, you may not think of flower-filled forest lakeshore swim spots. That’s exactly what you’ll find on Horseshoe Lake Trail. However, it’s one of the park’s most popular hikes. Located near the park entrance, this trail is easy to access and easy to complete, but has surprisingly varied scenery and a chance at spotting wildlife. By walking the whole loop you’ll see the rocky rapids of the Nenana River, the handiwork of beavers on a dammed-up creek, a small beach on the lake, and deep spots where you can jump in. You might even see the beavers or other wildlife like moose if you come during a quieter time. Summer brings a display of wildflowers, and fall shows off the foliage.

The hike starts off with a somewhat steep downhill, where you’ll get a scenic glimpse over both the lake and river below. It soon flattens out, and forks into the loop portion of the trail. Continue straight to see the beaver dam and river first, or turn left to reach the beach and swim spots first. You can’t go wrong either way.

This trail gets quite busy in the summer, and parking is limited, so try to arrive early or late in the day if you wish to avoid the crowds. The easiest access is at Mile 1 of the Denali Park Road, from a small lot by the railroad tracks. From there you’ll walk a short distance beside the tracks to find the trail. If parking there is full, or if you just want a longer stroll, you can instead start at the park visitor center and walk the Bike Path or Taiga Trail to Horseshoe Lake Trail.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Family-friendly. Nature viewing. Swimming.

Trailhead Elevation

1,800.00 ft (548.64 m)

Highest point

1,800.00 ft (548.64 m)

Features

Family friendly
Near lake or river
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

Central Alaska Range + Denali, Alaska

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