By Steven Merritt
With its vast wilderness and the chance to get an up close and personal look at wildlife, visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve often are pulled away from the core area of the park entrance, but there’s plenty to do in and around the Visitor Center—especially for day hikers.
While many of the shorter trails in the area stick to the lowlands near the visitor center campus, the Mount Healy Overlook Trail—one of the steepest in the park and often lightly trafficked—offers a perfect outing with a hikers’ trifecta of views, exercise, and elevation gain.
Located off the Taiga Trail, not far from the Visitor Center, it rises steadily through spruce forest before reaching benches at an overlook near the halfway point. From there, switchbacks introduce a steeper climb as you rise above tree line on your way to an elevation gain of 1,700 feet in 2.75 miles.
The official end of the trail is not quite to the peak of Mount Healy, but has an open area with stunning views of the Nenana Valley, the park entrance, and Denali itself if weather allows.