Denali turned 100 years old this year and the park was hosting a celebration open to the public. Since Corrie and I met there, we decided to make the trip back for a week and catch up with friends in the area. As part of the trip, we headed to the backcountry office to see if we could snag a last minute permit. Unfortunately there weren't any permits in an elevation with tundra, but we were able to get one for unit 4 along the Savage River. The fall color was beautiful, but it's a LOT of bushwhacking unless you're on a game trail or in the river.
We started out at the Mountain Vista Trailhead and started walking up the Savage River. As predicted, lots of bushwhacking, but the views of Fang Mountain in the distance were pretty sweet.
Eventually we jumped out of the river corridor and picked up a game trail on a bench to the west. The views on the bench looking up valley were gorgeous.
We started seeing signs of wildlife with lots of moose sheds. We also found some grizzly tracks and what appeared to be an old cache site.
Eventually we had to drop back into the river corridor and vegetation was double overhead. We made sure to make lots of noise because we couldn't see far at all.
After about 6 miles the river bar opened up and we found a nice place for out tents that didn't appear to be directly on a game trail. We made dinner, had beers, and enjoyed the sunset before heading to bed.
The following morning we walked around camp to check out the views before packing up and heading back to the road. The weather was nicer the day before, so we didn't stop much for photos.
Once back at the road we stopped for a few photos of the fall colors, which seemed like they were peaking. We also had a pretty great view of the area we just hiked to.
Unrelated to the backcountry, that night the aurora came out. It was a bit cloudy, but I was able to get some decent shots as the clouds passed overhead.
Trip notes: We did just over 12 miles with 600' of elevation gain. Not a huge fan of bushwhacking, especially with an overnight pack. Since it was the only permit we could get, I'm glad we went. But I much prefer backpacking at higher elevations in the tundra. With so much wildlife, it's nice to be able to see in the distance and not worry that you're going to walk up on a bear or worse, a cow moose with a calf. Overall, another successful trip to my favorite national park!
Disclaimer: Denali is a trail-less Wilderness. These maps are approximations of our routes. Please don't take this blog and map to the Denali Backcountry Information Center and say, "I wan't to do this exact trip." They will take good care of you like they did for us. Thanks!