Horseshoe Lake Hike, Denali National Park, Alaska

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The Horseshoe Lake/Nenana River hike was my favorite in Denali National Park, even though part of the trail was under renovation. The dirt and rock path wound through spruce and willow trees down to the banks of a pristine Alaskan lake, then further to the Nenana River.

The beginning of the trail crosses the railroad tracks so be aware especially if kids are in tow. But that also means that if you time your hike right, you could catch a glimpse of the train chugging above the horseshoe lake on its way to Fairbanks.

The long descent to the lake was scenic and beautiful and once we arrived, Mountain Dad and I spied a beaver dam, with signs of recent habitation. The occupants were not out and about but it was fun to see their construction projects at their best.

Further along the Horseshoe Lake trail we found the mighty Nenana River. This river, like all of them in that area, is fed by snow runoff and glacial melt which means they are cold and silty. I didn’t dare put my feet in the 35 degree water. We learned that because of the glacial silt, there are not fish in the rivers here.

What I liked about this trail was the variety of things to see – trains, valleys, lakes, forest, beaver dam, river, sandy beach. What I didn’t like was hiking back up to the trailhead, the elevation gain was not fun.

Getting there: Take the Denali Park Road to Mile 5ish. Park in the small area just past where the railroad tracks cross the road.
Length: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: Approximately 500 feet all at the beginning (and end)
Time: 2 hours round trip
Tips: Watch for trains!

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

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