If you're willing to completely embrace the Alaskan backcountry, consider the five-to-seven-day hike from Telaquana Lake in the park's north to Twin Lakes. First arrange an air taxi to drop you on the south shore of Telaquana Lake. Head south toward Turquoise Lake, where you can camp beneath hanging glaciers, then move on to Twin Lakes. The route is entirely trailless—just follow your compass and the contours of the land. If a week on foot sounds daunting, try it by boat. Fly in a kayak to Lower Twin Lake, load it with supplies, and start paddling east to an arranged takeout on Upper Twin Lake. Camp anywhere that suits you and plan to make a few day hikes up to the surrounding ridgelines. From there you can look west across a broad plateau or northeast to the jagged peaks of the Neacola Mountains. Both trips can be done DIY (no permits needed) or guided through Alaska Alpine Adventures.
Alaska Alpine Adventures will outfit the Twin Lakes paddling trip or the Telaquana–to–Twin Lakes hike ($3,150 or $3,450 per person, including flights, gear, and meals; alaskaalpineadventures.com). For DIYers, Lake Clark Air offers air taxis to and from Telaquana and Twin Lakes (prices vary; lakeclarkair.com).
Handcrafted homesteaders’ cabins are as Alaskan as the governor’s mooseburgers, and one of the best is Dick Proenneke’s on Upper Twin Lake. Make a pilgrimage to see where the local legend lived alone for 30 years.
The four cabins of Silver Salmon Creek Lodge front Cook Inlet and a stellar salmon stream. Most guests use the lodge as a base for fishing, kayaking, photography, and grizzly viewing, but the owner is happy to set up air taxis (three days, $2,000 per person, including meals and flight from Anchorage; silversalmoncreek.com).
Originally published as part of "America's Ultimate Parks 2009," National Geographic Adventure magazine
National Parks Photos
Denali’s paths all lead visitors through its majestic valleys toward the towering Mount McKinley, the crown jewel of the park. On clear days, McKinley can be seen 70 miles to the southwest.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Explore photos of stunning volcanic landscapes and dramatic waterfalls in Iceland.