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Kesugi Ridge

Length: 27 miles one-way Time: 3 - 4 days Best season: July - September
Trail Image 1 Trail Image 2 Trail Image 3 Trail Image 4 Trail Image 5 Trail Image 6
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First trail image

Denali is the highest mountain in North America, at 20,320 feet above sea level. From base to summit it's also one of the tallest mountains on earth.

Second trail image

The initial climb from Little Coal Creek Trailhead.

Third trail image

Just before decending into the valley, there is a very interesting set of glacier-carved rock formations. Here is Derrall on the rock we call "the pedestal".

Fourth trail image

View of Skinney Lake after passing through the forested valley.

Fifth trail image

After making the final steep decent, you'll eventually reach this interesting suspension bridge. Here is my friend Derrall making his way across.

Sixth trail image

The trail ends just past Byers Lake. This view of Denali is common. On any given day, there is roughly a 33 percent chance of seeing the mountain.

Trail description:

With spectacular views of Denali (Mt McKinley) and the Alaska Range, Kesugi Ridge is often considered one of the best hikes in the state. The early portion of the trail heads uphill while making its way out of the surrounding forest. Several rock piles (known as cairnes) are placed along most of the trail as markers. After reaching the ridge top, the trail veers to the right and extends southward. Several small streams in this area can be used for water refilling. Eventually another trail (an optional path to start from) joins the main trail on the right near a small pond; just continue strait. Shortly afterwards, a very interesting section of the trail with eccentric rock formations is reached. After passing the rocky section, the trail begins it's first real decent, into a thick forest. Be especially alert for bears here. There are many small 2 x 4 wood planks along this portion of the trail to help hikers travel across wet patches of ground. After an hour or two, the trail rises out of the forest and onto large granite hilltops. Look for Skinny Lake on your left around this time. After passing the lake, the trail begins one of its toughest sections, up a steep hillside and back to the top of the ridge. From here the scenery will remain pretty much the same for the next 8 miles. Look for another small lake, "mini skinny". Shortly after passing this lake, the trail begins the final (and somewhat steep) descent. As the trail begins to level off, you'll come across a tangent trail (on the left) which leads to a lakeside campground. Head strait to reach the trail's end at the Byers Lake parking area; there will be an interesting suspension bridge crossing a small river beforehand.

Difficulty:

Not easy. A long trail with many ups and downs. The weather can also be pretty poor. Make sure to pack accordingly, and be prepared for at least 3 days of hiking beforehand.

Directions:

Take the Glen Highway north from Anchorage for roughly 50 miles, and follow the bend towards Wasilla. Continue west / northwest for a couple hours, past Talkeetna, until Denali State Park is reached. Look for the sign for a veteran's memorial (this is where the trail ends). Continue past it for about 15 miles, and you'll find the Little Coal Creek parking lot on the right, where the trail begins.

Additional Information:

Bring bug repellent! Bear protection is also recommended (I carry bear spray), as bears are numerous. Also, unlesss you're up for a bit of hitchiking, be sure to arrange a way to return to the trailhead beforehand.