Our final morning in Denali National Park we decided to hike the Mt. Healy Overlook trail, a 5-mile, 1,700 feet of gain hike to a viewpoint at 3,500 feet.
We added some mileage to our hike by starting the the Denali Visitor Center campus parking area and catching the Taiga Trail over to the Mt. Healy trail. (Our hike ended up being 5.6 miles and 1,854 feet of gain). The visitor center is a good place to begin this hike because there’s lots of parking, restrooms and water, and things to do when you return from your adventure.
One of my favorite parts of this hike was seeing dozens of spruce grouse on the trail! We didn’t see another human our entire hike to or at the overlook so apparently the birds felt comfortable being out in the open on the trail.
We were really hoping to see Ptarmigan this trip – and I learned the white-tail variety do look quite similar to spruce grouse – but our only Ptarmigan encounter was when our bus driver mentioned that two of them had flown off into the brush during our bus trip. Maybe next time!
The trail was well maintained and the fall foliage was gorgeous, making for a very pleasant climb to the overlook.
About half-way through our hike we encountered a series of switchbacks where we had fleeting but stunning views of the area falling away below. The cloud cover would roll up and over us as we climbed higher and then drift away for momentary panoramas.
I’m glad we paused on our way up because when we arrived at the overlook we were completely consumed in a cloud!
It was very dramatic and we could begin to see the Alaska range in the distance – a view that continued to improve as we hiked back down.
There was a sign clearly marking the overlook and the end of the maintained trail. We had read that it was possible to hike the ridges beyond but that it could be windy and dangerous – that was not the case while we were there. It was cool and cloudy, but there was no wind and there was a pretty well defined, if not maintained, trail.
We hiked a bit beyond the overlook, but the cloud cover continued so our views were limited to the yardage immediately around us. That was very pretty in and of itself given all of the colors, but we didn’t linger long before making our descent.
The Mt. Healy Overlook trail is the steepest maintained trail in the park and a great one for sweeping views of the surrounding area when not under cloud cover! Even though our experience featured quite a few clouds, it was still a fun and rewarding hike.