Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park


At mile 66 on Denali’s park road, Eielson Visitor Center provides a worthwhile destination for shuttle bus passengers.  On a clear day, you will have a stunning view of Mount McKinley, a.k.a. Denali, which is just 33 miles away.  (In the photo above, I added an outline that roughly shows where the mountain would be on a clear day.  I can’t guarantee accuracy.)  In addition, there are a couple of enjoyable trails that are worth hiking here.  And, the visitor center itself is excellent.

My Visit

When I arrived at Eielson, I didn’t care about the view, or hiking, or anything else.  I was exhausted and car-sick from the long, warm, jostling bus ride.  It had taken more than three hours to travel 66 miles, with only a handful of all-too-brief rest stops along the way.  I was glad I wasn’t going any further.  I walked into the visitor center with just one thing in mind: I needed to find a quiet corner, where I could curl up in a ball for a while.  And that’s exactly what I did.

I’m not sure how long I napped.  Maybe an hour.  When I awoke, I ate a snack from my backpack and walked around a bit.  Eventually, I started feeling human again.

Eielson offers two developed hiking trails.  One goes downhill from the visitor center, the other goes uphill — quite a bit uphill.  I sampled the more difficult of the two trails first: the Alpine Trail, to Thorofare Ridge.


And just to be clear, I did not go all the way up to Thorofare Ridge.  That hike requires a 1,000-foot elevation gain in just one mile.  That’s a pretty brutal climb, and I was still somewhat shaky.  Not to mention, it was drizzling and foggy, and there were no great views of Denali to be seen.  On a clearer day, I’m sure the view from the top would be spectacular.


Just a short hike up the trail, though, reveals a nice view of the park road.  This stretch is just before you arrive at Eielson.


The entire panorama is pretty spectacular.

But I decided that this view was enough.  I headed back downhill…


… past the visitor center, and on to the Tundra Loop.  This simple trail is 1/3 of a mile, round-trip, plus a side trail that adds another half-mile, out-and-back.  Just imagine The Big One standing behind all those clouds!



The view is beautiful, even on a cloudy day.


This trail does lose some elevation, which you have to regain to return to the visitor center.  That’s Eielson, just up the hill.


Back at the buses, I checked to see how long it would be before the next bus departs.  I had about 45 minutes to wait, but I didn’t want to spend that time sitting around.  I had already done enough of that at Eielson.  I was ready to do more, and I certainly wasn’t looking forward to spending more time on a bus.  So, I started walking the road, and caught the bus when it drove by.  You can check out that part of my lonely adventure on the park road, here.


No comments

You might also enjoy this...