Alaska Hiking Kenai to Denali – Lodge Based

Trip Length9 Days
Group Size4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$7,999 for REI Members
$8,799 for non-members
DeparturesMay 2024-Aug 2024

Spend nine days hiking through some of Alaska’s most dramatic landscapes.

Alaska is full of breathtaking landscapes and awe-inspiring adventure. Rugged coastline, towering peaks and vast tundra stretch endlessly toward the sweeping skyline. This trip focuses on a wide range of Alaska’s most iconic destinations, making it the perfect trip for enthusiastic hikers interested in checking Alaska off of their bucket lists.

Get a first taste of the trail in the rugged Chugach Mountains before traveling to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where a million acres of wilderness provide the backdrop to a beautiful hike above sweeping inlets and valleys. Search for spouting whales and bobbing puffins on a scenic cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park. Hike to the massive Harding Icefield along one of Alaska’s most spectacular trails. Midway through the journey, transition from vast ocean coastline to otherworldly alpine scenery in Denali National Park. Hike to hidden backcountry lakes and high ridgelines where, on clear days, Denali can be seen in all its majestic grandeur. The experience of striking out into this great wilderness alongside expert guides and new friends is not one to be missed.

Looking for another way to explore Alaska? Come discover the wild and remote corners of America’s largest national park on our Alaska Hiking Plus– Wrangell - St.Elias adventure!

Able to dive to depths of more than 300' when foraging for a meal, sea otters are one of the marine mammals we’re likely to encounter during our time in the Kenai.

Trip Highlights

  • Explore Alaska’s spectacular coastal and interior regions on this hiker’s sampler
  • Hike to the massive Harding Icefield and marvel at its otherworldly beauty
  • Take a glacier cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park in search of marine wildlife
  • Hike in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge surrounded by a million acres of wilderness
  • Hike Denali National Park in the shadow of North America’s highest peak

Activities

This trip is rated as Moderate [3]. It is not necessary to be an expert hiker to participate but you should feel comfortable spending 4–6 hours on-trail during most days and arrive at the beginning of the trip in as good a shape as possible. Our daily hikes average 4.5-9 miles in length. Two of our hiking days involve substantial elevation gain/loss (2,200'–3,500') and some steep terrain.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest beginning a regular exercise regimen at least 3 months prior to departure. Recommended exercises include hiking, jogging, paddling, cycling and/or swimming. The better shape you are in, the more fun you will have. Get out on those hills if possible!

  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing

What's Included

Professional guide leadership; 8 nights lodging; all meals from lunch on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 9 except for dinner on Day 4 and 7; all ground transfers as noted on the daily itinerary; glacier/wildlife cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park; Denali National Park bus ticket; Alaska Railroad Denali Star train ticket; park entrance/permit fees.

Accommodations

Small hotels and lodges, 8 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Alaska Hiking Kenai to Denali – Lodge Based
Day 1

Travel down Turnagain Arm. Take a warm-up hike in the Chugach Mountains

Our trip begins today in Anchorage, Alaska. Meet your guides and hiking companions this morning at our Anchorage host hotel. After introductions and a brief orientation, we jump into our vehicle and drive down Turnagain Arm one hour to the trailhead of our first hike in the rugged Chugach Mountains. Here we enjoy our first encounter with the Alaskan wilderness as our guides enlighten us on some of the flora and fauna we may encounter during our upcoming adventure. A picnic lunch is provided on the trail before making our way back to the vehicle. Late this afternoon we arrive at our accommodation for the next two nights, a cozy riverside lodge located on the banks of the Kenai River. We have our first dinner together tonight in the main lodge dining room. Lunch and dinner included.

Driving time: 2 hours; Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: + 2,100' / -2,100'

Day 2

Explore Alaskan high country along the Hope Point Trail

We take a short drive this morning to the trailhead for today's invigorating hike. Following a series of switchbacks, we make our way past murmuring streams, through lush vegetated forest and up into the alpine tundra of the high country. After a final climb, our trail rises above tree line rewarding us with panoramic vistas of Knik Arm, Turnagain Arm and the Resurrection Creek Valley. Keep an eye out for mountain goats and eagles, which can sometimes be spotted in this mountainous area. We enjoy a picnic lunch in this picturesque setting surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness. Afterward, we head back down the trail to return to our accommodation for a relaxing evening by the river. All meals included.

Driving Time: 2 hours; Hiking: 7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,200' / -2,200'

Day 3 

Cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park in search of marine wildlife

With miles of rugged coastline containing massive tidewater glaciers, snow-capped mountains and an abundance of marine wildlife, Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska’s crown jewels. This morning, we set course for the awe-inspiring landscapes of this protected wilderness. As we cruise past the park’s rocky islands, we search for some of the 20 species of seabirds that summer here including horned and tufted puffins, oystercatchers, murrelets, and bald eagles. We also watch for the telltale spouts of nearby humpback whales feeding in these nutrient-rich waters. Further into the park, we maneuver close to a beautiful tidewater glacier, marveling at its blue-tinged surfaces and listening to the cracking and groaning of the glacial ice. Weather permitting, we take a short, wilderness beach hike before cruising back to Seward, our home for the next two nights. All meals included.

Driving time: 1.5 hours; Small boat scenic cruise: approx. 6–8 hours

Day 4

Hike to Exit Glacier and the awe-inspiring Harding Icefield

Spanning more than 700 square miles, the Harding Icefield and its outflowing glaciers comprise the largest icefield located entirely within the U.S. After breakfast this morning, we set out on one of the Kenai’s most spectacular day hikes on a trail that climbs alongside Exit Glacier and ultimately leads to the icefield itself. After winding through forests of cottonwood and alder, our trail rises above tree line and the views continue to get better and better. As we skirt Exit Glacier, our exceptional guides help us understand the geological forces that shaped this remarkable landscape over the millennia. Conditions permitting, we continue our climb to a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking the Harding Icefield, an otherworldly landscape of ice stretching as far as the eye can see. Dinner is on our own tonight and we have the evening at leisure to explore the historic maritime town of Seward.

Driving time: .75 hours, Hiking: up to 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +3,500' / -3,500

Day 5

Travel north to Talkeetna en route to Denali National Park

Bidding farewell to the Kenai Peninsula, we set out from Seward and begin the drive north towards the Alaska Range and magnificent Denali National Park. We stop along the way to enjoy the changing landscape and stretch our legs during a short hike before arriving in the small, historic town of Talkeetna this afternoon. Because of its proximity to Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), Talkeetna acts as a base for many climbers attempting to summit the imposing mountain, one of the world’s "seven summits". Those interested in mountaineering have time to visit the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum containing exhibits that recap the dramatic climbing history of Denali, the highest peak in America. Overnight in a small hotel near Talkeetna tonight. All meals included.

Driving time: 5 hours; Hiking: 4.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: minimal

Day 6

Hike up to Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park

An hour’s drive transports us to Denali State Park from where today’s hike begins. Switchbacking up through forests of birch and spruce, past glacial lakes and wildflower meadows, we ultimately leave the forest behind and enter the tundra, stretching like a spongy carpet for miles in all directions. Although the ascent is steep at times, our payoff comes when we reach Kesugi Ridge where, on a clear day, we have unobstructed views of 20,320-foot-high Denali. After refueling with some lunch and returning to the trailhead, we climb back in our vehicle for the drive to our lodge near Denali National Park. We spend the next two days exploring the park and discovering this magnificent Alaskan wilderness. All meals included.

Driving time: 2.5 hours; Hiking: 6.2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,000' / -2,000'

Day 7

Discover the remarkable landscapes and wildlife of Denali National Park

Today’s journey into Denali National Park is certain to be a memorable one. We will hop aboard a premier National Park bus for an interpretive drive into the park’s backcountry. As we drive, we relish the wilderness panoramas and keep our eyes peeled for some of Denali’s iconic wildlife including moose, Dall sheep, caribou and, of course, grizzly bear. This day also offers another opportunity to see Denali itself; if the weather is clear, the mountain will be visible from various points along the park road. Those of us who prefer to hike can forego the ride and follow our guide on a hike near the park entrance. This evening you are free to choose one of the local options for dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.

Approx. 5 hours interpretive and wildlife National Park road tour; Optional hike: 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +400' / -400'

Day 8

Hike through the Denali landscape for the final views of quintessential Alaska

Our final day in the magical Denali wilderness leads us up a trail that is a local favorite. After breakfast at our lodge, we drive a short distance to the trailhead. As we hike along the ridge, our views can include the vast snow-capped Alaska Range—if the weather is clear. In the open landscape, we may spot moose tracks or other signs of wildlife activity nearby. Although our time in this 4.7-million-acre park and preserve is drawing to an end, traces of what we’ve seen during our time here will be indelibly etched into our memories. This evening, we enjoy a delicious final dinner together and celebrate great adventures and newfound friendships. All meals included.

Hiking: 7–9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,000’–2,700' / -1,000'–2,700'

Day 9

Return to Anchorage via a scenic train trip on the Alaska Railroad

We say goodbye to our guides at the Denali rail station this morning before boarding the Alaska Railroad Denali Star train for the trip back to Anchorage. During the 7.5-hour ride, we will take in the scenery from our premium seats through the domed viewing windows and outdoor viewing platforms for a panoramic perspective of the passing landscape. Lunch, dinner and two drink tickets are provided in the onboard dining car as part of the included GoldStar service. We arrive at Anchorage train depot on 1st Avenue around 8pm this evening. You can choose to spend the night in town or schedule a departing flight any time after 11pm. All meals included.

Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control including weather and terrain conditions.

Itinerary map for Alaska Hiking Kenai to Denali – Lodge Based

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

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What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.