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Savage River Loop Trail: Hiking Denali National Park

Are you looking for a spot to go hiking in Denali National Park? The Savage River loop trail is the closest location accessible only to tour buses, where you can explore the initiative.

The Savage River trail is just 15 miles down Park Road to Savage River. We drove up to the Savage River Check station but there are shuttles as well. This is a well-maintained trail in the tundra that takes you up and down the hills right next to the river.

This wasn’t the top choice in our Denali National Park itinerary but we made it work since it was the furthest we could go with our own rental car. Also called the Savage River loop trail, the whole round trip on the hiking trail can take up to two hours and about an hour for experienced hikers.

Beyond that, there is a parking area right on-site if you want to make it into a daytime excursion and not take the free bus. You’ll need to stop and pay for a backpacking permit at the visitor center.

This is one of the more well-known hiking trails, but check out these other guided hiking tours of Denali if you want to see more and go off the beaten path a bit.

About the Savage River Loop Trail

Savage River Trail Denali
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This is not the easiest trek because you have to climb up the rocky stairs, but still not too difficult either. If you’re lucky like we were and the sun is out, the visibility and views get even better. As you climb up the trail, it can get windier, so make sure that you have a windbreaker or jacket on and some protection for your head.

Check out our full Denali National Park packing checklist to ensure you have all the right gear during your trip. It first goes up and then comes down and as you’re about to reach the topmost part of the trail, you can see the river, the road next to it, and the bridge that connects the two sides.

Hiking Savage River Loop Trail in Denali National Park [4K]

This is more of a dry and rocky terrain of Denali National Park, so it’s not as forested as the tundra. However, the views are still pretty cool and worth the effort.

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What to bring while hiking in Denali National Park

Savage River Loop Trail
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

You’ll want to be well-equipped when traveling to Denali since it is a changing and lively environment. In Alaska, the weather may change at any moment, therefore having an extra layer that is also waterproof is crucial.

A GPS tool might be useful for navigation, but the electronics may fail, so bring a compass with you. However, because of Alaska’s mosquitoes, it is important to remember that bug spray. Even though the views aren’t postcard-perfect and the mountains are hidden from view, you can still see incredible things.

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Camping Along the Savage River Trails

Savage River in Denali National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The primitive sites of the forest are still available on a first-come, first-served basis. At the Information kiosk at the Denali National Park headquarters, visitors may sign up for automatic registration.

The Savage River Loop trail is a really awesome beginner’s hike if you’re looking for something not too strenuous in Denali National Park. Compared to other more difficult hikes like Wonderland or Savage Alpine, Savage River doesn’t require as much training.

Getting to the Savage River Area

Driving in Denali National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Savage River loop trail is located in Denali National Park, located about 1.5 hours southeast of the Denali visitor center. To get to Savage River, you’ll have to have a vehicle that is 4×4 or higher clearance. You can also rent a car from the airport, which will cost around $125 for a day. Unfortunately, there are no rental options at Savage River’s parking lot so be sure to rent beforehand to avoid disappointment!

If you want to take public transportation, there are shuttle services where you can book your tickets online. They depart from the airport to Savage Delta Junction bus stop and it will cost around $100 for a round-trip ticket, but it’s worth it.

The Savage River loop trail is a 7-mile loop trail that offers scenic views of the Savage River, Toklat River, and Tokositna Glacier, as well as glimpses into the Savage bear’s habitat. It’s perfect for hikers of all levels who are looking for an amazing hike with plenty of wildlife!

From the moment you reach the visitor center and entrance area, private vehicles are no longer allowed past this point at the national park.

Savage River Loop Trail Guide

Rocky Trail Terrain on the Savage River Loop Trail
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Savage River Loop Trail is a 1.7-mile loop that goes down the river and back. The ground might be bumpy, but it’s worth seeing the different scenery than at the park entrance. There is a free shuttle service from May 20 to mid-September for those who want to hike called the Savage River Shuttle.

Some people advocate hiking the Savage River Loop Trail first before visiting any other trail in Denali National Park since it is simple and less crowded. When you arrive, go to the Savage Delta visitor center first to get a map for free, regardless of which loop routes you take.

Full Trail Details

  • Distance: 7 miles (11.2 km)
  • Difficulty: Easy to Advanced

Whichever Savage River loop trails you choose, you will find the beauty of this national park absolutely unforgettable. Savage River Loop Trail is a 7-mile loop trail that offers scenic views of the Savage River, Toklat River, and Tokositna Glacier, as well as glimpses into the bear’s habitat.

Savage River Loop Trail is a 7-mile loop trail that offers scenic views of the Savage River, Toklat River, and Tokositna Glacier, as well as glimpses into the Savage bear’s habitat. Hikers of every level will enjoy this national park.

When you’ve reached the top, take some time to appreciate the views and fresh air. Although that’s not always possible if you go in high season and there are many other hikers as well. Still, it’s a great spot to take some pictures of the river.

Another cool thing is that hiking off-trail in this area is allowed, so if you want to check out some other sides, you can. But be very careful, especially on the top, as it’s quite uneven and rocky. We just moved a little closer to the edge to see the river even better.

The trail then goes down, which, in my opinion, is a little trickier than going uphill. Fortunately, the road is well-maintained, so you should have no trouble going down. As you go down, you can see the river clearly zig-zagging with Mount Margaret in the backdrop.

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Animals & Wildlife on Savage River Trail

We’ve heard that bear encounters can happen on this trail too. Unfortunately, or should I say, fortunately, we didn’t have any such encounter. You can see other animals like moose, caribou, and prairie dogs along the way. Look at this little guy that we came across on the trail.

Prairie Dog in Denali National Park

Although, since this is a popular trail, such sightings are somewhat rare. This trail actually crosses the bridge and continues on the other side going back to the original starting point near the Savage River checkpoint.

If you like, you can continue on and see some amazing views from the other side as well. We pretty much just stuck to this side of the hike as it also showed us some stellar views of the adjacent mountains.

Savage River Loop Trail Map

Check out these different routes you can take along the Savage River trail in Denali.

Savage River Trail Map Denali

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long is the Savage Loop trail?

Savage Loop Trail is about 7 miles in length. It is located in Denali National Park, near the Savage River on the Western end of Savage Mountain. Hikers can access the Savage loop trail through Savage River Road (FS Rd 2).

Can you drive to Savage River in Denali?

The goal of the Savage River is to go to the Savage! Because it is in the territory of the savage bear, you must be equipped with bear spray. Bears have killed six people within five years at this site.

Can you see Denali from Savage River Campground?

Yes, you can see Denali from Savage River Campground!

Can you see Denali from Savage Alpine trail?

Yes, you can see Denali from the Savage Alpine trail. The Savage loop is a long hike that is easy to walk. If you go to the middle of the loop, you will see a glacier. Please do not miss this while visiting Denali National Park.

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