“A great loop traversing a river bed with fantastic views of Denali and the Alaskan tundra”
— Ike Waits
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Like many places in Denali National Park & Preserve, the Polychrome Mountain area boasts high abundances of tundra-dwelling wildlife, as well as fantastic views of the Alaska Range and the parks 20,000 foot namesake: Denali. What really makes this area stand out, however, is the sheer solitude it offers, often making visitors feel as though they are the only inhabitants for hundreds of miles, allowing them to enjoy both the quietness and the scenery even more.
Need to Know
First off, reaching this hike's starting point by bus will require a series of reminders to the driver, as it requires getting off the bus at a somewhat unconventional spot. When describing where you'd like to be let off, be sure to mention that you'd like to get off near mile marker 47 just west of where a creek crosses the road.
Second, but perhaps most importantly, be extremely cautious as bears have been known to inhabit the area. While a bear can indeed be scary to encounter, taking the proper precautions can decrease your chances of a bear encounter drastically. For more information on how to proceed safely in bear country, see the Denali Wildlife Safety Guide.
Starting from the Park Road, take a minute to visually scout the area for grizzly bears before following the nearby stream bed south through classic Alaskan tundra. Upon reaching a spot where the streambed broadens into a wide delta, look to your right (west) for a small stream leaving the area. Head toward the stream and continue to follow it for a little over a mile until it crosses back onto Park Road. At this point, simply break out a snack and some water and wait for the bus to return.
Busses generally pass every half-hour, with some exceptions. For an in-depth guide to the Denali bus schedules, click here.
This content was contributed by author Ike Waits. For a comprehensive hiking guide to Denali National Park and to see more by Ike, click here
Flora & Fauna
A host of Alaskan critters both big and small can been seen along the route. Keep your eyes peeled for ptarmigan, arctic ground squirrel, snowshoe hare, caribou, bear, northern harrier, and golden eagle along the route.