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Mt Margaret – Denali National Park Alaska
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Overview
Location

Denali National Park, Alaska

Sights

Mt. Margaret, Savage River, Park Road, opportunities to see Dall Sheep and other wildlife

Distance

About 4 miles round trip

Parking Lot Elevation

2546 ft

Summit Elevation

4879 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

2333 ft

Time Required

About 4-5 hours round trip

Pets

Not allowed

Fees

No fees

Water Info

Bring 2-3 liters of water

Best Season

Spring, summer, fall

Hours

Open year round

Sun Exposure

Shade is minimal

Trail Condition

No trail after you begin bushwhacking from the Savage River Trail. You will need to do some route finding

Restrooms

Yes. At the Savage River parking lots

Visitor Center

Yes. At the entrance to Denali National Park

Camping

Yes. In designated spots only. Check with the national park for details

Food

Bring some snacks

Equipment

Bring some good hiking shoes and bring your hiking poles to save your back and knees. I brought my medium sized backpack to hold 2 liters of water, snacks and my camera.

Family Friendly?

No. This route to Mt. Margaret is way too steep for children.


GPS Coordinates:

Trailhead start: 63.74386, -149.2925
Cut up the mountain here: 63.74952, -149.29195
False Summit: 63.75162, -149.32443
True Summit: 63.7516, -149.34344

Trail Map


Driving Directions


The Trail:

Note: Keep an eye out for moose and bears!  I have only seen one bear in the Savage River area but I have seen lots of moose and even some caribou.

There are definitely easier ways to hike to the summit but I chose the quickest which was also the steepest too.  You won’t be finding any “trails” to the top of Mt. Margaret.  You will be doing lots of route finding and planning and of course, some bushwhacking.  I planned my route by starting down at the Savage River trailhead and found some clearings along the mountain where the vegetation was lower to the ground and I just found a decent route up the top.   Of course, as I got going, I had to adjust my plan and hike around to different locations but overall I can say that this hike was very steep and rocky.

Start off from the Savage River trailhead on the south side parking lot.  You can drive to this point even though you need to drive passed the ranger station.  The ranger will, as per usual, stop and ask where you intend to go.  Just say you are parking at the Savage River trailhead and they will let you pass without any problem.

The Savage River trail is a good one too!

Once you are at the trailhead, hike down about 1/2 mile on the Savage River trail before you come to the wooden bridge which crosses over the river.  I found a nice clearing and simple cut straight up the mountain from here making my way to the first ridge line on the mountain.

Looking up from the Savage River trail to where I will be hiking next

My route was steep and sometimes dangerous because I came to several cliffs but just be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine.

Yep! The “trail” is in there somewhere

I’ll be honest, at some point I wondered why I was even hiking this miserably steep mountain.  I thought about turning back and doing an easier one but then I thought I would just take a break and hike slower for a little bit (I think I was just tired!).  After taking a break, I hiked to another ridge line and found a relatively flat area.  I saw signs of Dall sheep and was hoping there was a few around.  I continued on up a little ways until I saw a Dall sheep looking at me from on top of some cliffs and was probably wondering what in the world I was doing!  I took a few photos and pressed on.

Looking back towards the Park Road.

Looking towards the top

Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep

I found a talus field and heard some water cascading down on all the rocks.   I used this stream as a trail for a while until I came to the top of the mountain just above the snow you can see in the picture below.

I didn’t realize how high I was until I looked back towards to where the trailhead was!

Dall sheep and machine

Lots of beautiful flowers and details in the tundra

I finally got to the top and realized that Mt Margaret is VERY flat.  Being from Utah, it reminded me of a mesa, but Margaret is covered in short grasses and flowers.  There are some boulders on the top which were fun to explore and I found a giant field of just small puddles of what appeared to be fresh water – I wouldn’t drink it without a filter though.

Looking into the Stampede Trail area

Fields of puddles

Savage River bridge and guard station

False summit

Looking towards the true summit

The national Park Road

Denali! The Great One

ptarmigan

Savage River Trail in the valley below

I spotted some rocks on what appeared to be the summit and went to the top of those.

After returning home, I was a little disappointed to find out that I hadn’t climbed to the top but I was at the false summit!  The true summit is another 1+ miles away from here.  Oh well! At least I enjoyed the hike!

The Return:

Head back down the same way.

Personal Thoughts:

For several years now, my friend has been telling me she loves this hike and I can see why.  For me, I wouldn’t say it was a favorite one of mine in the area but it was still a great hike and once I got to the top it was surreal how flat the mountain was! I’ve heard there is an “easier” but longer route if you approach Margaret directly from the south, but you will need to hike in or take a shuttle bus to that point and honestly, I don’t know where it is!

While this steep hike will scare families away, if you are looking for a good half day challenge in the national park, look no further!
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Ratings (out of 10)
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Difficulty
5.0
Technicality
3.8
Enjoyment
6.0
The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek. If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

6.5
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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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