Alaska Guide | Interior Hiking
|Popular For||Day hike or overnight backpacking|
|Type||Out-and-back (Mt. Thoro) or loop (Thoro ridge)|
|Difficulty||Easy to moderate – steep|
|Length||3.25-6 Miles Round-trip|
|Elevation Gain||1,100-2,000 ft (335-610 m)|
|Region||Denali – At Eielson Visitor Center|
|Location||Mile 66 Park Road|
|Transportation||Shuttle or Road Permit only|
The Eielson Alpine Trail (red), Mt. Thoro route (blue), and Thoro Ridge (yellow) map disclaimer
Mt. Thoro and the Thorofare Ridge truly showcase Denali’s diverse landscapes. The two trailless routes head in opposite directions from the top of the Eielson Alpine Trail, so typically I hike one or the other to have. Although, it is possible to hike Mt. Thoro out-and-back and return to the Visitor Center via the Thoro Ridge instead of the Alpine Trail (approximately 6 miles total). On a clear day, the view of Denali is incredible!
The Thorofare Ridge is a loop that slowly descends to the west from the top of the Alpine Trail. I’ve seen grizzly bears on this hike 2 out of the three times I’ve done it. I rate this trail moderate in difficulty mainly because it can be a little rough and potentially dangerous getting back down to the road. The vegetation is somewhat thick, and it’s a very steep descent. Taking a bit of extra time to route-find is a good idea as some cliffs can’t be seen well from above. That said, it’s well worth it just to spend some time hiking on the ridge and return the way you came if you aren’t comfortable trying to make the loop.
Mt. Thoro is the closest thing to a Martian landscape I’ve ever witnessed. The rocky summit is at 5,629 ft (1716 m), and there is very sparse vegetation. This is a very interpretive route; I encourage exploration as there are multiple ways up and down. There are a few very steep rocky areas and cliffs to stay away from, but this didn’t seem like a particularly dangerous hike. Definitely bring sturdy footwear, there is a lot of hiking over big, loose talus!
Both hikes begin from the top of the 0.8-mile Eielson Alpine Trail described here. I’m omitting that trail description here, so check out that link for more information. You’ll need to take a shuttle or camper bus to the Eielson Visitor Center (Mile-66).
From the top of the Alpine Trail you will probably notice a few social trails leading up nearby talus outcroppings to the southwest. The terrain is very rocky with sparse green meadows June-August. It’s completely open alpine tundra, so route-finding initially is pretty easy.
- 👉 Become a Patron or Support via PayPal: Patreon | PayPal.Me/lwpetersen
- 👉 Subscribe to my Newsletter
The social trails and animal trails fade in and out. In general, you are just descending the ridge toward the road. It’s a great place to wander a bit and find wildflowers, numerous arctic ground squirrels, and possibly caribou, Dall sheep, or bears. Definitely stay bear-aware here and make noise. There are lots of little hills, ridges, and valleys where you could potentially startle wildlife.
An international best-seller, the Wave has all the essential tools of the origina… [More]
Due to COVID-19, buses will only begin running to Eielson in July 2020. There are limited vehicle permits as well on recreation.gov: https://www.recreation.gov/ticket/facility/300014?q=Denali%20Park%20Road%20Timed%20Entry
To reserve bus: https://www.reservedenali.com/
Thank you for the detailed information, this is very helpful. I will likely only have time for either Mt. Thoro or Thoro Ridge, do you have a recommendation for which you prefer?
I’d probably recommend the Thoro Ridge. The views are just as good. Mt. Thoro is a cool hike, but a lot of work just to get to the summit and the landscape is more desolate.