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Several New Trails Proposed at Denali National Park. Comments are Now Being Received

Denali and the park road.

Denali and the park road. Photo by Unhindered by Talent via Creative Commons and flickr.

Several new short trails are being proposed at Denali National Park to help protect park resources, improve visitor safety and add additional recreational and interpretive opportunities. The park is now accepting public comments on the plan. Here's a summary of the project.

Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska is home to the highest mountain in North America, and the area includes over six million acres of some of the finest scenery in the country. Even with all that room to roam, there are places where the footprints of too many people create the need for some new developed trails.

One such areas is in the vicinity of the Savage River Campground between mileposts 12 and 15 of the Denali Park Road. That's within the section of the park road which is open to both private vehicles and the park's shuttle buses, so it's described below as the "non-restricted part of the road corridor..."

In addition to easy access, this area is popular with visitors, "because ... it has a view of Mt. McKinley, and it is surrounded by extensive alpine tundra." That explains the area's appeal, but alpine tundra doesn't fare well under heavy human use, and it makes sense to try to confine foot traffic in such sites to designated, maintained trails.

The park has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposal to construct several new trails in the Savage River Area, and the document is now available for public review and comment.

The EA includes the following summary of the proposed work, and why it's needed:

The purpose of the new trails would be to provide additional recreational and interpretive opportunities near the non-restricted part of the road corridor of Denali, to provide connections between heavily used activity areas within the Savage Campground area, to mitigate resource damage from past and present hiker use in the area, and to lessen safety concerns from pedestrian use of the park road shoulder.

These trails are needed because of the increased visitation to Denali. New or improved visitor facilities in the area are attracting increased pedestrian use and this use would cause increased resource damage on unsustainable or unconfined route locations. A couple of the trails proposed are needed to improve visitor safety, by removing increased pedestrian use off of the park road shoulder.

If you'd like to make a comment, or just learn more about the proposal, it may be helpful to download one or more maps from the park website. You can download a copy of the EA at this site. As such documents go, this one isn't unduly large.

Here are a few more details about the proposal, as summarized by the park staff:

The NPS is proposing to construct and maintain the Savage Alpine Trail, Savage Camp Interpretive Trail, and other short trails, improving the connections between the Savage River Campground, Savage Cabin and the new Savage Rest Area, which are located along the Mile 12 -15 section of the Denali Park Road.

The proposed new trail would extend the existing trail, which starts at Savage Rock, to follow the route of the Upper Savage Trail, which was approved in a 2006 EA. The proposed trail would continue east along a high contour to the south- facing drainage east of the Savage River Campground known as 12.4 Mile Creek, and connect to the Savage River Campground and new rest area.

The 18 to 30 inch-wide trail would be up to four miles in length. Due to the challenging terrain, only 0.7 miles of the southern end of the Savage Alpine Trail would be constructed to Americans with Disabilities Act standards for wheelchair accessibility.

The Savage Camp Interpretive Trail would begin from a point on the short paved trail being constructed as part of the new Savage Rest Area. It would connect to the abandoned internal road system of the former concessioner-operated Savage Camp, which operated through 1938.

Other short trails would connect the historic Savage Cabin, Savage River Campground, the campground bus stop and the new rest area. The trails would range from 36 to 72 inches in width and total 1.5 miles in length. All of these trails would be constructed to be wheelchair accessible, built to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Both projects would begin during the summer of 2010.

The purpose of the new trails would be to provide additional recreational and interpretive opportunities within the portion of the Denali Park Road that is accessible to all vehicles, and provide connections between heavily used activity areas in the Savage River Campground vicinity. The new trails are needed to mitigate resource damage from past and present hiker use in the area, and to remove pedestrian traffic from the Park Road shoulder, thus improving visitor safety.

Comments on the EA may be submitted through October 4, 2009, preferably via this website. Just click on the "comment on document" link near the upper right corner of that web page.

If you prefer to use snail mail, comments may be mailed to Steve Carwile, Denali Compliance Project Manager at NPS Alaska Regional Office, 240 West 5th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501; fax (907) 644-3803; email: [email protected].


Denali National Park; Alaska is 6 million acre land of exotic mammals, birds & small animals as well. Famous black & grizzly bears, wolves, dall sheep, moos, caribou & elusive kinda animals like foxes, hoary marmots, arctic ground squirrels, beavers, pikas & snowshoe hares. It’s a bird paradise with Raven, owls, ptarmigan, waxwings, Arctic Warblers, pine grosbeaks & tundra swan.

It is a sad commentary that construction of a short (and obviously desirable, to confine foot traffic from sensitive tundra) trailbed on 1.0 acre of the 6 million in Denali NP requires a full-blown NEPA Environmental Assessment, at a considerable cost in limited NPS staff time, effort and funds. While construction of another parking lot does not?

The appropriate NEPA process for such trail projects is: Categorical Exclusion by the Park Superintendent! i.e. please just do it.

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