Kesugi Ridge Trail, Denali State Park

The hike covers 27.5 miles. It is often done North to South, from the Little Coal Creek Trailhead towards Byers Lake Trailhead. We read many reports online and decided to hike there-and back from Little Coal Creek to Mile 7, then camp at Mile 7, before turning around. This was because:

  • The jungle area following Ermie Hill Trail Junction is not supposed to be fun
  • We didn’t want to spend a lot on a shuttle because we were very cheap.
  • We wanted to make the most of our time on the ridge in order to be able to see Mount McKinley.

Quick Hike Stats

Distance (one-way): 7 miles, 2000ft elevation change Time (one-way): 5 hours

Camp location: Approximately mile 6.5 close to a creek

Wildlife: There have been no bear sightings.

Trail: Well-trafficked, marked with cairns

The Hike

We began our hike at Little Coal Creek Trailhead just after 12pm. The hike begins below the treeline, and then climbs quite aggressively. We saw lots of clouds and overcast, even though it was July. The views are beautiful, but the visibility was limited to 40 feet. This made this section a bit boring.

We reached Little Coal Creek’s top at 3.3 miles. There were some large boulders you need to climb to. To the right, you’ll see a large pile of cairns that mark the trail. The hike became even more exciting from there!

The clouds vanished as soon as we reached the top, and the sun emerged. We were very happy to see the sun and blue sky for the first time in 4 days. Once we reached the ridge, there were many streams to cross. It was just about finding somewhere to camp the night.

We found a flat spot near a creek about 6.5 miles into the hike. It offered good views of the mountain ranges ahead. Here we set up camp for the night, and our bear cans were stored. We couldn’t sleep due to the constant sun so we stayed up watching the mountains. It was beautiful and there wasn’t another soul around.

Our views were blocked by clouds again the next day. We turned around, and we headed back towards Little Coal Creek Trailhead, where the car was parked.

Bear Safety

One quick note about bear safety. Although we saw no bears in the 7 days we were here, I did see 5 bears during my 4 day stay in Grand Teton. You should get a bear container and keep any food scraps or toothpaste that might be stale. At least 100 yards from where you are cooking and camp. We set up camp near the stream 100 yards east, cooked, and then put our bear can 150 miles north of the stream.

Packing List

  • Osprey 70L Xena Overnight Pack
  • Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
  • Salomon X ULTRA MID2 Boots
  • GSI Pinnacle 2 person stove set
  • MSR MiniWorks EX microfilter
  • Sea to Summit 3 Season Down Sleeping Bag
  • Sea to Summit Sleeping Pad
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 Person Tent with mtnGLO
  • PrAna Halle Women’s Pants
  • Arc’Teryx Beta SL Pant
  • 1 Icebreaker Merino Wool shirts
  • Mid-layer Icebreaker Merino
  • North Face HyVent rain jacket
  • Patagonia Ultralight Down Jacket
  • Socks and gloves
  • Headband by BUFF
  • 1L water (there are many water refill stations).
  • Food and bars
  • Garmin 64st GPS
  • Spot3 Satellite GPS Messenger
  • Bear Canisters
  • Emergency Gear: Swiss Army Knife, First-Aid Kit, Emergency Blanket


Related Stories

Mount Hale via Fire Warden’s Trail

Mount Hale can be accessed easily from Zealand Road in…

Colchuck Lake & Tye Haus Round II

Trail Distance: 10 miles Elevation Gain: 2300 ft.Terrain Rating: Fairly…

5 Tips to Acadia National Park

This past weekend I was filming with GMC for a…

Munkan (Munken), Lofoten Islands, Norway

Trailhead: In the town of Sorvagen, just off E10 look…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.