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Hike: Horseshoe Lake

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2 miles

Time: 2 hours

Toddlers: Yes! Not stroller accessible.

On Mother's Day, we hit the trails to Horseshoe Lake and were thrilled to find it was mostly void of snow! Summer is ALMOST here!! This trail is great for families - we had our toddler (3 years) and baby (10 months) with us. Our three year old hiked most of the trail, but we brought her hiking backpack for when her legs were tired. Our youngest rode in the backpack the whole way. This trail is not easily accessible with a stroller.

The Horseshoe Lake Trailhead (more info here from the Denali National Park website) begins right where the railroad crosses the Denali Park Road. There is parking right next to the trailhead, as well as across the road.

You need to walk along the tracks for a short distance and then cross them to start the trail down to the lake. If you aren't up for the whole hike, it is a short distance to this gorgeous overlook, where you can get a great picture of you & your family!

That sweet little hiker is three, and did over a mile all on her own. This really is one of my favorite Denali National Park hikes for families!

Right after the overlook, you head down one giant hill (your biggest on the whole trip - which is fine on the way down, but gives you a little work out on the way back!) Trails are well maintained and easy to walk on. You can see LOTS of beaver activity! We've hiked the trail once more since this trip and we even saw a beaver headed to the beaver dam!

We were especially excited to see a crocus flower on our hike - this is the first flower of spring around here. It is a WELCOME site to see after a long winter!

We made it down to the rest area that is about 0.65 miles from the parking lot. Here, we took a water break, watched a muskrat jump in and out of the lake, and regrouped to continue on. Can you spot the muskrat? He's that cute tiny brown fella on the ice.

This trail is near and dear to my heart! Every year during 3rd - 5th grades, our classes traveled down to horseshoe lake each month to measure the ice thickness in collaboration with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Thankfully, since my elementary school days, the Park Service has expanded the trail beyond this rest point.

A short walk later, and you're along the Nenana River. If you're taking a rafting trip during your time here, you'll pass along this exact stretch on the water!! There was still a lot of snow coverage, but it was nice to be along the river again.

I couldn't find a correct term for this phenomenon, but the ice along the river was CRAZY! It was like a ton of little ice straws (columns?) stacked together really tightly. When broken apart, they looked like this in your hand. It was SOO cool!!

From the river, you meet the intersection of where Horseshoe Lake trains into the Nenana River. It's a muddy mess!

After the river, the trail turns back to the lake, this time on the opposite side. You'll pass the active beaver dam, and have a narrower walk along the shore. In the summer, the water is clear and you can sometimes see fish swimming along!

The path returns you back to the base of the hill, where you'll hike on up and return to your car. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike with us, at one of our favorite trails, Horseshoe Lake!!

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