We originally planned on staying 2 nights in Denali hiking and backcountry camping, however we packed it up after 1 night and continued on our way with the rest of our trip.
Would I go back? Absolutely. But there are several things I’d do differently.
What I’d do differently in the future:
1) Camp near the park the night before so you can reserve your unit, and get an early start the next morning.
why? although you can’t reserve your unit far in advance, you can reserve it the night before you plan to go. In order to get a permit you have to be there in person, watch a video and attend a safety talk. Although it doesn’t take too long to do these things, it would be nice to have it out of the way, and have the evening before to study a topographical map and better plan your hiking route. Also catching an early morning bus would allow you all day to do a more leisure hike before having to pitch your tent.
2) Research the park units ahead of time and have several options picked out (write it down & don’t lose the paper so you can remember it :) )
why? you can’t reserve a unit far in advance, so you don’t know for sure which units will be available for use while you’re there, or if they will already be at max capacity.
3) Study the unit map and plan your route. Believe the topographical contour lines!
why? self explanatory :)
4) Don’t over pack!
why? you will likely regret the justification you made while packing that “it’s just an extra pound” (unless it’s something critical!) all those little things add up fast
5) If planning on being out longer, pick a sight with a water source.
6) Do some trial hikes with your backpack at the weight or greater than what you will be carrying on the trip.
Things I’m glad we had/did:
1) Mosquito head nets! Awesome. Worth looking a little silly. But, make sure you put it on the outside of your hat :)
2) Hiking poles – much more helpful in steep or rough terrain than I would have guessed.
3) Brought the camera with a zoom & wide angle lens
4) Nice sturdy hiking boots
5) Pushed through and made it a night, but admitted that we overworked ourselves, and turned back the next day.