Ermine Hill Trail

Denali State Park
This hike was rated 4 stars.
Somewhat Easy; some elevation gains but switch-backed. Moderate if root stair is used.
Connects With
Miles One Way
Miles from Anchorage
156.4; trailhead is just off the Parks Highway
July to September


My original plan was to do Kesugi Ridge and add Upper Troublesome Creek for a 4 night/5 day trek. For the website, I was going to camp near the intersection of Kesugi Ridge and Ermine Hill and quickly head down to the highway and back up so I could give definitive information on the trail. However, the weather was horrible and instead I just did this as a day hike. Unfortunately, since it was a crappy day, I didn’t get to see Denali (your chances are 30% on any give day – don’t say I didn’t warn you) but it was a nice pleasant hike nonetheless.

For those who don’t have the time, skill, and/or physical capabilities to do the whole Kesugi Ridge Trail, this is a great alternative. You still get to see Denali (fairly quickly, I might add) and at the end of the trail, you can explore the cool rock formations along the hills and along the Kesugi Trail before it descends down into the valley.

The trail is relatively easy and would be a great hike to take the kids as I think most would get a kick out of playing around the rocks.

Important Information

Unless you’re a serious “A” personality, I see no reason to shorten the trip by using the root stair shortcut. You only save a 1/2 mile and the potential for a slip and fall looks high.

You’d have to do a lot of bushwhacking to actually get to the lake’s shoreline for water. Bring an adequate supply. If you do get water from the lake, I would filter as there is a lot of algae growing in it.

You could roundtrip this in a little over 2 hours but I would pack a lunch and plan on exploring time.


Byers Lake is a great campground but can be buggy.

A traverse can be made of any length (see below) and/or direction with Kesugi Ridge and the Upper Troublesome Creek Trail.

Coal Creek Ermine Hill Byers Lake Troublesome
Coal Creek 17.2 27.7 36.2
Ermine Hill 17.2 17.2 25.4
Byers Lake 27.7 17.2 15.2
Troublesome 36.2 25.4 15.2

There are various companies offering shuttles that can drop you off and pick you up at the various trailheads. Expect to pay $40-$75.

Topo Map

Ermine Hill Trail topo map

Comments on hiking Ermine Hill Trail

  1. Katrina — June 27, 2017

    Loved this hike in the fall time! Tons of berries but also lots of signs of bears. Just be prepared to maybe run into a bear. Other than that, the rock formations were an incredible sight to see! The changing colors of the tundra, reds, yellows, and orange were amazing. It was a chilly start in the afternoon, wore too many layers because by afternoon the sun was shining and it was a perfect warm fall day. The trail offers various scenery changes. Going through the forest, crossing streams and ponds then coming out to various clearings which offers beautiful views of the parallel Denali ridge lines. Definitely will return in the fall with a berry bucket!

  2. Sarah Halvorson — July 21, 2016

    I have a question about the Kesugi Ridge Trail hike. Is it possible to hike from Coal Creek along the Kesugi Ridge Trail and then down the Ermine Hill Trail as a day hike? How long would this route be?

    Webmaster’s response: yes it’s certainly possible as a day hike. It would come in at around 17 miles, so it could be a long day, depending on how quickly you hike.

  3. The following was submitted by Leslie Schwalm on using the Ermine Hill Trail:

    Just a quick thank-you note for responding to my inquiry about a day-hike section of Kesugi Ridge Trail; you suggested going up Ermine Hill Trail and then exploring the ridge trail. We found Ermine Hill a wonderful trail. The switchbacks offered beautiful views of Denali, and a small lake on the valley floor in the distance hosted both Tundra swans and a mother grizzly and her two cubs. The trail was in good shape, although the bridge crossing one of the streams was under repair. (Also, there are some deep erosion cracks in the switchback section, suggesting there will need to be some maintenance in the not-too-distant future). As the trail rises above the timber line, Ermine Lake appears, and we found Arctic loons there, and watched a black bear crossing the ice fields up on the northern portion of the Kesugi Ridge trail. The rock formations were beautiful.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

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