Nenana River Trails

Denali National Park and Preserve » Nenana River Trails » Document List

After several years of planning and public outreach, the NPS has decided to construct approximately 17 miles of trail near the Nenana River in Denali National Park. This non-wilderness area is on the eastern boundary of the park, between the George Parks Highway and the Nenana River.

Of the total 17 miles of trail, approximately eight miles will be a multiuse trail open to both pedestrians and bicyclists. This trail will be approximately eight feet wide and will primarily have a crushed gravel surface.

If constructed prior to the realignment of the Alaska Railroad in this area, the northern section of multiuse trail from approximately mile 234 to mile 236 of the Parks Highway would involve a crossing of the Alaska Railroad and would be in or close to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT) right of way for approximately two miles. The crossing of the Alaska Railroad and use of the DOT right of way would require permits from both agencies.

If the railroad were realigned in this area during or shortly after project implementation, the multiuse trail would occupy the former railroad alignment through the project area.

The remaining approximately nine miles of trail will be open to pedestrians only and will be approximately one to two feet wide with a primarily natural surface. Trails will be built to accessibility standards per the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) to the extent feasible from each trailhead. The southernmost approximately one mile of hiking trail will create a two-mile universally accessible loop when combined with the southernmost mile of the multiuse trail.

A bridge accommodating both bicycles and pedestrians will cross Riley Creek and connect the trails to the Riley Creek day use area. Additional site-specific compliance based on final design will be required for the bridge prior to implementation.

In addition to wayfinding signage on the trails, there may be other facilities constructed along the trails, including benches, interpretive signs, or overlook areas. These additional facilities would be concentrated near trailheads and will require additional site-specific compliance if implemented.

All trails will be open for their respective day uses year-round. Overnight camping will continue to be prohibited.

Commercial use will be allowed on the trails under existing laws, NPS policies, and park planning documents. Any new commercial uses that may be proposed in the future will be evaluated by standard park compliance and commercial services processes.

Construction of the trails would involve both hand crews and the use of mechanical equipment such as bulldozers, loaders, excavators, and material haulers. Borrow pits near the trail corridor would be used for aggregate when needed. Approximately one borrow pit would be needed for every mile of trail constructed, depending on the trail surface type and substrate material. Borrow pits would provide up to 50 to 100 cubic yards of material each, depending on the section of trail they are used for. Borrow pit locations would be restored to natural conditions when no longer needed for trail construction by filling them with organic material and vegetation mats generated by trail construction. When necessary, aggregate could be imported from sources outside of the project area.

Boardwalks would be used to cross wetland areas. On trails where only hiking is allowed, these boardwalks would be planks running between supports placed on top of the ground surface. For the multiuse trail, the boardwalk would be suspended above the wetland surface by helical piles driven into the ground. Helicopter use over one or two days could be required to transport boardwalk materials to difficult to reach sections of trail. This could be accomplished during low-visitation times of year and over non-wilderness areas of the park to minimize impacts from helicopter use.

Construction of a bridge over Riley Creek would require the use of heavy equipment. A total of two to three abutments would likely be needed to support the bridge. Construction access to the north abutment would be from the Riley Creek day use area along an existing maintained service road. Construction access to the south abutment would be along the multiuse trail alignment from the Parks Highway bridge over Riley Creek.

When possible, equipment staging and construction activity would be focused away from developed visitor areas. Sections of trail would be opened to visitor use as they are completed to minimize overlap of construction activity and visitor use of the trails.

Construction of the selected alternative will be phased to provide time between project initiation and construction of the northern section of multiuse trail, allowing for more information to be provided by the Alaska Railroad Corporation about the possible railroad realignment while still ensuring that a multiuse trail, either in the DOT right of way or on the current railroad alignment, is built in the near future.

Proposed phasing:
2023 Phase 1 = Hiking trail Parks Highway mile 231 to Nenana and Yanert rivers confluence
2024 Phase 2 = Hiking trail from Yanert River confluence to Parks Highway mile 234
2025 Phase 3 = Multiuse trail section (allowing only hikers to start with) from mile 234 to mile 231
2026 Phase 4 = Hiking trail from Parks Highway mile 234 to Riley Creek day use area
2027 Phase 5 = Multiuse trail from Parks Highway mile 234 to the park entrance area, either using the DOT right of way if the railroad realignment is not definitive, or on the current railroad location if the realignment is imminent. If the railroad realignment is planned but not imminent, construction of the multiuse trail could be delayed until the railroad realignment is completed.

For more information about the Nenana River Trails EA, please visit the park's website at

Contact Information

Jennifer Johnston
Outdoor Recreation Planner
Denali National Park and Preserve