Park Visit: Denali

Park Visit: Denali

With six million acres in wild land, Denali National Park is worth the trek to the Last Frontier…

Growing up in Alaska, Denali National Park holds a special place in my heart. Its seemingly endless acreage is home to the largest peak in North America, sitting over 20,000 feet above sea level and named ‘big mountain’, or Denali, by my Athabaskan people. Long before I was born, my own father even summited this beautiful beast during a mountaineering expedition in the late 70s. Needless to say, I was pretty lucky to grow up under such a mighty force. Denali stands alone from other national parks as it has a sole road that runs throughout the whole park, a majority of which can only be accessed by designated park buses. This vast and wild land offers lively wildlife, historic glaciers, and peaks whose dominance beckon its visitors to acknowledge the immense power of the Earth. Check out my guide below:

Where to Stay:

Byers Lake Cabins — This is my favorite hidden gem, located about 90 miles south of the Denali National Park entrance. An amazing weekend getaway if you’re looking to spend some time in the great outdoors without fully committing to tent camping. There are three cabins located on Byers Lake, all easily accessible via a one-mile hike or a three-mile kayak trip across the lake. These cabins may rest on the outer limits of your Denali adventure but provide quiet nights, lake access and stunning views of Denali. Each cabin sleeps six and is close enough to be able to visit Talkeetna after your park visit.

Wonder Lake Campground — There are six campgrounds located inside the national park, each different from the last and each offering a more intense version of an off-the-grid experience are you head deeper inward. Wonder Lake is one of the six and furthest from the park’s entrance, 85 miles to be exact, and can only be accessed in the summer months. The campground is also the closest to Denali Mountain…with 26 miles standing between you and the base. Open to tent-only camping and also guaranteed bear sightings, this otherworldly location to lay your head at night is not for the faint of heart.

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge — Ok, ok so I know not all of us are ready to sleep on the Earth’s floor, let alone kayak for three miles just to drop off your pack. If this is you, however, Princess Lodges are where it’s at. Be warned — this is tourist-central and khaki shorts and selfie-sticks will be spotted. All that aside this lodge is beyond stunning and is located right outside the park’s entrance in the small town of Nenana Canyon. The lodge will set you up with guided hikes, whitewater rafting, which make adventuring Denali National Park effortless.

Where to Eat:

Prospectors Pizzeria & Alehouse — There are quite a few options within the mini “strip” of Nenana Canyon, from ice cream shops to killer Thai food. But nothing quite beats a hearty slice of pizza and cold beer after a long day of hiking and soaking in the fresh air. Prospectors Pizzeria is a must-stop for locals and tourists alike.

What to See:

I’ve come to accept, with the 6 million acres of land Denali National Park has to offer, “seeing it all” is quite daunting and unrealistic. So, to make your life a bit easier, I’ve provided some of my favorite spots to see if you have just a few days to explore. Of course, if you have a week, a month, a summer!!  TAKE IT, as every day in the park will provide you with a different view, another wild animal and endless gratitude for this beautiful life we get to live.

One full day: 

Savage River Loop Trail — This is a perfect, easy day hike for all levels. The trail is located at mile 15 and is actually the furthest point to you are allowed a private vehicle within the park. This trail provides parking for both RV’s and cars, and is a 1.7 mile loop that runs along the Savage River.

Sled Dog Kennels — Yes, sled dogs!! You will see signs throughout the entrance to “slow down for sled dogs” or “sled dogs exercising”. Nothing gets more Alaskan than that! Located three miles from the park entrance, the sled dog kennels are open year-round to visitors. No parking is available here, so please plan on using the buses or walking the 1.5 miles from the Denali Visitor Center to the kennels. Demonstrations are given three times daily in peak season — be sure to check out more on sled dogs demonstrations here!

Wild Life Viewing — The wild animals of Alaska can be seen through out the park no matter the location or time of day. Yet there are certain animals for certain locations — check out the National Park’s guide for viewing here!

Bus Tours — As the park is sprawling, with only 15 miles of its sole road accessible by private vehicle, a bus tour is the best way to get the most out of a one-day adventure. The park offers narrated and non-narrated tours that include history lessons for the full 95 miles of park road.

Two Days:

The previous four points of interest plus…

McKinley (River) Bar Trail — leading from Wonder Lake Campground to the McKinley River. It is 2.5 miles one way, with negligible elevation gain. The trail travels through spruce forest and past several small ponds, offering chance to see water fowl and terrain which differs from much of the park. It is plagued most of the summer by mosquitoes, so bring a head net.

Kantishna Experience– This is a full day (12-hour) adventure that travels the full length of Denali’s park road to the old gold town of Kantishna. Lunch and snacks are provided as you drive into the history and and role that this interior town has to offer.

Mount Healy Overlook Trail — Unlike other trails in the park, Mount Healy overlook is not a loop and provides a rugged terrain for those looking for incredible views.  A little over five miles round-trip, this is one of Denali’s steepest, gaining about 1,700 feet in elevation.

Please note: 

Seeing a wild animal in the backcountry can be an incredible experience. But knowing how to behave in an encounter scenario might make all the difference. Whether it’s a moose, a bear or smaller animal, be prepared to react accordingly.

Make noise in areas of low visibility.
Stay 300 yards away from any bear.
Stay at least 25 yards from a moose.
If a wild animal changes its behavior because of you, you’re too close.

+ Have a favorite Denali adventure to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn more about our partnership with the National Park Foundation here!

Follow April on Instagram.

Free People Blog

What to Pack: Parks Edition

What to Pack: Parks Edition

Adventure-ready styles for the summer days ahead…

Last week we introduced you to the Free People x National Park Foundation partnership, aka #LoveYourParks, in an aim to celebrate and bring awareness to our national parks and all things adventure! This week we are preparing your for those tree-lined trails and giving you a jump start on what to pack. Tailored with room to roam and ready to take on any terrain, this packing list is sure to inspire a new adventure.

We The Free My Boyfriend’s Tee:

An effortless take on a borrowed-from-the-boys V-neck. This tee is perfect for any weather that may come your way while exploring incredible vistas. Easily layer a thermal under for those chillier temps, or simply add a tank underneath such as the Hudson Tank when ready to shed a layer!

Levi’s 501 Cutoffs:

Featured in the same iconic fit as the Levi’s 501, these vintage-inspired jean shorts sit just below the waist and with a button fly. You can never go wrong with a good pair of denim cutoffs — might as well make them Levi’s.

Let It All Go Plaid Top:

For that lived-in look, we turn to plaid. Tie around your waist or toss over the Boyfriend Tee. This boxy shape pullover will take you from early morning hikes to late night camp fires.

Insect Repellent Travel Size: 

Let’s get real, no one loves a bug bite. Enjoy the outdoors without worry about the stress of pesky insects when using this 100% Organic Insect Repellant. Botanical oils keep bugs at bay while skin stays nourished with essential oils to help keep your people happy and bite-free!

Mineral Face SPF 30 Sunscreen:

As most of us head to the parks during those glorious summer months, sunscreen is a must. Balance skin tone and smooth fine lines with this natural matte tinted BB cream. Crafted from antioxidant-infused, plant-powered ingredients, this unscented mineral sunscreen improves elasticity while rejuvenating the skin. Hello summer tan, goodbye fine lines.

Deodorant Stick:

Because we are real woman who sweat, hear us roar. Crafted from all-natural ingredients in Portland, Oregon this certified vegan deodorant provides all-day odor protection and wetness relief. Keeping our minds focused on nature and not our stink.

Beach Club Bandana:

Don’t let the name fool you. The ultimate bandana with unfinished raw trim. Tie around your neck, hair or ankle for a versatile outdoor style.

Baggy Lace-Up Boot:

Made for any outdoor adventure, this boot is the way to go. All things cool and rugged, in a cotton canvas that has been dyed and washed to create a vintage-inspired look. Wear as a high-top while trail hunting or fold down the collar when roaming around the camp site. An extra cushy footbed for extra comfort and support.

Adventure Crew Sock:

The name says it all, ready to take on any adventure and the perfect pair for your Baggy Lace-up Boot. Slightly stretchy fabrication and elastic band for an easy, effortless fit. Did we mention they come in seven different prints? One for each day of the week, to add some pep to your trail-bound step.

Napoli Distressed Backpack:

Now that you have your list of must-haves you need something to pack it all into. Nothing beats this Italian made canvas backpack with adjustable straps, a drawstring closure and inner and outer pockets to hold your water bottle, map, park pass and more!

Be sure to enter our Instagram contest ending Friday, April 28th for your chance to win a dream National Park bundle.

+ Where is your next adventure? Headed to a National Park? Let us know in the comments below!

Follow April on Instagram.

Free People Blog

Behind the Scenes: #LoveYourParks

Behind the Scenes: #LoveYourParks

A behind-the-scenes look into our #LoveYourParks shoot… 

This post comes to you from our Social Media Creative Coordinator, Jana Kirn

If you really want to see what Mother Earth is made of, take a step inside Yosemite National Park. Famed for its iconic views, and home to North America’s largest waterfall, Yosemite is deeply loved by many. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of shaking hands with the beautiful beast, you might as well add it to your bucket list now. This week marks the start of a year-long partnership between FP and the National Parks Foundation, to celebrate and bring awareness to these inspiring and vast landscapes. Our west coast team recently set out to explore Yosemite along with model and environmental activist Lindsey Wixon, and show off  our collection of park graphic t-shirts. Take a look behind-the-scenes at our day spent in one of America’s finest treasures…


Photos by Jana Kirn.

+ Support the National Park Foundation today! Shop our limited edition Park Tees here!! 

Free People Blog

7 Things to Know Before Heading to the Parks

Preparing you for whatever park adventures lie ahead…

To continue our conversation on all things National Parks, and to ensure that future generations can also #LoveYourParks, we created a simple list of “need to knows” before you head out on your wilderness escape. Read on to learn how you can protect these beautiful spaces for years to come.

Pack it in, pack it out. 

We, lovers and patrons of our national parks, are fully responsible for their future. When it comes to food, trash and other belongings, make sure to always take it with you when leaving. Not only will it harm the environment, it may even prove toxic to wildlife. There is nothing worse than hiking to a beautiful vista with wrappers scattered along the way. So remember, if you packed it in, you can pack it out!

Keep pets at home.

Dog, cat, pet hamster? Whatever your house pet may be, your furry friends must stay at home. Most national parks are not necessarily hospitable venues for pets — especially if your buddies were to scare or harm native animals. Plan a mini-vacation for your pet next time you’re headed to the parks, and keep them with loved ones while you adventure into the great unknown (or a clearly marked trail).

Leave it be.

Leave plants, animals, rocks, and soil where you find them. Disturbing these things puts the lives of animals and plants at risk and could possibly ruin their habitats. Next time you’re in a park and find yourself enamored with one of its residents, instead of taking it home, snap a photo or journal it!

Stay on the road.

Vehicles cause damage to plants and animals, and can even aggravate land erosion! Be aware of road signs and take advantage of marked pull-offs to view wildlife and landmarks. Hate traffic? Most parks provide free shuttles to and from trail heads. Beat the stress and lower your carbon footprint all at the same time!

Tread lightly.

Stay on the trail… plants and animals are harmed daily by visitors who create their own journey. With millions of visitors a year, even a small “unofficial” trail can quickly become a beaten path. In some areas, as the vegetation and roots are trampled, erosion becomes a significant problem. So honor your parks by following the signs.I promise they lead to magic.

Flowers are friends.

And food for insects and birds!! Also, by picking flowers, you have ensured that the next visitor to pass may not find the same enjoyment, and who doesn’t love a good wildflower viewing? So next time you see a gorgeous bud, give it some love, thank it for its beauty and move on.

Friends, not foes. 

The National Park Service is there to help. Before hitting the roa,d do your research and fully plan for your adventure ahead. Weather/road conditions and park access can change on the daily, so stay informed for the best possible trip, not only for yourself but also for the environment! To learn more on a specific park, contact the park service here!

Have National Park tips yourself? Let us know your favorites in the comments below…

+ Want a chance to win an annual National Park pass? Check out our FP x NPF Instagram contest here

Follow April on Instagram.

Introducing #LoveYourParks + Instagram Giveaway

Attention all park friends and adventurers…your love is needed more than ever!

Today marks the beginning of a very special partnership — with the National Park Foundation — aimed at celebrating and bringing awareness to our national parks. #LoveYourParks was created in honor of both Earth Day and National Park Week, to highlight the importance of the United States’ dedicated 84 million acres of national park land.

To further their visibility, we’ve designed three vintage inspired, graphic t-shirts, available both online and in select retail locations, with each tee highlighting a different park: Joshua Tree National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park. The purchase of a National Park t-shirt helps to support their mission of protecting America’s treasures.

To kick off this campaign, we are giving away one dream National Park bundle via Instagram

Post a photo on IG, and, in the caption, tell us what you love about YOUR parks! One person will be selected to win a FP x NPF bundle by tagging @freepeople & #loveyourparks

Your bundle will include: an Annual National Park Pass, a pair of Movement leggings, one of our vintage-inspired park tees, and one active Beauty product! 

Do it for you, do it for the parks.

Photos by Jana Kirn.

+ Want to learn more? Check out some of our behind-the-scenes photos here

Follow April on Instagram.