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August 2, 2012
From journal The Great One - Denali National Park
District of Columbia County, District of Columbia
August 22, 2004
The Horseshoe Lake Trail is a fun, easy to moderate hike in the park entrance area from the park road down to an oxbow lake that was once part of the Nenana River. In contrast to the river's white water rapids and swift current, Horseshoe Lake is very tranquil and its beauty is enhanced by a backdrop of steep rocky cliffs and Mount Healy. The lake is a good place to see animals, which are attracted to its clear, smooth water. There is a large beaver dam at one end of the lake; to get to it continue following the trail until it ends at the edge of the water and the beaver dam will be directly in front of you. Unfortunately I did not see any beavers while I was there, but the beaver lodges in the lake are still active and inhabited.
The trail to the lake starts out along the Alaska Railroad tracks, turning right and crossing the tracks and proceeding uphill. From this point forward most of the trail is in the forest. After several gradual inclines you arrive at the top of the hill and an incredible overlook of the lake below. Now the hard part starts. The trail descends very steeply down the hill into the valley. The grade is steep enough that even walking downhill can be a little difficult in places. After reaching the bottom of the hill the trail levels out and continues until you reach the lake. The return trip to the park road is more intense, as you have to get back over that steep grade that you came down, and there are not many good resting points along the way. Fortunately the beauty of the lake is worth the effort, and once you get back up to the overlook area the benches there provide a good resting point before continuing on.
A map of the trail and more information can be found on the Denali National Park website.
From journal Experiencing the Wilderness in Denali National Park