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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:38 am 
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So.  It's been a looong time since I've posted much on here.  But I certainly haven't stopped hiking.  I moved to Alaska in the summer of 2008 and have learned a lot about the state and the outdoor activities that can be done here.  Perhaps some of that information will be useful or at least interesting to some of you.

Of course, no one knows everything about this place, so what follows should be thought of as an always lengthening journal of experiences and ideas.  Though I make a point of getting around the state as much as I can, I have still focused on the two parts of the state where I have lived: Southcentral (Anchorage and the Mat-Su), and Delta (the Eastern Alaska Range).  I know these areas very well, but it should be assumed that my knowledge of the other areas discussed is sparse, my maps incomplete, and my photos unrepresentative.

But where to begin..  I'm not really quite sure how to organize all this, so I suppose I'll just dive in and figure it out as I go along.

Here's a map of the good hiking areas, along the road system, in Alaska.  (click, then enlarge).  The yellow outlines show areas where hiking is primarily on established trails, while the red outlines show areas where there is good access to cross country hiking (meaning minimal bushwhacking, good game trails, hunting trails, etc).  As you can see, the densest concentration of trail hiking is located near Anchorage and the northern Kenai Peninsula.  And this is indeed the best location for a hiking oriented first visit to Alaska, unless you have something specific you want to see.

For the rest my maps in this thread, black lines indicate roads, yellow are established trails, red are potential routes, blue are generally float trips (although I think I used blue for climbing routes on some older maps), and purple are climbing routes on the newer maps.

Alaska road accessible hiking areas
Alaska road accessible hiking areas

Click and download full resolution map here: https://flic.kr/p/qfb3ay (download in bottom right corner)

And here's a few sortof representative photos from around the state to give a basic idea of the terrain you will be hiking through:

The coastal fjords:
034 (4)
034 (4)

And heavily glaciated coastal mountains:
Portage Glacier
Portage Glacier

The leeward side of the coastal mountains:
125 (3)
125 (3)

Interior rivers and boreal forest:
441
441

Interior mountains and tundra:
020 (3)
020 (3)

Northern interior rolling low mountains:
100 (8)
100 (8)

And finally, the mountains of the arctic:
View from James Dalton Mountain
View from James Dalton Mountain

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:38 am 
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Eastern Alaska Range

Eastern Alaska Range
Eastern Alaska Range

Download full resolution map here: https://flic.kr/p/qfLLUH

Far from population centers and without any protected status to call attention to itself, the Eastern Alaska Range sees far less use than the other paved road accessible high mountain country of Alaska.  There are few trails, and no signed trailheads (aside from a couple on the Denali Highway, at the edge of the region).  There is plenty to do however, and living near this remote region has given me the opportunity to explore it in detail as few others have.  There are relatively few trees here, and brush line is not too far up the slopes from the road.  So access to the high country is primarily by game trails, and in some cases hunters 4-wheeler tracks.

The area is 3-4 hours from Fairbanks, via the Richardson Highway, and 5-6 hours from Anchorage via the Glenn and Richardson Highways.  Though the weather here is generally dryer than down on the coast, these mountains still catch coastal moisture, especially on their south slopes, and the Chinook wind that blasts north along the Delta River is often dusty and brutal.  Access to some areas is aided by a high clearance vehicle (Red Rock Canyon especially), but many areas are accessible by standard low clearance rental cars.

Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (15)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (15)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (16)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (16)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (17)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (17)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (18)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (18)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (19)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (19)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway
Along the road south of Delta
Along the road south of Delta
Black Rabids, Richardson Highway, Alaska Range
Black Rabids, Richardson Highway, Alaska Range
Black Rapids (2)
Black Rapids (2)
Black Rapids, south of Delta
Black Rapids, south of Delta
Black Rapids
Black Rapids
Caribou on Summit Lake, Alaska Range
Caribou on Summit Lake, Alaska Range
Rainbow Mountain, near Delta
Rainbow Mountain, near Delta
Near Black Rapids
Near Black Rapids
Near Black Rapids, Alaska Range
Near Black Rapids, Alaska Range
Mt. Hayes from Richardson Highway
Mt. Hayes from Richardson Highway
Moose along Richardson Highway, south of Delta
Moose along Richardson Highway, south of Delta
Eastern Alaska Range at night
Eastern Alaska Range at night
Eastern Alaska Range at night (5)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (5)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (4)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (4)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (3)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (3)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (2)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (2)
Delta River Valley, Alaska Range
Delta River Valley, Alaska Range
Richardson Highway through the Alaska Range
Richardson Highway through the Alaska Range
Summit Lake, Alaska Range
Summit Lake, Alaska Range
Summit Lake, Richardson Highway
Summit Lake, Richardson Highway
Sunset from Summit Lake, Richardson Highway
Sunset from Summit Lake, Richardson Highway
Sunset near Black Rapids, Delta
Sunset near Black Rapids, Delta
White Princess from Richardson Highway (2)
White Princess from Richardson Highway (2)
004 (2)
004 (2)
188
188
029 (2)
029 (2)
024
024
015 (3)
015 (3)
017 (2)
017 (2)
103
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107 (2)
107 (2)
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110 (2)
110 (2)
111 (3)
111 (3)
113 (5)
113 (5)
113
113
114
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119
119
120 (6)
120 (6)
124
124
Alaska Range near Delta
Alaska Range near Delta
Alaska Range from Richardson Highway
Alaska Range from Richardson Highway
388
388
186 (2)
186 (2)
174 (2)
174 (2)
164 (3)
164 (3)
153 (3)
153 (3)
149
149
143
143
133 (3)
133 (3)
126 (2)
126 (2)
125
125
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (2)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (2)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (3)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (3)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (4)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (4)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (5)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (5)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (6)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (6)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (7)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (7)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (8)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (8)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (9)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (9)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (11)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (11)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (12)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (12)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (13)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (13)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (14)
Alaska Range, Richardson Highway (14)
022
022
023 (3)
023 (3)
025 (7)
025 (7)
026
026
033
033
034 (3)
034 (3)
037 (3)
037 (3)
037 (5)
037 (5)
040 (7)
040 (7)
042
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044
072 (3)
072 (3)
071 (4)
071 (4)
071 (3)
071 (3)
068 (2)
068 (2)
067 (5)
067 (5)
060 (2)
060 (2)
059 (3)
059 (3)
054 (2)
054 (2)
050 (4)
050 (4)
049
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049 (2)
049 (2)
047 (5)
047 (5)
073
073
077
077
084 (4)
084 (4)
086 (2)
086 (2)
089 (2)
089 (2)
091 (3)
091 (3)
093 (2)
093 (2)
093
093
094 (4)
094 (4)
100
100
101
101
102
102
White Princess from Richardson Highway
White Princess from Richardson Highway
022 (2)
022 (2)
019 (4)
019 (4)
019 (3)
019 (3)
019 (2)
019 (2)
017
017
016 (6)
016 (6)
015
015
015 (2)
015 (2)
013 (2)
013 (2)
007 (6)
007 (6)
005 (2)
005 (2)
001
001

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:39 am 
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Bear Creek (Eastern Alaska Range)

Coming from Delta, this is the first potential hike that's fully in the mountains - Donnelly Dome to the north is more of a large outlying foothill.  Bear Creek is a signed crossing between Ruby Creek to the north and Darling Creek to the south (about 33 miles south of Delta Junction).  You wouldn't guess it from the wall of brush, but there are decent footpaths that begin on both sides of the bridge.  Both are a bit faint, but both provide access through nice open woods to the subalpine and, with some minor off trail difficulties, to the alpine tundra above.  From there, a huge expanse of dwarf tundra and scree can be explored, with a little scrambling, all the way up to the Jarvis Glacier divide if one chooses.  Personally I prefer the south trail which accesses the alpine with some very minor brushy routefinding, and leads to a more prominent highpoint.  The north trail is worthwhile as well though, where the alpine is accessed via some easy, dirty scrambling.  Both trails provide nice views of Bear Creek Canyon, which can also be followed if you're into canyons.
Round Trip: about 5 miles (south trail to high point)
Elevation Gain: 2400ft.

Bear Creek
Bear Creek
115
115
026 (2)
026 (2)
028
028
031 (3)
031 (3)
033 (2)
033 (2)
034 (3)
034 (3)
039 (2)
039 (2)
045
045
051
051
113 (3)
113 (3)
111 (2)
111 (2)
102 (3)
102 (3)
094 (2)
094 (2)
081 (3)
081 (3)
072 (2)
072 (2)
066 (2)
066 (2)
063 (2)
063 (2)
059
059
056 (3)
056 (3)
054
054
053 (3)
053 (3)

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:39 am 
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Castner - Fels Glacier Divide

This is one of the most spectacular dayhikes from a paved road in Alaska and it shows almost no sign of human traffic.  Though a little bit of bush pushing and some substantial routefinding are required down low, if one stays on the correct path, this one's pretty reasonable.  And once brushline is reached, you are treated to a nearly endless gradual alpine staircase which sneaks non climbers in above the high jumbled cliffs and glaciers of the Alaska Range.

The trailhead is located at a pulloff on the north side of Lower Miller Creek.  If you're in luck, the braided glacial river will be running mostly along its south bank, allowing easy travel along the gravelbar.  If not, any substantial distance through the brush down here would make this hike much more difficult.  It's a little hard to describe the exact route, so I will attach a google earth screenshot.  When leaving the old riverbed, you will be looking for a large game trail shooting straight up the slope.  This leads to a patch of tundra.  Take a right here until you see another obvious game trail leading down into the brush, aiming for a small lake.  Once in the bottom near the lake follow the path of least resistance near the shore toward the big brushy mountainside to the northeast.  Scan the slope looking for the lowest brush.  From what I've seen, it's best to head back left along the toe of the slope for a bit before turning up.  Regardless, this is the worst bushwhacking of the route and it's steep as well.  After maybe 500 vertical feet of this, the ridgeline is reached and the brush and routefinding are over.  As a sudden bonus, a spectacular view of Castner Glacier opens up.

From here, enjoy the broad ridge as it leads you into the sky.  There is at least one tarn on top of the ridge in early and mid summer that would allow decent camping, and snowpatches can probably be found through the summer most years.  To me though, this is best as a long dayhike.  Any of the highpoints (4226, 5390, 7000+, or 7368) is a worthy turnaround point.  The last one does require a significant descent though, and the view isn't that much better.  Just recently, I noticed that the next large ridge to the south, between Fels and Canwell Glaciers, has a real lake right on top.  That's a definite camping trip for next summer, though the level of bushwhacking remains to be seen.

Round Trip: At least 4.6 miles, up to 14 miles.
Elevation Gain: At least 1900ft. Up to 5200ft.

Castner, Fels Divide
Castner, Fels Divide
Castner, Fels Divide Google Earth
Castner, Fels Divide Google Earth
515
515
088
088
103
103
105 (2)
105 (2)
113 (2)
113 (2)
114 (2)
114 (2)
114
114
115 (3)
115 (3)
117
117
118 (2)
118 (2)
118 (3)
118 (3)
121 (2)
121 (2)
124 (2)
124 (2)
126
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128 (2)
128 (2)
132 (2)
132 (2)
137
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138
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140 (2)
140 (2)
143
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149 (2)
149 (2)
160 (2)
160 (2)
160 (3)
160 (3)
161 (2)
161 (2)
162 (2)
162 (2)
163
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164 (2)
164 (2)
167 (2)
167 (2)
167 (3)
167 (3)
168
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169 (2)
169 (2)
171 (2)
171 (2)
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173 (2)
173 (2)
175 (2)
175 (2)
178
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183
183
184 (2)
184 (2)
186
186
213
213
219 (2)
219 (2)
227 (2)
227 (2)
478
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487
487
500
500
502
502
503
503
506
506
507
507
513
513
514
514

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:40 am 
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Coal Mine Road

Though this route is maybe a bit boring for a hike in summer, I'll mention it since going part way out to a public use cabin at Coal Mine Lake #5 makes a great snowshoe or cross country ski in winter, and going further out the road is an excellent mountain bike trip in summer.  The second half of the ride is right on top of a moraine above brush line, with expansive views of the Delta Valley and the Alaska Range.  There is a second public use cabin further out the trail.
Drive about 24 miles south from Delta on the Richardson Highway and park at the signed pull-off.  Much of this road can be driven by 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicles, but it doesnít generally see a whole lot of traffic in this quiet area, far from population centers.

Coal Mine Lake #5
4.2 miles round trip
+350 feet

End of road
15.4 miles round trip
+850 feet

Coal Mine Road
Coal Mine Road
159 (2)
159 (2)
134
134
141 (5)
141 (5)
156
156

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:40 am 
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Gulkana Glacier

Every April, the biggest hillbilly party of the year happens out here in the remote Eastern Alaska Range.  Several thousand motorheads from all over the state come to watch races and participate in the festivities.  Food carts, beer gardens, and live music, all in the snow..  And for good reason, Isabel Pass provides some of the best snowmobiling in the world.  For the rest of the year, this is really a quiet place, affording a nice relatively easy hike at the end of a bumpy road.  I must say that the snow rally organizers do an admirable job of picking up the garbage after the event.  You really would never know.

The access turnoff is just south of the signed Richardson Monument at Isabel Pass, about 68.5 miles south of Delta.  Turn east onto the gravel road and watch it deteriorate into a jeep trail.  4wd isn't necessary, but without a little clearance, this hike might not be much fun since the road wouldn't be enjoyable to walk.  Start walking when it's obvious you shouldn't drive any more.  Quickly, College Creek is crossed on an awesomely rickety looking wild west suspension bridge.  The sometimes faint and very rocky trail continues uneventfully to the toe of the glacier.  It should go without saying, but people have died straying onto lingering snow on top of the glacier and falling into crevasses.  Only venture onto the ice if you know what you're doing.
Round Trip: about 4 miles.
Elevation Gain: 500 ft.

Gulkana Glacier
Gulkana Glacier
070 (2)
070 (2)
079 (3)
079 (3)
085 (3)
085 (3)
086
086

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:41 am 
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Gunnysack Peak

The hike to Gunnysack Peak is the only hike in the Eastern Alaska Range where an actual trail ascends all the way to the summit of a substantial mountain.  The catch however is that this hike lies entirely within Black Rapids army training area.  In order to hike here, one must contact the office and make sure no training is going on, and then stop by to check in and check out.  This will deter many, but the hike is worth it.  When checking in, ask about the best place to park.  In any case, the hike begins on grassy ski slope trails.  There are several ways to go -- the trails converge at the lift tower at the top.  The trail furthest to the north, skirting the gorge of Gunnysack Creek, is probably the quietest.  From the top of the ski slope, a fairly obvious two track trail continues up and slowly turns into a hiker only path.  The trail mostly disappears for a pitch up a steep meadow, but appears again when the ridge becomes more defined.  Some minor exposure and talus hopping eventually leads to the summit, marked by a memorial to fallen soldiers.  Very nice views overlook most of the Delta River Valley and right up Black Rapids Glacier.

There is also a hike that starts right across Gunnysack Creek to the north, behind Black Rapids Lodge, entirely outside the army training area.  The folks there are friendly and will point you in the right direction.  Apparently, this path is flagged all the way to brush line, but I have not been up there yet myself.

Drive about 40 miles south from Delta on the Richardson Highway.  Black Rapids Training Area is an obvious compound on the left, just past the Lodge at Black Rapids.  Check in at the training area office.

Round trip: about 6 miles, but it depends on where you park.
Elevation gain: 3700ft.

Black Rapids Training Area
Black Rapids Training Area
101
101
202
202
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197
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199
163 (2)
163 (2)
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162 (2)
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158
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159 (2)
149
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148 (2)
138 (2)
138 (2)
140
140
130 (2)
130 (2)
121 (2)
121 (2)
116 (2)
116 (2)

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:41 am 
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Michael Creek

This is another surprising "wall of brush" footpath along the Richardson Highway in the Eastern Alaska Range between Delta and Glennallen.  The signed creek crossing is about 46 miles south of Delta and there are trails that push into the brush on both sides of the bridge.  On the north side, trails lead to a couple private cabins.  The trail you want is on the south side of the bridge.  There are a couple confusing junctions; for the time being you can follow the red ribbons tied around shrub branches.  If you reach a large river-rock cabin, you've missed a right turn.  When the path reaches a grassy meadow, it's not obvious but you need to take a sharp left back away from the meadow, up the hill.

From here, the trail leads steeply up onto a tundra bench where the tread temporarily disappears.  Follow the path of least resistance (generally up and to the right) and the trail will reappear through a last band of brush.  Once through this, there are some fine views from rock outcrops overlooking the Delta River region.  This is a decent turnaround point, but it's rewarding and simple enough to climb higher, on up the tundra.  Eventually a vertical ridge step halts easy progress, and this is as far as I've gone.  It's likely possible however, to skirt the gendarme on the right and continue up the ridge into high alpine rock and snow, up towards the Jarvis Glacier divide.

Round Trip: about 3.5 or 4 miles
Elevation gain: 1700ft.

Michael Creek
Michael Creek
455
455
392
392
393
393
402
402
412
412
420
420
429
429
431
431
433
433
447
447
200 (4)
200 (4)
202 (2)
202 (2)

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Mega-Will
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:42 am 
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Donnelly Dome

As you can see, I have pictures depicting a wide variety of conditions on this hike.  Iíve been up here many, many times since it serves much the same purpose as Tiger Mountain for Puget Sound residents, just with considerably better scenery and worse weather.  Iím particularly grateful for this geographic anomaly 20 miles south of where I live since the rest of the region here north of the Alaska Range is rather gentle.  I think Iíd end up getting fat without Donnelly Dome.  Of course, there arenít any trailhead signs here or anything, and most of the hill is on military land.  The army doesnít seem terribly bothered by people tromping around in this area though, particularly on the south side, accessed from non-military land along the Richardson Highway.  If you want to be official, pick up a recreation pass at the visitorís center at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, or at Fort Greely in Delta on weekdays.  There are two main trails here, one on the south side which climbs steeply up an open and wind blasted slope.  Another trail climbs the north side, accessed from ďDome RoadĒ on military land.  Itís just as steep and a bit brushier but the ridge walk to the summit is really cool.  Iíve generally stopped going that way, and sometimes drop part way down the ridge from the other side to extend the workout a bit.

One unexpected quality of this hill is itís availability as a surprisingly reasonable winter hike.  Like I mentioned, the open south slope is frequently blasted with the warm Chinook winds funneling out of the Delta River Valley, and is often mostly clear of snow.  The shrubby tundra at the base of the Dome gets heavily drifted, but generally isnít too terrible to walk.  In addition, big steep slopes in the mountains are almost always much warmer (often as much as 30 degrees, even when itís not windy) than the interior valley bottoms.

Drive just less than 20 miles south from Delta on the Richardson Highway, and park at a pull-off on the west side of the highway.  There are a couple parking spots from which the trail can be accessed, the best one is just past the top of the hill rising up from the Donnelly Flats straightaway.  The first part of the trail can be driven with 4wd, hc.  Look for a footpath heading toward the mountain after a half mile or so.  The open, upper slopes have several indistinct trails.

3 miles round trip
+1660 feet elevation gain

Donnelly Dome
Donnelly Dome
View from Donnelly Dome
View from Donnelly Dome
003 (5)
003 (5)
005 (4)
005 (4)
006 (4)
006 (4)
024
024
030 (2)
030 (2)
032
032
047
047
049
049
050
050
051 (2)
051 (2)
052
052
060
060
074
074
083
083
337
337
Alaska Range from Donnelly Dome
Alaska Range from Donnelly Dome
Eastern Alaska Range at night (6)
Eastern Alaska Range at night (6)
far eastern AK Range from Donnelly Dome
far eastern AK Range from Donnelly Dome
Fort Greely from Donnelly Dome at night
Fort Greely from Donnelly Dome at night
Granite Mountains from Donnelly Dome 2
Granite Mountains from Donnelly Dome 2
Granite Mountains from Donnelly Dome
Granite Mountains from Donnelly Dome
Mt. Hayes from Donnelly Dome at night
Mt. Hayes from Donnelly Dome at night
016 (4)
016 (4)
012 (3)
012 (3)
005 (3)
005 (3)
060 (3)
060 (3)
045 (3)
045 (3)
044 (3)
044 (3)
029 (3)
029 (3)
026 (2)
026 (2)
080 (2)
080 (2)
054
054
shadow of Donnelly Dome
shadow of Donnelly Dome
Mt. Silvertip from Donnelly Dome
Mt. Silvertip from Donnelly Dome

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Mega-Will
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:42 am 
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Rainbow Ridge

This is a small mountain range along the Richardson Highway, lower and closer to the main river valley than the icy main range of the Delta Mountains.  Its name is inspired by the multi-hue cliffs and scree slopes seen dramatically from the highway, 4,000 feet below the crest of the ridge.  Hiking in these mountains can be done from several access points.  The Redrock Canyon (local name) access gives the option to gain much of the elevation on an ATV trail (expect motorized traffic on weekends especially).  The road up McCallum Creek edges up to the brush line on the opposite side of Rainbow Ridge (no trail), and the other two ďtrailheads,Ē along the highway itself are really just narrow spots in the brush where hikers have previously found a way up into the high country.  One is a pullout at the big bend at MP 209.5, and another at a gravel pit at MP 206.5.

Rainbow Ridge
Rainbow Ridge

Red Rock Canyon

The main ATV trail from Redrock Canyon ascends spectacularly (look for a more pleasant foot trail, first on the left, then on the right) up to almost 5,000 feet.  The view from the overlook at the end is spectacular, including the large Canwell Glacier, the Delta River Valley, and the Hayes Range in the distance.  To the south though is a rubbly ridge that looks steeper and looser than it is.  Iíd call it a class 2 scramble but the view from the top will knock you out, making that steep climb and even the ATV road totally worth it.  In addition to what you could see before, youíll realize that youíre now right on top of the hanging glaciers clinging to the north side of the Rainbow Mountains.  The icy north face of Institute Peak is one of the most beautiful features in the area, and itís right in your face.  Thereís lots of moderate, open country up here, but most of it is recent glacial moraine, and gets really tiring after awhile.  At least walk the minor ridge down for awhile, even though it doesnít really go anywhere.  Take note that the snow melts much more slowly here than in most interior locations.  The day I did this hike was 91 degrees in Fairbanks, but only pleasantly cool here.  Save this one for high season in mid July through mid August.
Round Trip: about 8 miles from Creek crossing (HC vehicle), 12 miles form canyon entrance.
Elevation Gain: about 2000 feet.

Hiking in the Alaska Range south of Delta
Hiking in the Alaska Range south of Delta
Hiking south of Delta
Hiking south of Delta
Jeep track, Rainbow Mountains
Jeep track, Rainbow Mountains
Rainbow Mountains Hike (2)
Rainbow Mountains Hike (2)
Rainbow Mountains Hike (3)
Rainbow Mountains Hike (3)
Rainbow Mountains hike (4)
Rainbow Mountains hike (4)
Rainbow Mountains hike (5)
Rainbow Mountains hike (5)
Rainbow Mountains hike, south of Delta
Rainbow Mountains hike, south of Delta
Rainbow Mountains hike
Rainbow Mountains hike
Rainbow Mountains
Rainbow Mountains
Rainbow Ridge Hike (2)
Rainbow Ridge Hike (2)
Rainbow Ridge Hike
Rainbow Ridge Hike
4-wheeler trail south of Delta
4-wheeler trail south of Delta
024 (6)
024 (6)

Canwell Peak

Canwell Peak (named after the survey marker on the summit) is the northernmost summit of Rainbow Ridge, and offers a more convenient scramble than the main summits.  It's become perhaps my favorite dayhike in the eastern Alaska Range.  Follow the Red Rock Canyon road until it levels out on top of the moraine about a mile in.  Take a right up steep heathery tundra up onto a broad ridge.  From here you can see the whole route.  Make an end run across easy tundra around the canyon you see in front of you.  Cross the creek (this is locally called Rainbow Basin) and head to the first prominent notch to the right (north) of Canwell Peak.  Follow the ridgeline from there, skirting left around some minor gendarmes.  One can descend the same way, or plunge step down the scree of the east face.
Round Trip: about 6 miles from creek crossing (HC vehicle), 10 miles from canyon entrance.
Elevation Gain: about 2700 feet.

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Rainbow Mountain

I have not managed to summit Rainbow yet, but have attempted twice, once from MP 209.5, and another time, in late winter, from directly below the peak.  Both routes are quite steep, with some loose, obnoxious scrambling up high, and a bit of bushwhacking down low.  The direct route is probably preferable.
Round Trip: about 3.5 miles.
Elevation Gain: 4000 feet.

Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (2)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (2)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (3)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (3)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (4)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (4)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (5)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (5)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (6)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (6)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (7)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (7)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (8)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (8)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (9)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta (9)
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta
Rainbow Ridge Hike, Delta
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South Rainbow Ridge

From the gravel pit at MP 206.5, hike northeast through light brush to reach a trail and head right (southeast).  This leads up into an avalanche blasted creek gully, and with some boulder hopping, up to a high pass.  Cross country travel up the peaks to the north of here is possible and rewarding, but somewhat annoyingly steep.
Round Trip: about 5.3 miles.
Elevation Gain: 3150 feet.

024 (6)
024 (6)
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029 (2)

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:43 am 
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Suzie Q Creek

I stumbled upon this great hike just poking around one day and Iíve never really heard of anybody else hanging out up here, except maybe sheep hunters.  The hike doesnít really have a name but it follows Upper Suzie Q Creek in its lower stretches, so Iíll go with that.  Itís accessed from a comm. tower road from MP 225 Richardson Highway.  Just before the tower is a pullout and faint ATV trail heading east.  Hike out this trail across beautiful ďSound of MusicĒ style flowery tundra.  The trail gets a little tough to follow in spots and ends pretty quick, but generally stay parallel to the creek.  Thereís a bit of brush around where the slope steepens, but you should be able to weave your way around the clumps and get on a rockier ridge.  A little light scrambling leads up to an otherworldly pasture of teletubby-green dryas.  The ridge beyond is generally hikeable, with some tougher scrambling in spots, but the views donít significantly improve for awhile, so call this a short hike, or devote a full day to it.  The ridge eventually leads up to the main Delta-Jarvis divide, up at about 7,000 feet, though I havenít been that far yet.  Looking at Google Earth though, the close up view of 9000+ foot Mt. Silvertip from there would be extraordinary, not to mention the rest of the spectacular Delta River region.  Iíve taken a couple people on this hike now, and theyíve been totally blown away by the scenery and surprised at the easy access Ė highly recommended.

Note: This hike is within the army's Black Rapids Training Area.  In the past, this section has been little used, and I didn't use to bother to check in.  They have begun using the area more however, and it is a good idea to check ahead and see if it's being used.  They want recreational users to check in and out in person, but that honestly doesn't seem necessary.

Drive about 42 miles south from Delta on the Richardson Highway and take a left on a gravel road immediately before Suzy Q Creek.  Wind up onto the windblown tundra and park either at the AT&T tower, or at a small pullout where the trail actually takes off.

Round Trip: about 4 miles to high viewpoint.  Can continue much further.
Elevation gain: 1800ft. to high viewpoint.

Black Rapids Training Area
Black Rapids Training Area
McHugh Peak Hike (3)
McHugh Peak Hike (3)
Black Rapids Hike, Alaska Range (2)
Black Rapids Hike, Alaska Range (2)
Black Rapids Hike, Alaska Range
Black Rapids Hike, Alaska Range
Black Rapids Hike, Richardson Highway
Black Rapids Hike, Richardson Highway
Dall Sheep from Alaska Range Hike
Dall Sheep from Alaska Range Hike
In the Eastern Alaska Range, south of Delta
In the Eastern Alaska Range, south of Delta

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:43 am 
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Top of the World

As you can see from the pictures, this route makes for a good winter snowshoe outing.  The area is worthwhile in summer as well, although the top of the plateau is boggy with a rutted ATV trail.  The clear, beautiful upper portion of the Delta River is on the other side of this plateau, but this is probably best enjoyed as a float trip from Tangle Lakes.  The parking pullout is about 61.5 miles south of Delta.  The pipeline crosses the river here and makes a conspicuous beeline up a steep slope with a gravel road on its right side.  Follow this road up to the top of the plateau and then cut off to the left up the moderate ridge leading to Pt. 4364.  There is lots of room to explore up here among rolling tundra mountains with the big peaks of the Alaska Range in the near distance.

Round Trip: About 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600ft.

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:44 am 
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Dalton Highway

Of all the winding, gravel highways that radiate out from Fairbanks, this one is unquestionably king.  The only road extending into the vast northern half of Alaska, the Dalton traverses the endless rolling hills of the interior, crosses the enormous Yukon River, winds through the rocky, impossibly harsh, and eventually treeless landscape over the highest road pass in the state, and then extends endlessly across the tundra of the north slope, leading to the Arctic Ocean.  The majority of this region is not really good for hiking.  Bogs, mosquitoes, and uninspiring terrain take much of the fun out of it.  A couple regions along the way, Finger Mountain for instance, offer terrain high, open, and dry enough for hiking, but the main attraction is the Brooks Range.  Although there are few established trails, they're hardly needed here, and the options are truly endless.

Lacking the heavy glaciation typical of the coastal mountains, rivers in the Brooks range run mostly clear.  Aside from the main rivers, most streams are typically small and cross-able on foot.  The catch is that the permanently frozen ground responds quickly to rainfall and even small streams can be totally inaccessible for several days after a heavy rain.  Likewise, the peaks here are ragged, but mostly not extreme.  This combination of factors leads to a landscape perfect for long distance hiking / packrafting traverses.  Though very good trips can be begun from the road, it is also popular to fly in to remote locations for hiking, and to float rivers like the North Fork Koyokuk, the Alatna, the Noatak, etc.

Brooks Range
Brooks Range

Download full resolution map here: https://flic.kr/p/qfb35d

Dalton Campsite
Dalton Campsite
Dalton Highway (2)
Dalton Highway (2)
Dalton Highway, Chandalar Shelf
Dalton Highway, Chandalar Shelf
Dalton Highway, Glabraith Lake
Dalton Highway, Glabraith Lake
Dalton Highway, near Galbraith Lake
Dalton Highway, near Galbraith Lake
Dalton highway, north slope (2)
Dalton highway, north slope (2)
Dalton Highway, north slope (3)
Dalton Highway, north slope (3)
Dalton Highway, north slope
Dalton Highway, north slope
Dalton Highway
Dalton Highway
Fireweed along the Dalton Highway
Fireweed along the Dalton Highway
Galbraith Lake, Dalton Highway (2)
Galbraith Lake, Dalton Highway (2)
Galbraith Lake, Dalton Highway
Galbraith Lake, Dalton Highway
North Slope, Dalton Highway (2)
North Slope, Dalton Highway (2)
Mt. Sukakpak
Mt. Sukakpak
Mt. Sukakpak 4
Mt. Sukakpak 4
Mt. Sukakpak 3
Mt. Sukakpak 3
Mt. Sukakpak 2
Mt. Sukakpak 2
Midnight sun in the arctic
Midnight sun in the arctic
Koyokuk River in Wiseman
Koyokuk River in Wiseman
Kanuti River
Kanuti River
Kanuti River, Dalton Highway
Kanuti River, Dalton Highway
Kanuti River, along the Dalton
Kanuti River, along the Dalton
Kanuti River along the Dalton
Kanuti River along the Dalton
Galbraith Lake
Galbraith Lake
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North Slope, Dalton Highway (3)
North Slope, Dalton Highway
North Slope, Dalton Highway
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Sukakpak (3)
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Sukakpak (4)
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Sukakpak (5)
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Sukakpak (6)
Sukakpak Mountain over the Koyokuk River
Sukakpak Mountain over the Koyokuk River
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Sukakpak Mtn
Sukakpak
Sukakpak
view from Dalton Highway
view from Dalton Highway
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Wiseman 2
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Wiseman
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Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway
Brooks Range from the Dalton
Brooks Range from the Dalton
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Brooks Range, Dalton Highway (2)
Brooks Range, Dalton Highway
Brooks Range, Dalton Highway
Chandalar Shelf, Brooks Range
Chandalar Shelf, Brooks Range
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Dall Sheep in the Brooks Range
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Dalton Campsite 2
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Yukon River Bridge, Dalton Highway
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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:45 am 
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James Dalton Mountain
One could talk almost endlessly about the unbounded wilderness of the Brooks Range, but most of it takes a great deal of time and/or money to reach.  This is one of those places where much of the wildlife never has and never will see a human being, and itís comforting just to know itís there.  But!  When eyeing the Alaska Highway map, one canít help but notice the thin line pointing north like a sore thumb, all the way to the Arctic Ocean, right through the middle of the Brooks Range.  This is the Dalton Highway, the Haul Road, built to service the pipeline from the north slope oil fields, and eventually opened to the public.  Though most of it passes through impressively empty, but ultimately forgettable country, the section through the mountains is one of the greatest road-accessible mountain playgrounds in North America.  The Brooks Range lacks the enormous icefields and truly extreme big-wall topography of the coastal ranges, and trees are absent, aside from the lowest valleys on the south slope, but these shortcomings are more than compensated for by accessibility.  This is steep, spectacular country, but almost all the peaks can be scrambled, the valleys hiked, and the non-glacial mountain streams can usually be safely crossed.  Bob Marshallís book, ďAlaska WildernessĒ beautifully describes his delight at being able to explore a new valley or a new peak almost every day for his months spent in the North Fork Koyokuk Country, just west of todayís Dalton Highway.
Geologically speaking, the mountains are the furthest north extension of the Rockies, and they have a character similar to the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rockies, such as the area around Banff, except without trees of course.  Steep, cliffy north faces, gentle scree-covered south slopes, fascinating mountain shapes, waterfalls, gorges, karst topography, and an overwhelming emptiness, sum up what youíll find here.  Though there are endless options, probably the best backpacking sampler of the country would be to hike west into the area of Mt. Doonerak and the North Fork Koyokuk and make some sort of loop.  A relatively cheap way to have an extended trip would be to have a food re-supply flown into a gravel bar by Coyote Air out of Coldfoot.  Or, itís entirely possible to mail food to Anaktuvuk Pass (a rare high mountain native village), and loop-hike through there.  If youíre fascinated by the idea of packrafting, the North Fork Koyokuk, the Tinayguk, and the John Rivers are all classics which lead to scheduled air service from the bush-town of Bettles.  Like I said Ė endless, and Iíll shut up now.
Of course I havenít actually done any of this.  So far Iíve managed only a couple day hikes from the highway.  The first is James Dalton Mountain, picked out, as much as any other reason, because it was about the only named feature in the vicinity of Atigun Pass.  Itís also one of the higher summits next to the highway and has a commanding view, though I was hit by a snow squall (in late August) about 10 minutes before reaching the summit.  The hike itself is really quite pleasant, and on unusually solid ground for the arctic.  The hike is recommended, but one of many options here, picked almost at random.

Round Trip: 6.6 miles.
Elevation gain: 3700ft.

James Dalton Mountain
James Dalton Mountain
View from James Dalton Mountain
View from James Dalton Mountain
James Dalton Hike
James Dalton Hike
James Dalton Mountain (2)
James Dalton Mountain (2)
James Dalton Mountain (3)
James Dalton Mountain (3)
James Dalton Mountain hike (2)
James Dalton Mountain hike (2)
James Dalton Mountain hike (3)
James Dalton Mountain hike (3)
James Dalton Mountain hike, Dalton Highway, in the arctic
James Dalton Mountain hike, Dalton Highway, in the arctic
James Dalton Mountain hike
James Dalton Mountain hike
James Dalton Mountain
James Dalton Mountain

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Mega-Will
country bumpkin



Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 652 | TRs
Location: Deltana, AK
Mega-Will
country bumpkin
PostFri Jan 02, 2015 2:45 am 
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Sukakpak Mountain

The nearly vertical west face of this peak makes for quite a sight along the Dalton Highway north of Coldfoot in the Middle Fork Koyokuk Valley.  Surprisingly though, the more mellow side makes an excellent half day scramble.  Park at the MP 203 turnout along the Dalton and start hiking east.  Thereís not even a faint boot path here, but the ground is firm and thereís almost no brush in this dry almost-arctic spruce stand.  Aim for the prominent rockslide at the south end of the wall, and pretty much head right up it, taking care to avoid a recently active section of the rock slide.  From a notch, I turned north and headed up the broad south ridge.  This way starts steep and annoyingly loose, and gets positively treacherous higher up Ė I donít recommend it.  Instead, drop down a little and climb up the southeast ridge instead (I came down this way).  The steepness of Sukakpak and its isolated position give it a spectacular view, though most of the immediate country isnít as steep as what youíre standing on.  I summitted Sukakpak at about 10:30PM in July, under full daylight.  Itís hard to think of a better way of celebrating the midnight sun than on a precipice far above the Arctic Circle.
Round Trip: about 5 miles.
Elevation Gain: 3000 feet.

Sukakpak Mountain
Sukakpak Mountain
View from Sukakpak
View from Sukakpak
My car from top of Sukakpak
My car from top of Sukakpak
Sukakpak (2)
Sukakpak (2)
Sukakpak Mountain in the arctic
Sukakpak Mountain in the arctic
Sukakpak Mountain
Sukakpak Mountain
Summit of Sukakpak Mountain
Summit of Sukakpak Mountain
View from Sukakpak (2)
View from Sukakpak (2)
View from Sukakpak Mountain along the Dalton Highway
View from Sukakpak Mountain along the Dalton Highway
View from Sukakpak Mountain
View from Sukakpak Mountain

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