Husky House

Hiking on Primrose Ridge & Mt Margaret (Denali Park)

Okay, time for another update and recreation of the past.  It’s been a bit chilly in Fairbanks this week, ranging 20-30 below downtown and about 10-15 below in the hills.  After my last ski attempt, I had all my cross country skis cleaned and waxed, and I’m waiting for it to warm (better glide) a bit before heading out on the trails.  It took about three nights in the thermal bag to salvage my skate skis.  So, I guess that being able to classical ski with skate skis is not a good thing!  In the meantime, we’re running with the boys, who love this cold weather!  So it is with warmer weather in mind that I look to the past and recreate hiking on Primrose Ridge in Denali Park.

I’ve had this hike in mind for several years, and this summer (2010) I finally located the “trailhead.”   Don’t ask park rangers for the trailhead, because this is not a maintained trail and therefore doesn’t have a sanctioned trailhead, just ask them where to access Primrose Ridge.  They seem squeamish about using “trailhead” for what is a backcountry trail.  Primrose Ridge and Mt Margaret are mutually inclusive.  As far as the trail, you can follow line of sight to the top, meander along animal footpaths or follow whatever path there may be.

The access to Primrose Ridge is about two miles west of the Savage River checkpoint, which means you must be creative about getting there, because private vehicles are restricted west of the Savage River Bridge during the summer season.  You can take one of the buses or you can park your vehicle at Savage River and either walk in or bike in to the access points, which, by the way, are not marked.  We chose to bike in from Savage River, which, despite being only two miles, is two miles uphill. A good access point is across from the rest stop (handicapped parking area), but since there is no formal trailhead, you can head up Primrose wherever the going looks good.  You may have to hike through some alders for a while, but will emerge to a wide open panorama.

Primrose Ridge is an easy hike, and the panorama is stunning, well worth any effort expended to view it.  It is an unobstructed, 380 degree rejuvenation.  I find myself not wanting to take my eyes off it, thinking that if I continue to soak it up it will be imprinted in my memory forever.  Even the best photo cannot do it justice, unless you can take a 360 degree photograph.  Aside from the view, other nice things about Primrose are that it is relatively accessible, easy, and doable as a day hike.  Oh, and Mt McKinley is visible from Primrose!  Be careful that the long daylight hours don’t lull you into a false sense of security, because if you are dependent on taking the last shuttle bus from Savage River, you need to come back to reality and check your watch.

You can hike Primrose as an out and back or you can follow your sense of direction east to a rocky outcrop where the “trail” descends to Savage River about a mile north of the Savage River Bridge.  We haven’t tried this yet, but it is on the radar.

Bill emerging from the alders at one of the access points to Primrose Ridge

Bill hiking down Primrose Ridge. Once you crest the ridge, it seems like you can hike forever!

Bill biking to Primrose from Savage River

A late afternoon shadow on Primrose

Enjoying the view from Primrose Ridge with the Park Road in the foreground

An evening view of Mt McKinley from Primrose Ridge. This is one reason you won't want to leave.

I met this caribou while hiking up Primrose Ridge, it was a surprise for both of us!

Bill hiking up Primrose enjoying the autumn vibrancy

For more photos of Primrose Ridge, visit the following galleries: Denali Autumn Tapestry and Primrose Ridge

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