Husky House

Posts Tagged ‘hiking in Denali’

The Road Less Traveled

I think I have taken that road less traveled most of my life; I prefer things that are off the beaten path and perhaps that is why I live in Alaska.  For me taking the road less traveled means two things:  first, in the most literal sense of taking one road when most people take the other, and second, in traveling that road by a lesser taken method.  For example, Triple Lakes Trail is the road less traveled because most visitors to Denali usually have time only to ride the bus into the park or to hike one of the short trails at the park entrance.  Second, while most visitors to Denali ride the bus into the park, I prefer to ride my bicycle.  I may not cover as much ground, but I savor every bit of it and become enveloped by it, breathing its scents, feeling its rhythm and stopping when I want.

My husband and I spend as much time as we can in Denali during our short summer, balancing our fun with summer chores and being with the boys (our four Siberian huskies).  We take the boys to the park for day trips, but if we stay overnight they must be boarded.  Out latest trip to Denali was last week, we hiked Triple Lakes Tail and biked a bit.  We had hoped to bike from Savage River to Teklanika and back, but ran out of time, managing only a couple relatively short bikes.  Despite forecasts for rainy weather, we never saw a drop!

The park rangers continue to improve the Triple Lakes Trail, there were about 20 of them working on three or four different parts of the trail, and pretty soon you won’t have to bushwhack across the ridge.  After carrying my Canon 7D over the eight miles last time I hiked the trail, I decided to buy a Canon S95 and give it a test.  I think the pictures are just as good, if not better in certain lighting (by eliminating the “me” factor), and it fit in my pocket where the DSLR is annoying to carry over that distance.  But I definitely missed the quick DSLR response and recovery, as well as the more powerful telephoto lens.

Here are a few photos, the rest are in my Triple Lakes and Denali galleries.

Bill contemplating floating an inflatable kayak down Riley Creek

The road less traveled

A view of two of the lakes from near the top of the trail

Fireweed along the park road

I was riding my bike around mile 15 of the park road when this guy came trotting down the center of the road

Just another beautiful day in paradise!

Triple Lakes Hike, Denali Park

This is the 2011 version of this great hike.  The trail goes from the Visitor Center on the north end to the north side of the Nenana River bridge about mile 231 Parks Highway at the south trailhead, you can hike it in either direction. The Park Service has made major improvements to this trail, most notably the new bridge across Riley Creek at the Northern Trailhead and tying the trail into it. Last year we hiked from south to north and couldn’t find the trail off the ridge, so we did a bit of bushwhacking to get down to Riley Creek and then had to cross the creek via the Alaska Railroad bridge, which is trespassing.  However, this little act of defying the establishment was a hoot, and I will miss doing it now that the trail bridge is complete.  Also there are now mileage signs at both trailheads indicating the trail is 7.7 miles long, and there are signs marking the trails descending to lakes two and three.  The Park Service is still working on the trail and there are sections of the trail at the top that are being rerouted.  While the rerouting will create a nice trail, it appears that it will take you away from the magnificent 360 view along the ridge and take you along the Riley Creek side of the hill. This is still a great view, just not as sweeping.

In previous years, this was the only way across Riley Creek

The fantastic new bridge across Riley Creek

Since I was staying at a lodge near the south trailhead, I took a shuttle bus to the Visitor Center (north trailhead) and started from there, so I didn’t need to worry about catching the last shuttle back to the lodge.  At the end of the hike, all I had to do was cross the Parks Highway and walk across the Nenana River bridge and I was “home.”  I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, and it was comforting knowing that I was no longer going to get lost, since I started on the north end, crossed the new bridge and was immediately on the trail which followed along Riley Creek for a while before starting to climb.  In previous years we hardly saw anyone on the trail, but this year I met about 30 other hikers along the way.  Apparently word is out that the trail is useable from end to end.  On the way up the hill, about two miles into the hike, I passed a group of park employees who were working on the trail.  Several were using shovels to repair the trail while others were manually debarking fallen trees to use in shoring up the trail edge.  There is only one way to work for these employees and that is to hike.

Park Service trail workers debarking trees by hand for use as trail supports

More trail workers, it is because of crews like this that the trail is so great!

These photos describe the trail better than any words.  It was a pleasantly warm but brightly overcast day and photography was not too successful for this amateur.

The north end of the trail runs along Riley Creek before beginning to climb

A nice trail improvement

Along the way; I love all the shades of leaf green

Up on the ridge, I passed some bear scat on the trail not far from here

Amazing....I ran into a friend on the trail!

The first view of lakes 2 & 3 from the north

A tired hiker near the end of the trail

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

Triple Lakes Hike (Denali)

Since not much is happening here right now, I thought I would summarize some of the earlier blog posts that were lost when the old site was taken offline.

The Triple Lakes trailhead is just off the Parks Highway about seven miles south of the Denali Park entrance at the north side of the Nenana River bridge (mile 231.3).  I should probably say the southern trailhead, because with the late summer 2010 completion of the footbridge across Riley Creek, and recent trail improvement on the north end, there may now be an actual northern trailhead accessible from the railway station or the visitors center.  I say that because of our experience hiking the trail end to end last May (2010), which I will get to later.

We have hiked this trail numerous times and enjoy it for its beautiful vistas (it’s Denali, that goes without saying!) and versatility as either an out and back trail or an end-to-end trail (7 or 8 miles).  If you hike to the end of the third lake and back, it is about 5 miles.  The trail on this end is excellent with opportunities to drop off onto the unbeaten path.  I’m not a fan of out and back, once I get on a trail I want to go wherever it goes, see what is around the next bend.  So, after several out and back hikes on Triple Lakes from the south trailhead, I had pushed Bill around so many “just one more bends” that we were well beyond the halfway point and were determined to venture on to the north end of the trail.  For the most part, this is a great trail with ongoing maintenance and improvement.  The trail was in great shape and easy to follow until the last couple miles when it descends from the ridge down to Riley Creek at the northern end.  At this point there were signs indicating that trail work (rerouting) was in progress and to follow the old trail, which we kept losing as it was either overgrown, washed out, underwater, poorly marked or all the above.  When we finally made it to Riley Creek it was too deep and fast to traverse, something we were aware of because it was May and melting snow and ice made the runoff furious.  We knew we had to take the forbidden passage across the Alaska Railroad bridge, which made it so much more sweet, and  after all, was a perk associated with completing the trek.

Toward the end of summer 2010 the park service completed the bridge (awesome!) across Riley Creek, and there were signs of trail improvement from the north end. This coming summer we will start the hike from the north end and check it out.  I can’t wait!

Bill walking across planks on a soggy trail before the trail climbs (south end)

Gaining elevation along the triple lakes trail

The second and third lakes along the triple lakes trail

The panoramic views are worth every ounce of effort

The trail on the north end heading toward Riley Creek

Crossing the forbidden bridge was oh so sweet!

The long-awaited bridge across Riley Creek (Aug 2010)

There are  many more photos in my gallery, see August 2009 and May 2010!