Summer Day Hikes
Distance: 5 miles round trip to south trail high point
Elevation gain: 2400 feet to south trail high point
Trail type: Hiking
Considerations: Trail is somewhat brushy and tough to follow
Visitors driving the Richardson Highway through the Eastern Alaska Range are usually very impressed by the scenery, but many bemoan the lack of hiking trails. Well, there are trails, but you won’t know about most of them until you’re on them. There are no trailhead signs, no clearly defined parking lots, no brochures, and very little published information describing trails in the region.
Coming from Delta, Bear Creek is the first of the canyons that appear suddenly on the east side of the highway. There are actually decent hiking paths on both sides of the creek. Each one provides good access to high alpine tundra with spectacular views out across the Delta River Valley to the Hayes Range, as well as the craggy mountains closer by.
From Delta, drive about 33 miles south on the Richardson Highway. There are small pullouts on either side of the creek. Neither trail is obvious from the road, but both are clear once you get out and look for them.
The trail on the north side ends just below brush line, and a short, dirty scramble, weaving between cliffs is required to reach the tundra. From there though, you have endless rolling high plains to explore. You’re in the mountains, but only on the edge, so the terrain is more forgiving here than further south. Starting on the south side of Bear Creek, another path leads through pretty spruce forest, with occasional spectacular views into Bear Creek Canyon. Near brush line, the trail peters out and you have to be a little creative to find a good route, weaving between patches of dense alder. There is a good way, near the brink of the canyon, so don’t settle for bashing through the alders. Once past the brush, continue up a broad ridge into the high rocky alpine as far as you want. A high point just under 4,500 feet elevation makes a clear turnaround point. Again, there’s endless roaming to do back here. From either trail, it would be possible, with some difficulty, to reach the high divide between the Delta River and Jarvis Creek.