Big Delta Bluff Winter Route

Distance: 1.5 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: About 200 feet

Trail Type: Snowshoeing (short section with no established trail)

Considerations: Infrequently traveled in winter

The bluff at the confluence of the Delta and Tanana Rivers can be reached in summer from the highway bridge by way of a very, very steep trail.  In winter though, it’s nearly impossible to go up this way.  Fortunately there is a powerline corridor on the back side of the hill which provides year round access to what is probably the most spectacular viewpoint in the Delta lowlands.  The Delta and Tanana rivers join right at the bottom of the vertical cliff here, providing a very dramatic view which also includes the hills around Quartz Lake, much of the Deltana lowlands, and a huge swath of the Alaska Range, from Mt. Deborah to Mt. Kimball on the horizon to the south.  In late fall, huge quantities of silver salmon spawn in the quiet backwaters visible from here and eagles perch on the rocky points of the bluff.  It’s really quite a dramatic scene.

Drive the Richardson Highway north from Delta, cross the Tanana bridge, and quickly take a right onto Hanson’s Hollow Road.  Unfortunately, the parking situation here isn’t ideal.  Usually there’s a plowed wide spot in the road near a trail that leads up the hill before a couple small cabins.  If you’re not comfortable with this, there’s plenty of room to park out of the way (and not right in front of someone’s cabin) a quarter mile down the hill at the intersection with the gated pipeline access road.  This just makes the hike a bit longer.  In any case, carefully cross the highway at Hanson’s Hollow Road, and walk along the highway heading north.  Quickly come to the obvious pipeline corridor and follow it up hill to the left.  There are some good viewpoints near where the powerline corridor reaches the cliff (the most pleasant spot is on the left, after the powerline turns, but before the cliff).  The most spectacular views though require a short trail-less walk through the woods.  Right where the powerline turns, cut into the woods to the left.  Stay on the highest ground, curving slowly to the right and pop out into the treeless area at the top of the main bluff.  It’s only about an eighth of a mile through the woods, and would be tough to get too terribly lost.  From here, wander in either direction along the edge of the bluff to get all the best views, but be careful since the drop off down the cliff to the river is more dangerous with snow and ice.  The trail here has sometimes seen a handfull of other users, but is not generally well packed.

Big Delta Bluff