Bolio Moraine, Donnelly Flats
Distance: 1 mile loop for Bolio Moraine, 1 mile round trip for Donnelly Flats
Elevation gain: 200 feet for Bolio Moraine, 100 feet for Donnelly Flats
Trail type: Hiking, mountain biking, 4-wheeling
Considerations: Military land nearby
These are totally made up names for some especially scenic and accessible portions of the extensive 4-wheeler trail network in the foothills south of Delta. The Bolio Moraine trail makes a nice half hour loop walk along a low ridge through picturesque stands of stunted bonzai trees and rocky meadows with great views of the surrounding lowlands, the Granite Mountains, and the high peaks of the Alaska Range.
From Delta, drive a little over 10 miles south on the Richardson Highway and take a right on the Old Richardson (signed as Fort Greely Ridge Road). Drive about a half mile and look for the 4-wheeler trail on the right. Park here along the side of the road. The trail winds for a short ways to a junction, where the loop divides. If you take a right, a less heavily used trail quickly leads to a fine viewpoint of the Granites, and then further up a ridge to a great view of the Alaska Range with the rolling hills around Bolio Lake in the foreground. The trail basically follows the ridges around a small kettle lake, eventually coming to another junction. Take a left here to lead back to the trailhead. The hike is about a mile long. It’s worth noting that this hike is just outside military land, so checking in with them isn’t necessary. If you follow the main trail to the west however, you quickly enter Donnelly Training Area, which requires a recreation permit.
There may not be a sign along the trail at the boundary.
To get to Donnelly Flats, drive a little over 13 miles from Delta and park at the double ended pullout. From the south end of the pullout, look for a non-obvious trail that leads through the woods. Once you reach an open area, take a right on a caribou trail and quickly intersect with another 4-wheeler trail, continuing right. When the slope to the right opens up, climb to the obvious hilltop for great views of the surrounding area, including the Alaska Range.
Short Winter Walks
Trail Type: Snowshoeing
Considerations: Caribou use this trail frequently in winter
Much of the time, finding a good place to get outside during the winter is more about parking than walking. In this case though, the walk begins from a state maintained pullout along the Richardson Highway just before it turns down the long straightaway known as Donnelly Flats. There’s really a whole network of trails here. This particular walk is being highlighted because it leads quickly through a stand of trees and then up onto a small open hill with unobstructed views of the Granite Mountains and the rest of the Alaska Range rising from the flats.
A bitterly cold east wind is a frequent presence in Delta in winter, so it’s worth noting that most of the time, even when it’s blowing quite strongly, this wind dies out abruptly just as you pass the landfill coming from Delta. The ‘Tanana Jet’ as they call it, is blocked by the Granite Mountains, and the trees around Donnelly Flats often hold snow even when it’s been blasting in town for a week. On the other hand though, the even stronger south winds that bring warm temperatures (and dust) both in winter and summer, blast this area much more so than in town.