Summer Off-Trail Hikes
Distance: 6 miles round trip to viewpoint, 12.4 miles round trip to high point
Elevation gain: 2600 feet to viewpoint, 4900 feet to high point
Trail type: Unmarked route
Considerations: Only minor brush if game trails are followed, but very difficult if off route
This off trail hike strings together gravel bars and game trails to give reasonable access to an absolutely spectacular alpine ridge that leads non-technical hikers surprisingly far back into the high mountains before running into steep cliffs and glacial ice. If you have some route finding skills, the patience to deal with a little moderate bushwhacking, and the stamina to hike several thousand feet up into the sky, this is perhaps the most spectacular road accessible hike in the Eastern Alaska Range.
From Delta, drive 49.5 miles south along the Richardson Highway and park at Lower Miller Creek.
On the north side of the creek, drop down to the gravel bar and hike upriver. Stick to the left bank and hike up onto a low terrace with somewhat more established, but still open and easily hikeable vegetation. As you approach the steep valley wall, about .8 mile from the highway, look for a prominent game trail leading up into the brush. It’s quite important to find this spot and to find the game trail again on the way down, so a gps is recommended for this hike, as well as taking a look at google earth before heading out. The game trail leads fairly clearly and easily up to a low ridge with open tundra. Take a right along this ridge and quickly look for another game trail leading steeply down to the left toward a small lake. Hike along the north shore of the lake until you reach the valley wall. Take a left along its base where the brush is relatively thin, and look for the best place to head up the slope. This 300 foot high hill is unavoidably brushy, but if you pick your route right, you’ll be in hip high shrub birch instead of 15 foot high alder.
At the top of the hill though, you’re rewarded with a spectacularly sudden view of Castner Glacier and the mountains behind it. From this point on also, there is no brush. Just ascend the alpine ridge, with a brief detour to the left to avoid a cliffy area. About 3 miles from the highway is a highpoint with a spectacular view, which makes sense as a turnaround point for a dayhike. For those who would like to hike further, the ridge is entirely hikeable for another 4 miles, though the last .75 mile is considerably harder. If you’re strong enough to hike camping gear up the big hill, there’s a small snowmelt pond a little ways past the dayhike viewpoint. Otherwise, water will be hard to come by in late summer.