Cathedral Rapids

Summer Off-Trail Hikes

Distance: 3.4 miles round trip to high viewpoint

Elevation gain: 2500 feet or more

Trail type: Indistinct down low, then unmarked subalpine and alpine route

Considerations: Route is fairly brushy.  For experienced and motivated hikers only.

Though much of the Alaska Highway between Delta and Tok is pretty boring, the section between Robertson River and Tanacross squeezes between the Tanana River and some moderately high peaks of the Alaska Range, and is a beautiful area.  Of course, trails are sparse in this region far from any major population centers, especially outside the lowland ones used by moose hunters and trappers.  In this particular case though, a maintained road leads to a communication tower up on the lower slopes of the mountains, approaching treeline.  From here a very rough cut track leads through the worst of the brush, allowing moderately difficult access to the high country.

From Delta, drive about 82 miles south on the Alaska Highway and look for the road leading up to the communication tower.  If you see Cathedral Rapids Bed and Breakfast on the right, you’ve gone a little too far.  The road switchbacks up the mountain and has ample parking at the end.  

The trail is tough to spot initially, but it’s on the mountain side of the parking area, just before the tower, angling back in the direction you came from.  The trail is reasonably obvious, though rough cut and boggy in spots, crossing over mossy ground, underlain by permafrost.  If this sees more than a tiny bit of ATV use, it’s going to become a huge erosion problem really quick.  It really doesn’t lead far enough for a wheeler to be worthwhile anyway.  Eventually, the trail makes a fairly sharp right turn and leads briefly downhill.  It’s tempting to cut off trail here, but it’s a little easier to stick to it for a little while further until you’re in striking distance of a partially vegetated talus slope to the left.  This slope provides the easiest travel through the last of the brush, leading up to an alpine ridge.  From here, travel is straightforward, up the ridge as high as you want to go.  There’s one section that’s steep enough to get your attention, but should be more frustrating than dangerous.  Eventually the overall grade eases off, but the ridge becomes very rocky with some sections of easy scrambling.  It’s entirely possible for strong hikers to make it all the way up to the main divide with spectacular views over the Tanana and this rugged and rocky corner of the Alaska Range.


Cathedral Rapids

Cathedral Rapids