Coal Mine Road
Distance: 16 miles round trip
Considerations: Road can be driven with 4wd vehicles, but side trails require an ORV
Travelling about 8 miles out into the subalpine and alpine high country right at the edge of the Alaska Range, accessing two public use cabins, several stocked lakes, and several side trails, Coal Mine Road is another hot spot for motorized recreation in the Delta region. The road can be driven in a 4wd vehicle, at least in dry weather, but it’s rough, and a lot more fun on a 4-wheeler or dirt bike. The side trails cannot be driven on anything larger than a side-by-side.
Drive 22 miles south on the Richardson Highway from Delta and look for the signed pullout between milepost 244 and 243. Either park here or test the off-road capabilities of your vehicle. The trail winds through thick brush for a ways and passes under the Trans Alaska Pipeline. After about 1.75 miles, there’s a junction with a smaller wheeler trail heading off to the left. This trail leads, in about a half mile, to the first ADF&G public use cabin and stocked lake, and continues to a crossing of Ober Creek, where you can either head up to a tundra ridge overlooking the Jarvis, or head north along the rolling moraine, eventually connecting in with a trail that will lead you back to the highway between milepost 247 and 248.
Continuing on Coal Mine Road, another junction is reached at about 3 miles from the highway. This small trail, also leading off to the east, leads about 4.5 miles, crossing Ober Creek, and climbing to a tundra divide before leading down to the gravel bar of Jarvis Creek. From that point, the gravel bar can often be easily ridden for quite some distance but that depends on the location of the main channel of the creek. It should be noted that this trail has some very boggy portions, especially on the hill leading down to Jarvis, and would require stabilization work to be sustainable under frequent use.
Back to Coal Mine, a last junction is reached at about 5 miles from the highway, with a smaller trail leading a quarter mile west to another ADF&G cabin and stocked lake. At about 8 miles from the highway Coal Mine Road comes to an end at what used to be a coal mine. The last section is a beautiful ride through open, windswept alpine country. From the end of the road, a very small trail continues across the headwaters of Ober Creek and climbs up a tussock slope to a highpoint. This trail is little used.
Long Winter Hikes
Distance: 4.5 miles to Coal Mine #5 Cabin; about 10 miles round trip to Ken’s Pond
Elevation Gain: About 300 feet to Coal Mine #5, 700 feet to Ken’s Pond
Trail Type: Snowshoeing, skiing, snowmachining
Considerations: Trail usually sees heavy use in winter
Although Coal Mine Road accesses a beautiful area, right at the edge of the Alaska Range, warm chinook winds frequently blow the snow into a succession of deep drifts and bare patches. For this reason, it’s a good idea to watch the weather closely, or to come here with snowshoes easy to take on and off. The rewards are substantial though, with great views, a usually packed trail and two free public use cabins at good distances for a winter overnighter. If staying at the cabins, be aware that all they provide is a shelter with a wood stove. Bring everything you’ll need.