Summer Off-Trail Hikes
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 2500 feet
Trail type: Unmarked route
Considerations: Challenging and frustrating down low, but great hiking up high. The cover photo was taken on this hike.
The hike up to the divide between Trims Creek and Castner Glacier is unpleasantly brushy and frustrating to start with, but the difficulties are relatively brief and the high country above is spectacular enough to make it well worth it. After a long, steady, and fairly steep slog up alpine tundra, the divide is reached with spectacular views of a rock formation called Devil’s Thumb as well as the icy heart of the Eastern Alaska Range.
From Delta, drive 48.5 miles south on the Richardson Highway and look for a gravel pullout on the left. Park anywhere and look for a trail at the back of the cleared area (also look out for some very old vehicles in the woods, which are somewhat interesting).
The trail quickly peters out as it approaches the steep valley wall, and you’ll have to pick your way up the slope. When the trail inventory was done in 2015, there was a flagged route, but it’s not necessarily best. It would be a good idea to take a look at google earth imagery and perhaps load some waypoints into a gps in order to find the least brushy way up the slope. Once you’re on the ground, it will be difficult to pick the best path. Anyway, after a slow quarter mile, you should come to a wet but open area and lighter brush for the next quarter mile or so until you have to hike up a steeper slope through dense shrub birch for about another quarter mile. These shrubs aren’t quite as bad as large alder or willow, but are unpleasant enough. Angle slightly right to pick up a minor tundra ridge and avoid some of the brush.
From here, simply pick the best way up the broad, open tundra slope as the views over the Delta River and the icy mountains of the Eastern Alaska Range improve with each step.