Summer Day Hikes
Distance: 2.5 miles round trip via either trail
Elevation gain: 1650 feet (about 100 feet less for the north trail)
Trail type: Hiking
Considerations: Trail is very steep with some loose rock. Quite a few people have gotten lost on Donnelly Dome.
Though the hike is steep, and doesn’t benefit from a real, established trail, the ascent of Donnelly Dome is probably the most popular high country hike in the Delta region. Its prominence from town and from the Richardson Highway make it an obvious target for everyone from fitness freaks to inexperienced non-hikers who don’t know what they’re getting into. In any case, the view from the top is fantastic, as Donnelly is by far the highest point for miles around, and right in front of the high peaks of the Alaska Range. This prominence and proximity to the Delta River Valley leading through the mountains means that the dome gets absolutely blasted when Chinook winds blow from the south. If high or even moderate winds are forecast in the mountains, it’s probably not the best day to climb up here.
Two trails climb the dome, one from the north and one from the south. Both trails enter army land and a recreation access permit is required. On the southern approach however, parking is outside military land, and there is no signage indicating when you enter it.
To reach the northern trail, drive about 17 miles south from Delta along the Richardson Highway, and take a right onto Dome Road. Remember to get a permit and check in before driving further. If there’s a prominent red flag waving at the beginning of this road, that means the area is closed to public use, due to military training. Drive about 2.6 miles on the gravel road to a gravel pit / parking area on the left.
Park here and hike out an unimproved old road for a half mile or so, past another parking area. Look for a not so obvious foot path leading to the left into the brush. The trail quickly comes out into open, sometimes muddy tundra. For one very steep and slick portion, the path climbs in a trench through thick alder. This is the least enjoyable part of the trail, and is not recommendable in wet weather. From the top of the alder tunnel, climb to a much more pleasant walk along the broad ridge leading to the summit.
For the southern trail, drive about 20 miles south from Delta along the Richardson and look for the second road/trail on the right after the end of the long straightaway. There is a wide parking area right off the highway.
Park here and hike out the 4-wheeler / jeep trail. Please don’t drive this portion when the ground is wet. After maybe a third of a mile, look for a foot trail dropping down a small hill to the right, toward the dome. This rocky trail leads very steeply up past the last of the brush and then splits into multiple routes. Pick whatever way you find best to climb up and up to the nearly flat area below the summit. The trail picks up again here and quickly takes you to the true summit.