Summer Day Hikes
Distance: 4.6 miles round trip from Black Rapids Chalet
Elevation Gain: 3600 feet
Trail Type: Hiking
Considerations: Recreational users must check in with Black Rapids Training Area.
Rising above the open river valley flats at Black Rapids, the craggy summit of Gunnysack Peak is distinctive enough to grab attention. Though this challenging hike is on military training land and requires some planning and hassle, it is perhaps the best trail accessible summit hike in the entire region, and well worth the trouble. A footpath worn down by years of army soldiers climbs up out of the brush and along a cliffy ridge with great views down into Gunnysack Creek Canyon, and then through completely barren, rocky country to the summit. In addition to the views across the Delta Valley to the Hayes Range, the vista at the top opens up to include the craggy peaks of the Delta – Jarvis divide, and icy Mount Silvertip rising up behind.
Before attempting this hike, you’ll have to contact Black Rapids Training Area and find out when there won’t be any training going on.
From Delta, drive just less than 40 miles south on the Richardson Highway and turn into the signed Black Rapids training facility on the left. Park at the main building and step inside to check in with the soldiers on duty. Don’t be surprised if you get some funny looks and inquisitive questions — they don’t get a whole lot of recreational hikers at this remote site. They’ll want you to check out after your hike as well.
It shouldn’t be ignored that it’s easy enough to park at Gunnysack Creek, hike up to the pipeline, turn right, and then take a quick left up the first ski slope once in the training area. In all likelihood, no one on duty would even see you if you go this way, unless there’s training in the high country. On the other hand though, there is live fire training at this facility, and the staff takes trespassing fairly seriously. In other words, it’s highly recommended that you jump through the official hoops.
The staff will let you know how far you can drive. If you’re lucky, and have a 4wd, high clearance vehicle, you can drive all the way to the top of the ski slope. In smaller cars, you won’t want to go past the Chalet at the base of the main slope. Some of the narrower side ski slopes make for more pleasant walking than the main one up the center.
Either way, from the top of the ski slope, pick up a 4-wheeler trail which continues uphill. This trail slowly turns into a footpath near the top of the brush. There are some mildly muddy areas here. The trail winds through flowery meadows until encountering a steeper slope. The trail temporarily disappears here — just head straight up the steep meadow and pick up the trail again on the right. A lookout point called The Grassy Knoll makes a good rest stop. From here the trail is fairly obvious as it winds interestingly between rock towers along the ridge. Eventually, a large rock cliff is reached and the trail pretty much disappears. Traverse to the right under the cliff and then up towards the highest point you can see. This portion is on a boulder field where footing isn’t very good. It’s the least enjoyable part of the hike, but the summit is close. At the top, you’ll be blown away by the view, but also take a moment to check out the army memorial.
Remember to check out at the office on your way out.