“An unmarked route across tundra to the drainages at the base of Gravel Mountain.”
— Ike Waits
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Bears are common in this area, be aware and make noise as your travel.
When traveling by bus, plan to be back on the road more than an hour before the last return bus is schedule for the best chance of securing a spot. Buses arrive every 30 minutes.
An easy primer to navigating beyond the maintained trails in Denali. This route heads across damp tundra to explore the drainages of the western-most branch of the Little Stony Creek at the base of Gravel Mountain. The navigating is simplified beacuse hikers can return to the road from nearly any point.
Need to Know
This route begins just before Thorofare Pass summit (mile 64.5) or about two miles to the east of the Eielson Visitor Center
. Let your bus driver know you'd like to make a stop here and scan the area south toward Gravel Mountain for bears before disembarking.
While traveling along the ridges on the return, keep an eye out for bears in the valley between you and the road. If a bear is sighted, make sure to maintain a safe distance.
After completing the bear-check before disembarking from the bus, head across the tundra on a subtle divide between drainage areas. The tundra here is frequently wet and there are some small streams to forge so there's the potential for wet feet.
After crossing the low meadow, follow the stream feeding in from the right until it branches against the base of Gravel Mountain. Head onto the ridge to the left that serves as a divider between the adjacent drainage. At the top of the ridge, cross over the small stream in favor for the adjoining ridge that points toward Stony Dome. Follow along the ridge until its end where a turn to the left will head back to the road along firm tundra.
This route is open for interpretation and invites visitors wander around and explore at leisure. The second ridge and other high points make a great spot to enjoy lunch and watch for wildlife. While you can return on the road, an out and back route will give you more time to appreciate hiking in the stunning landscape.
This content was contributed by author Ike Waits. For a comprehensive hhiking guide to Denali National Park and to see more by Ike, click here