Denali Highway Trails

Alaska ATV Club

September 17 & 18,  2010
Copyright  2010        ©   Dianne Roberson.   All rights reserved.
Denali (Mt. McKinley)
Miles of endless winding trails.
Sean and Willow in their RZR
Trying to hide from me.
Sean with Brad following.
View from out campsite.
Dianne (me) & Daisy
Friday morning, Sean and I met up with Dianne at the Susitna River bridge.  Sean found us a great campsite about 5 miles up the Valdez Creek Mine Road,
overlooking the Big Su.  The morning fog had burned off and the sun was bright as the sky was cloudless. After setting up camp, we headed up the Valdez Creek
road.  It was an easy trail (road) with several off shoots that often ended at mine sites.  We explored the trails.  Sean and Willow in the RZR, Dianne and Daisy in her
550 Griz and me on the 700 Griz.  The fall colors were awesome and the caribou were plentiful.  There was no traffic on the road.  This hunting area is non-motorized
access only.  The only hunters we saw were on horseback, bicycle, or on foot.

We took a break at Roosevelt Lake.  There were singles and small groups of caribou all around us.  The dogs played in the vivid blue lake.  Dianne thought this would
be a prefect site to setup and paint scenery.  We found a large flock of ptarmigan, with white bodies and brown heads.  After a nice run up an adjacent valley, we
worked our way back down to the camp site.  We had clocked about 40 miles that Friday with little effort, no mud, and easy water crossings.  The views were

Once at our camp site, we pulled out the chairs and perched on the bluff overlooking Valdez Creek and the surrounding Susitna River headwaters.  There were swans
on the lakes below, moose appeared and then just as quickly disappeared into the vegetation along the creek.  It was a very nice evening.  Around sunset, I rode the 5
miles down to the Big Su bridge to see if any hunter were coming back upriver.  There were about a dozen trucks with boat trailers parked along the road.  No sign of
returning boaters. Sean showed up in the RZR and we briefly explored the trail planned for Saturday's ride.

Saturday morning came, we gassed up the machines, and headed back across the bridge to the west side of the Susitna River.  There were many rigs parked at the
Butte Creek trailhead, all with trailers behind as this was obviously a popular ATV hunting trail.  The first mile or two had some water but it was easily traversed.  Didn't
even need 4 wheel drive.  This was obviously a dry summer and had potential to be sloppy if not.  Beyond the first several miles, the trail was dry and dusty.  We met
groups of hunter working their way back to the trailhead.  One guy had a huge moose rack on top of his trailer.  It had to be 65" +.  The trail meandered up the creek
valley.  We saw small groups of caribou.  It was another great day.  Not a cloud in view.

Sean led us about 25 miles down the trail and eventually we climbed to the top of a butte.  The GPS indicated we were 2,000 ft above the creek below and at 4,800 ft
in elevation.  We dismounted the machines at the peak in awe.  The view was incredible and that is an understatement.  It was panoramic.  To the east we could see
the Wrangell Mountain peaks, to the west was McKinley big and white.  The Alaska Range to the north with their white peaks and glaciers that fed the Big Su.  
Pictures were taken, lunch was eaten, the dogs were exercised, and we then eased down the mountain to explore.  We dropped to the valley floor along Butte Creek
taking side trails to their end. The main trail continued up the valley but we decided to work our way back to the trailhead as we had plans to ride another valley on the
east side of the river.  We needed to gas up at the camp site before heading down the next trail as we had traveled farther than expected.  

We put the dogs up and Dianne jumped in the RZR as copilot. We ran back down to the Denali Hwy and headed east for a short distance.  Sean led as we traveled
up the Windy Creek valley.  Sean warned us we would seen plenty of caribou.  He was correct.  The 'trail' had turned into a road.  It was evident that there was recent
work done.  We later learned why.  

With the sun at our back we quickly traveled up the treeless valley.  The 'trail' ended at Caribou Dome mine, a copper mine that was tunneled into the mountain.  We
learned about the mine from an old guy that was the mine caretaker.  He stopped to talk and was 'chatty'.  He was hired to maintain the road to the mine.  He said he
hadn't seen anyone up there for the last couple of weeks so welcomed us but warned us of the grizzly bears in the valley.  The sun was dropping quickly and we were a
long ways from the camp site.  With the bright sun in our eyes, we headed west down the valley with a short run up a side trail.  The trail obviously had not been
traversed this season as the vegetation was thick.  Oh, and there was that thing with the grizzly bears in the valley.  Great!

Well, no bears were spotted, we explored and headed back to camp as the sun was setting.  We checked out some trails near our camp.  Sean took us back up
Valdez Creek.  We crossed the creek and I could not figure out where he was headed.  He pointed the RZR up the canyon wall, turned on the afterburners, and
climbed out of there.  Dang...there was no way I was going to follow.  Too steep for this boy.  I backtracked using my GPS as it was getting dark.  I met up with the
dare devil and passenger and we rolled back to camp.  I had logged 92 miles so far on Saturday.  Not a bad day.  We ate a quick dinner and decide on a night ride.  
We cleaned off the headlights and ran up the road.  We played briefly and headed back to camp.  My final tally was just over 100 miles for the day!  Cool!

This was a great trip.  I love the open country rides.  I'll be back as I'm sure there's another 1,000 miles of trails off the Denali.  --Posted by Brad on the Alaska ATV
Club website.
Proud Hunter with his moose.
I was sitting at our campsite when I took this photo of Brad riding.
Our campsitel
Sean and Brad comparing their GPS trackings.
Me, I was really having fun!
Brad on his Yamaha Grizzly 700
Sean with Daisy and Willow
Me and Daisy
This trip's ATV Club Riders:  Sean (Sr12345), Brad (Superx), and Dianne (AlaskaArtist)
Caribou Dome Copper Mine
Denali Highway headed toward Paxton.
Mile 90 on the Glenn Highway
Alaska Pipeline south of Paxton on the Richardson Highway.
Trail near Caribou Dome Copper Mine.
Sean admiring the Alaska Range.
Me on my Yamaha Grizzly 550
Brad at Roosevelt Lake
The rock called Lion Head in the Talkeetna Mts.  on the Glen Hwy.
Denali Highway near Paxton which was the first place i could buy gas.  All the gas stations past
Paxton were closed for the season, out of gas, or pumps broken until I reached Glenallen on
fums after considering the gas in Paxton to high priced..
Denali Highway is paved 21 miles before Paxton.
Mile 48 on the Denali Highway traveling from Cantwell to Paxton.