Unit 11: Stony Dome
Description: This small unit quickly transitions from the broad alpine meadows of Highway Pass into several narrow stream drainages that immediately disappear into a rugged ridge system within the Alaska Range. All of this unit is above treeline.
Tips/Special Features: Unlike the units that surround it, in Unit 11 it is easy to quickly get out of sight and sound of the Park Road. There are also no major rivers in this area, making it ideal for people new to cross country hiking. This is the smallest backcountry unit in the park so it is best suited for an overnight trip or a hike in connection with another unit. This is a very popular place for day hikers and guided groups so you are likely to see other people.
Access: You can step off the bus anywhere between Highway Pass and Thorofare Pass on the Park Road and head south into alpine meadows. It is easy to walk up one of the stream drainages on the western half of the unit to get out of sight of the road. It is about a 3.5 hour bus ride to Highway Pass.
The top of Stony Dome and Gravel Mountain are popular day hike destinations, as they offer expansive views of Mount McKinley and the Alaska. More difficult connections to Unit 12 are possible via passes that lead over into the Gorge Creek drainage, but you must navigate around hazards such as waterfalls and loose, steep rock. Other route options include climbing up to the ridgeline that forms the southern boundary of the unit and dropping down into the Toklat River (Unit 10). Don’t attempt either of these unless you are ready for very long climbs across steep scree slopes.
Additional Notes and/or Hazards: This is excellent grizzly bear habitat in the summer and fall and there are often wildlife closures in the unit. Gravel Mountain is a 6,000-foot peak with grand views from the top, but climbing the mountain is extremely rough and can be dangerous due to steep snow and loose rock.
Did You Know?
Warmer temperatures have led to dramatic thawing of permafrost. Thaw releases carbon, as once-frozen materials decompose, but allows increased plant growth. Researchers in Denali are studying whether thawing permafrost will increase or decrease world-wide carbon emissions.