Unit 13: Mount Eielson
Description: The mile wide expanse of the lower Thorofare River defines the northern third of this unit. Joining it from the south is Glacier Creek, a rocky, fast moving stream that flows along the eastern edge of the Muldrow Glacier. Tributaries to the east of Glacier Creek reach back into drainages covered with alpine tundra and steep passes bound by high peaks.
Tips/Special Features: Excellent views of Mt. McKinley are possible throughout most of this unit and the majority of the hiking is along open river bars or alpine tundra. It is possible to hike along the Muldrow Glacier, the largest glacier on the north side of Denali. This is a wonderful area to hike, but it is a very popular unit. Expect some difficulty in obtaining a permit for this area and the presence of other backpackers once you get there.
Good map and compass skills will be needed during poor weather if you are attempting to travel east over the high passes to reach Unit 12. Even without a crossing to the east, the slopes of Mt. Eielson provide many opportunities for exploration and great views.
Traveling west across the Muldrow Glacier to reach Pirate Creek (Unit 19) is possible, but crossing the glacier is strenuous, time-consuming and dangerous. One of the more dependable crossing areas is west of Green Point. This portion of the Muldrow Glacier is covered in some tundra, some brush, loose gravel and sections of glare ice. It should only be attempted by parties with previous glacier crossing experience.
Following the Thorofare River west to the McKinley River Bar (Unit 14) is not recommended for most of the summer due to the high volume of water flowing between the edge of the Muldrow Glacier and the steep, brush covered hillsides to the north.
Additional Notes and/or Hazards: Grizzly bears are frequently in the area and can make travel up Glacier Creek difficult due to the narrow corridor for both humans and bears. Day hikers and guided groups also regularly use the lower portions of Glacier Creek. There are frequently wildlife closures in this unit; be careful to avoid them while in the backcountry.
Did You Know?
The vast landscapes of interior Alaska are changing. Large glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting and woody plants are spreading. Comparison of "then-and-now" photographs and data from major vegetation monitoring should allow detection, understanding and potential management of these changes.