Unit 2: Riley Creek
Tips and Special Features
Dropping into Riley Creek from the northern and western-most lake on the Triple Lakes Trail (Unit 1) is also a good way to get into this unit. From there you can hike up Riley Creek to a series of alpine passes that can bring you into the Windy Creek (Unit 16), Savage River (Unit 4), or Sanctuary River (Unit 5) drainages. These are all near the headwaters of Riley Creek and afford spectacular views of Fang Mountain and other alpine scenery. These are high passes so you may need to travel across steep snow fields even in mid-summer. The low pass at the head of Riley Creek provides a natural travel corridor for crossing the Alaska Range. There are no steep ascents on this pass, but there is a lot of high brush. The pass leading to the Sanctuary River is more difficult. It is a long climb with sections of moderately steep scree. Passes into the Savage River drainage are on extremely steep slopes that require travel over areas of very steep scree or steep snowfields. Clouds and fog are common in the upper reaches of these drainages. Only groups competent in map reading and compass navigation should attempt these extended trips.
Did You Know?
Recent climate warming has affected Denali in ways that are readily apparent, such as reduced spring snowfall, earlier snowmelt, earlier green-up and thawing of permanent snowfields. Subarctic ecosystems, like Denali, are extremely sensitive to climate variability and change.