Unit 4: Upper Savage River
Tips and Special Features
If you do want to go farther, there are many options for getting into other drainages and units once you reach the Savage River headwaters. The passes east into Riley Creek (Unit 2) are very steep and may be covered with snow and ice late in the season. They are not recommended unless you are very comfortable with off-trail hiking on very steep slopes of scree and snow. A less difficult way out of the drainage and into Riley Creek is to travel east along the ridges that head toward Jenny Creek (Unit 3) and the park entrance area. Travel to the west (Unit 5) from the headwaters area is possible via low passes between the Savage and Sanctuary drainages. The eastern sides of these passes are covered with low vegetation. The descent into the Sanctuary is brushy, but the worst of it can be avoided by sticking to the ridges rather than the creek bottom. Hikes linking up with Caribou Creek in the western portion of the unit and looping back to the Park Road are also possible. Caribou Creek is much brushier than the main Savage River and travel along it will be slower.
Did You Know?
Warmer average temperatures over several decades have resulted in expansion of woody vegetation. If this warming trend continues, it will change Alaska's ecosystems and drastically alter the physical appearance of Denali's landscape, as treeline marches higher up the mountains.