Tips and Special Features
This unit contains some spectacular and rugged alpine terrain in its headwaters. There are also small cirque lake basins which are more typical of the Chugach Mountains than the south side of the Alaska Range. You should have good map and compass skills to navigate the maze of tributaries in this unit.
This is the easiest unit to access on the south side of the Alaska Range without flying; however, you cannot use the bus system to immediately access it. Cross-country travel in this area can be very difficult. The vegetation on the south side of the Alaska Range is thick and the Windy Creek drainages have fewer braids so river crossings can be challenging.
The major access point for this unit is through the town of Cantwell located approximately 25 miles south of the park entrance. To access the park from Cantwell, you must follow a public easement trail that is marked with orange posts. Please respect the rights of private property owners in the area by following the specific directions for parking and travel that are provided for you at the Backcountry Information Center. If you leave the public easement trail you may be fined for trespassing.
Common Routes and Hiking Corridors
Windy Creek and its tributaries define the major travel routes through this unit. The best way to access Windy Creek from Cantwell is to follow a marked public easement trail that starts at the northwest corner of town and traverses a low ridge for about 3 miles until it intersects Windy Creek. From this point, it is possible to hike upstream along Windy Creek to Foggy Pass (Unit 17), or north toward a three-way pass system that links up the headwaters of both Riley Creek (Unit 2) and Sanctuary River (Unit 5). Travel along Windy Creek can be slow going due to the heavy brush in many areas. While Windy Creek is more a river than a small creek, it is still generally crossable except during major rain storms or spring runoff.