This is a topographically complex unit; it contains many ridge systems, drainages and passes that allow for countless ways to explore it. The area is a mixture of hills, river valleys and mountains with many colors and textures. The drainages, such as Big Creek, tend to be open in the upper reaches, but quite brushy down low, with thick spruce stands. The Teklanika River is on the eastern side of the unit and it is a large, well-braided glacial river.
The alpine terrain here provides numerous trip opportunities, all within a short bus ride of the park entrance. This is an excellent place for making loop hikes and getting views of the Alaska Range from high ridges. The complex nature of the landscape means it is essential to carry detailed topographic maps and know how to read them. Exploring the high country around Igloo Mountain and Sable Mountain can be a good day hike or overnight backpacking trip. Both mountains offer spectacular views of the Alaska Range and the Outer Range.
Access from the Park Road is via the east or west sides of the unit, because the southern boundary is within the Sable Pass Wildlife Closure. On the east side, you can get off the bus anywhere between the Teklanika River Bridge and Tattler Creek to hike into the unit. Several drainages and low passes lead deeper into the unit. Access into the west side of the unit involves traveling along the East Fork River and entering through Unit 30. It is about a 2 hour bus ride to reach the East Fork River.
This area lends itself nicely to loop hikes lasting 1 to 2 nights. One of the more accessible ridge walks is to hike to the top of Sable Mountain from Igloo Canyon. There are a number of possible approaches to Sable Mountain from the upper end of the Tattler Creek drainage. Once you are on top of the main ridge, the route is a straightforward climb along the crest. There is a more difficult and remote ridge walk between the Teklanika and East Fork drainages at the unit’s northern boundary with Unit 28. Access for that hike would begin near the mouth of Big Creek on the Teklanika River. Just south of this ridge system is a major pass between the Teklanika and East Fork drainages that can also be reached by a similar path.
Another route is to follow Big Creek to its headwaters and then cross over a moderate pass and descend Tributary Creek to the East Fork River (Unit 30). The creek bed is very brushy, so it is best to stay high on the ridges where you can. There are several ways to access upper Big Creek from the Park Road in Igloo Canyon, to avoid walking the entire length of it.
Mark the Sable Pass Wildlife Closure on your map and be sure to stay clear of it. There are some highly visible social trails in this area that are hard to avoid. If possible, spread out and avoid walking single file to prevent more social trails from forming in the fragile alpine tundra.
Last updated: April 14, 2015