Unit 34: Mount Galen

UNIT 34
MOUNT GALEN
Quota: 4
USGS Quad Maps: Mt McKinley B1, Mt McKinley B2


Description

The landscape and vegetation in this unit is a transition from the rugged mountain terrain of the central road corridor, to the more rounded topography in the Wonder Lake region of the park. The steep hillsides and alpine vegetation in the eastern portion of the unit change to low ridges covered with shrubs and drainages lined with dense stands of willow. Moose Creek begins here and flows west toward the Kantishna Hills.

 
rolling green hills leading off toward a vast, snow-covered mountain partly hidden by clouds
Denali, seen from atop Mt Galen

NPS Photo

 

Tips/Special Features

There are wonderful views of Denali and the Alaska Range from many locations in this unit. The big open vistas give the feeling of being at the edge of the mountains even though they are still far away. While parts of this unit may be brushy, there is little steep terrain and few large rivers to cross, making this area a good choice for those new to cross country hiking.


Access

The best access from the Park Road is entering anywhere past the western end of Mt Thorofare, about 2 ½ miles west of Eielson Visitor Center (EVC). It is also possible to reach the unit around the EVC by hiking up the established Thorofare Ridge Trail onto Mt Thorofare. It is a 4 hour bus ride to EVC and about a 4.5 hour ride to get to the western end of the unit.

Routes/Hiking Corridors

While this unit can be a satisfying one night trip, it is best explored with more time and/or in connection with visiting other units. One interesting feature to explore is Mt. Galen, an east-west ridge system that stretches across the center of the unit. The climb to the top is strenuous, but one is rewarded with amazing views on a clear day.

From the area where the Park Road leaves Mt Thorofare (about 2 ½ miles west of the EVC), the slopes of Mt Galen can be reached by hiking north across low ridges and the headwaters of Moose Creek. The first couple hundred yards from the Park Road tends to be the brushiest and then it opens up to easier hiking in lower brush and tundra. There is good camping all along this part of the South Fork of Moose Creek and reliable water.

 
green hills on either side of a shallow creek
Headwaters of Moose Creek

NPS Photo

 

North of Moose Creek, there are a number of gentle ridges on the south and west flanks of Mt. Galen that quickly transition into alpine tundra vegetation, all with good views of the Alaska Range. By hiking around to the north side of Mt. Galen it is possible to work your way over into Unit 33 or Unit 39 and use Stony Creek to return to the road. A shorter hike is to follow Moose Creek to its headwaters on the south side of Mt. Galen and then crossing over a low divide into the Stony Creek drainage (see Unit 33 description). Trips following Moose Creek west (downstream) to the Kantishna Hills are also possible, but the walking is very brushy in many places and takes you through thick stands of willow and alder. It is best to stay high on the ridges, like the one labeled USGS Yen, as much as possible to avoid the thickest brush.

Hiking from the Eielson Visitor Center area north into Unit 34 provides easy access into high alpine terrain, but there is little water on the Thorofare ridge system. If you plan on camping up high, bring all the water you need for the day from the faucets of the EVC. There are many ways to ascend the Thorofare ridge system by using the different arms and drainages that lead north from the Park Road.


Additional Notes and/or Hazards

When you set up your tent, make sure it is not visible from the Park Road, Eielson Visitor Center, or the Thorofare Ridge Trail. Both Mt Galen and Thorofare Mt are popular day hikes so expect to see other people. Use caution when attempting to descend the north facing slopes of Mt Galen or Thorofare Mountain; they are very steep and contain loose rock and scree.

 

Last updated: August 30, 2015

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Denali Park, AK 99755

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