Unit 39: Stony Creek

Quota: 4
USGS Quad Maps: Mt McKinley C1, Mt McKinley B1


The drainages of Stony and Boundary Creek cut through low, broad ridges on the west end of the Outer Range. The stream beds of these creeks are narrow and intermittently covered with sections of thick brush. Spruce forests begin to appear again at the northern end of the unit along Stony Creek. The ridges in the southern end of the unit are alpine tundra while the ones in the north are tussock tundra.

a wide valley with a shallow creek running down the middle, surrounded by rugged mountains on either side
Looking up Stony Creek from a plateau in the center of Unit 39

NPS Photo


Tips/Special Features

Within a relatively easy 3 mile walk along Stony Creek you can leave behind the activity of the Park Road corridor and have a number of options for loop hikes. A large plateau sits at the center of this unit providing views of the Alaska Range to the south and rolling plains to the north. As you travel north in this unit, the elevation lowers and the terrain grows brushier. Arctic Grayling are commonly seen in Stony Creek making this one of the few recommended places for fishing in the park.


No direct access is possible to this unit from the Park Road. All access is via adjacent units (Unit 33, 34, 40, or 32). Typical access is from Unit 33 via either branch of Stony Creek, about 3-4 miles from the Park Road. The upper end of Boundary Creek can be reached from the Mt. Galen area in Unit 34.

Routes/Hiking Corridors

The primary hiking corridor in this unit is Stony Creek. It is a moderately sized stream with a gravel bar that is relatively free of heavy brush. The northern portion of the creek is brushier than the southern part, but it is still passable. Camping on the high plateau in the center of the unit affords you great views and tundra camping; but it is a strenuous 2000 ft elevation gain to get there. A trip to this area is best if you have a few nights so you can explore the high country as well as the river bar.

The pass over to the Toklat River (Unit 32) on the south side of Mt Sheldon is gentle but very brushy in sections. A crossing to the Toklat farther north in the unit will require hiking through extensive areas of dwarf birch and some tussock tundra. You will encounter similar conditions if you hike west toward the Clearwater Fork. Boundary Creek does provide a reasonable connection to the Moose Creek area (unit 33) and the northern part of Mt Galen.

Additional Notes and/or Hazards

After Stony Creek meets Boundary Creek, it becomes a major river crossing, because it typically stays as a single channel. Avoid crossing below the confluence of these two creeks when possible. After heavy rain, Stony Creek can rise quickly and become impassable on foot. Where Big Stony meets Little Stony Creek is the start of Unit 39; make sure to camp on the north side of this junction and out of sight of other campers.

a wide grassy valley over looked by a rugged mountain
Looking at Mt. Sheldon, from a plateau in the center of Unit 39

NPS Photo

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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