Units 72 - 79: South Side Glaciers and Little Switzerland

UNIT: 72, 73, 75, 77, 79
Quota: No limit – but group size must be 12 or less
USGS Quad Maps: Mt McKinley A1, Mt McKinley A2, Talkeetna D1, Talkeetna D2, Talkeetna D3, Talkeetna C1, Talkeetna C2, Talkeetna C3


This area is dominated by huge valleys formed by the rivers of ice from the Eldridge, Ruth, Tokositna and Kahiltna glaciers. In between these glacier valleys are major mountain ridge systems with 10,000 ft. plus peaks. These ridges start to drop in elevation as they approach the area of the park boundary. It is in this area, near the toe of the major glaciers and at the ends of these ridges, that there are some possibilities for hiking on the alpine terrain.


Tips/Special Features

This area presents the opportunity for trips that will test the abilities of even the most skilled backcountry traveler by combining glacier travel with some of the most rugged and difficult terrain anywhere in Alaska. The scenery is amazing and these areas are rarely traveled due to the skill and work it takes to reach them. The only practical way to reach the alpine terrain on the ridgelines between the major glaciers is to be dropped off high on a glacier by ski plane and traverse off of the glacier to the surrounding ridgelines.


The primary means of access to this region is by aircraft from the town of Talkeetna. There are many air taxi operations there that specialize in landing on glaciers and bush airstrips. It is possible to access the area between the Tokositna and Kahiltna Glaciers from the end of the Peterville Road which leaves Hwy 3 at the town of Trapper Creek. Areas near the toe of the Ruth Glacier can be reached by river boat, which might provide another pickup option.

Routes/Travel Corridors

It is beyond the scope of this guide to describe routes in this region. For more information please contact the climbing ranger staff at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station.

Additional Notes and/or Hazards

Contact the Ranger Station in Talkeetna for more information on trips into this area. Travel in these areas requires extensive crosscountry hiking experience as well as glacial travel skills and equipment. Mountaineering skills will be required to get off the glaciers and onto the vegetated ridges. Travel is going to be extremely difficult once you drop off any of the alpine ridges or if you attempt to follow any of the smaller drainages downstream to the larger rivers. Any drainage is going to have very thick brush along it. There is typically a 1000 foot thick band of alder immediately below the alpine vegetation that must be traversed in order to descend down to possible pickup locations at landing strips on the glacial river bars.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755


(907) 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am—4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you get to the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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