Kluane Hiking Guide
Hiking along the Haines Highway, Yukon/BC/Alaska
by Murray Lundberg
Exploring the Haines Highway
Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it
The Haines Highway runs through 3 jurisdictions - it starts at the north end as Yukon Highway 3, then in BC it has no number, and finally in Alaska it's Route 7. From Haines Junction, Yukon, to Haines, Alaska, is 235 km, or 146 miles. From short and easy hikes to multi-day and difficult ones, the wilderness along the Haines Highway offers a wide variety of superb hiking.
This guide uses the kilometer posts along the highway as the primary reference. These measure the distance from the Alaska State ferry terminal at Lutak Bay, 9 kilometers beyond downtown Haines. Once in Alaska, the mileposts measure from downtown Haines.
Km 245: Dezadeash River Trail:
This trail runs through wetlands, meadows and forest along the Dezadeash River, with minimal elevation change. Loops of 3.5 km (2.2 mi) or 5.5 km (3 mi) can be made.
* See Dezadeash River Trail @ Parks Canada.
Km 237.9: Auriol Trail, Auriol Peak, Mount Martha Black, Auriol - Martha Black Circuit:
This one trailhead offers access to 4 trails/routes ranging from moderate to technical, a few hours to a few days.
* See Auriol Trail @ Parks Canada.
* See Auriol Trail @ YukonHiking.ca.
* See Auriol Peak @ YukonHiking.ca.
* See Auriol - Martha Black Circuit @ YukonHiking.ca.
* See Mount Martha Black @ YukonHiking.ca.
Km 233.2: Quill Creek:
This 36 km (22 mi) return route is rugged with creek crossings, side hilling and some bushwhacking, and an elevation gain of about 730 m (2,400 ft).
* See Quill Creek Route @ Parks Canada.
Km 202.3: Rock Glacier Trail: |
The trail has several interpretive signs along its length (0.8 km one way), and is a fairly easy hike with a 300-foot elevation gain. The trail begins as a raised boardwalk through a marshy area, then enters a spruce/poplar forest. It then climbs onto the toe of the rock glacier, from where you get an expansive view of Dezadeash Lake. The trail as far as the top observation area is graded rock that provides good footing. It is possible to continue up the rock glacier but the hiking is more difficult due to both the grade and the loose rock.
* See Fall Colours on the Rock Glacier Trail @ ExploreNorth.
* See Rock Glacier @ Parks Canada.
Km 192.6: Mush Lake Road / Shorty Creek Trail / Cottonwood Trail:
The Shorty Creek Trail is a 22 km (14 mi) return hike, much of it on a steep old mining road. The multi-day, 75-km Cottonwood Trail connects the Mush Road Road to Kathleen Lake, going through and around the Dalton Range.
* See Shorty Creek Trail @ Parks Canada.
* See Cottonwood Trail @ Parks Canada.
* See Cottonwood Trail @ YukonHiking.ca.
Km 186.8: St. Elias Lake Trail:
This easy trail wanders through open forest and alpine meadows to the lake and a campsite - 5 miles (8km) round trip. Kluane National Park borders the highway to the west from here to Haines Junction.
* See St. Elias Lake @ Parks Canada.
* See St. Elias Lake @ YukonHiking.ca.
Km 159.0: Takhanne River bridge and Million Dollar Falls trailhead, with a large parking area.
Km 158.7: Milion Dollar Falls boardwalk:
Million Dollar Falls campground is accessed by the 1 km (0.6 mile) side road to the west. Operated by the Yukon government, it has 33 camp sites, picnic tables, outhouses, cooking shelters, water, hiking trails and a network of boardwalks, stairs and observation decks for viewing the falls.
Km 133.6: Stanley Creek:
Three scenic hiking trails start here - the Parton River trail leading to Shinny Lakes, the O'Conner Trail leading to an old mining airstrip, and the Squaw Range trail leading into an old placer gold ming area.
From BC Parks: "Parton River: This trail is located roughly 112 kilometres south of Haines Junction on the Haines Highway, just past Stanley Creek. From here take the gravel road that turns off the highway toward the Tatshenshini River. It is recommended that visitors obtain the correct 1:50,000 scale maps for this trip (# 114 P/10 - Nadahini Creek, # 114 P/11 - Carmine Mountain and # 114 P/15 - Parton River). Park your vehicle at the Tatshenshini River to begin your journey.
The Parton River trail leading to Shinny Lakes and the northern reaches of the O'Conner River begins with crossing the Tatshenshini River and then the Parton River. The hiking is good until the first obstacle - a rock slide area. This begins at UTM coordinates 397020 E / 6639350 N to 396906 E / 6639287 N. This also continues up until 396822 E / 6639150 N. The rock slide area has two more obstacles at UTM coordinates 396635 E / 6638929 N and 396549 E / 6638102 N. The second obstacle is known for clogging up mountain bike tires. The third obstacle has two slides that completely cover the road.
After the third obstacle you cross a prominent gully, and then the hiking becomes better as it follows an old mining road. At the next creek encountered it is very easy to lose the trail and end up bushwhacking through a muskeg. Pay attention after passing the "old wagon" staying to the right fork away from the Parton River, this will keep you on track. The hiking is good up to the old cabin by the junction in the road. The junction is at UTM coordinates 393884 E / 6631715 N.
Going northwest will put you on the Shinny Lakes trail, which has spectacular scenery throughout. The trail has good hiking following the old mining road and horse trail. Mountain biking is not recommended past the first lake, as the trail is very narrow and soft. This lake is suitable for swimming because it has little vegetation and a gravely beach at the east end. At this point the trail becomes a narrow horse trail.
Back at the junction, going East across the creek will put you on the O'Conner Trail, roughly about 16 kilometres, to an old airstrip. There is a steep climb for about three kilometres (2 miles). Then it slopes off to the first and only obstacle - a serious rockslide. This begins at UTM coordinates 394849 E / 6630935 N to 394855 E / 6630880 N which covers the whole road completely. This slide has a treacherous detour below and above it. Use extreme caution when hiking around or over it. After the obstacle there is another steep climb and then the trail levels off. The trail follows along the valley below, which provides spectacular scenery. The trail leads down into the valley and through to the old airstrip.
Squaw Range: Access to the Squaw Range begins the same as the Parton River description listed above. When you reach the west side of the valley, take the right hand fork, following an old mining road up Goldrun Creek. This road climbs steeply, traversing the range and ending near Talbot Creek. To continue this traverse one must route find their way across the Talbot Creek watershed to meet up with the south end of old Squaw Creek mining road. This old road will take you in a northwesterly direction, following Squaw Creek down to the British Columbia / Yukon border and out of the park.
Along the way, visitors may notice signs of historic placer mining activities. It is recommended that visitors obtain the correct 1:50,000 scale map for this trip (# 114 P/10 - Nadahini Creek). "
Km 106.2: Chuck Creek / Samuel Glacier Trail:
From BC Parks: "This trail is great for both hiking and mountain biking. It is recommended that visitors obtain the correct 1:50,000 scale map for this trip (# 114 P/10 - Nadahini Creek). Park your vehicle at the newly established pullout.
The Chuck Creek trail starts in a wide, open sub-alpine valley, with mountainous vistas in all directions. There are several large ditches where road culverts use to be. If you are enjoying this trail by mountain bike you should stick to the main trail at all times to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation.
After roughly three kilometres, Mineral Lakes will come into view to your left. If you decide to continue further along this trail you will come across Chuck Creek. At this location a shallow water crossing is required, so you may wish to have additional footwear such as sandals with you. The rocks on the bottom of the creek are slippery and sometimes sharp, so be careful when crossing.
At approximately seven kilometre point into this trip, the trail drops down to Clear Creek where another shallow water crossing is required. At this location the Samuel Glacier will be greeting you with its spectacular scenery. The trail becomes very indistinct from here as it continues to a large gravel out wash. From here the trail becomes a route and continues on for several more kilometres heading down hill, so if you don't with to enjoy an uphill return trip - it may be a good time to turn around.
This hike or mountain bike ride is best to do during fair weather, as trail conditions can be rather soggy during periods of rainy weather. As well the fine mud encountered during wet conditions can severely clog up your mountain bike wheels."
* See applicable section of topo map 114 P/10.
* See Hiking to the Samuel Glacier (the Chuck Creek Trail) @ ExploreNorth.
* See Samuel Glacier @ YukonHiking.ca.
Km 91.5: Three Guardsmen:
An old mining road provides access to a glacial cirque to the south of Three Guardsmen Mountain (1,920 m / 6,300 ft). There are the ruins of an old mining camp, and extensive workings. The cirque, and other more direct routes, provide access to the ridge leading to the peaks of the Three Guardsmen.
* See applicable section of topo map 114 P/9 (from aerial photos taken in 1979, 1980).
* See Hiking to The Three Guardsmen Cirque @ ExploreNorth.
* See Three Guardsmen @ YukonHiking.ca.
Km 89.6: Communications Tower & Helipad:
From a pullout on the west side of the highway just north of the Tina Creek crossing, an abandoned mining road leads to the top of the unnamed mountain to the north.
* See the eastern section of the road on topo map 114 P/9 (from aerial photos taken in 1979, 1980).
Km 88.6: Tina Creek Ridge:
From a pullout on the west side of the highway just south of the Tina Creek crossing, an abandoned pipeline road provides access to a vast hiking area where no trails are needed. I'm calling the access the Tina Creek Ridge.
* See the eastern section of the ridge on topo map 114 P/9 (from aerial photos taken in 1979, 1980).
* See Hiking Tina Creek Ridge @ ExploreNorth.
Km 87.3: Copper Butte mine:
From BC Parks: "You walk roughly 2.5 kilometres down the old Haines Road until you come to Schulz Creek, which will be the second creek you encounter. From here you stay right and begin a moderately strenuous hike through the Alder for about 100m until it opens up to the old Copper Butte mining road.
From the Copper Butte mining road you can follow the road which leads you right to the old mines. It is a very scenic route that contains many visible remains left behind from past mining activities. Once you reach the first plateau the terrain opens up. You will be greeted with mountainous vistas and get a bird's eye view of Inspector Creek.
The mine on the East facing slope is unstable and in rough shape and should not be entered for it could be hazardous. Because the weather is so unpredictable you should carry a jacket and rain gear with you. You should also bring water and something to eat. But most importantly enjoy the hike."
Mile 6.9 / Km 11.1: Mt. Ripinski trailhead. This is an all-day hike with great views being the reward.