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The Last Frontier Alaskan Photography Adventure

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

This year's Photography adventure was a nine-day trip in mid-June to The Last Frontier, Alaska. The 20 hours of daylight for this time of year made for more time to explore Alaska.

This picture of Mt. Denali was taken at 11:47 at night

Days 1 and 2 (Denali National Park)

The trip started in the Denali National Park which is about a 2-hour drive north from Anchorage to just enter the Park. Then it's another 2 hours to the main National Park where the thousands of people are. We stayed in the central portion of the park for two days and saw no one on the trails. As you pass the town of Willow you will start to see a large isolated white cloud to the left of the road. This large white cloud is Mt. Denali which is still a good 70 miles away. Mt. Denali is the highest mountain in North America and the third most isolated peak on earth. As you get closer you will realize how massive Mt. Denali is with numerous peaks around it that are well over 14,000 feet.

With two days of hiking scheduled in search of wildlife and great landscape to photograph we got started with the hiking the same day we arrived. It was a warm spell and all the rivers, streams, and lakes were overflowing from all the sudden snow melt. This made for slushy trails. Nearly all the trails we were on were in disarray. Many fallen trees, water erosion, and sketchy bridges. One bridge looked to have some damage from a flood so the park service took a chainsaw to both ends so no one can use it. This made for a short hike and we had to turn around to find another way. Swimming wasn't an option with the swollen river and snow still on the ground.

On the Lower-Troublesome Creek Trail near the swollen Susitna River we did find signs of a large moose and his herd of females on the trail, but no visual of the actual animals. The moose trail was easy to follow through the woods. There was lots of scat and destruction to trees from the antler rubbing and trashing of rutting males (In the above picture you can see how high the moose antlers reach on the tree). Other than signs of a horny moose the only wildlife we came across in the two days was the state bird - the mosquito.

Trails in the Southern Portion of Denali National Park

Lower-Troublesome Creek Trail (1.1 Miles) - This is a short trail that starts off Highway 3 on the left just after Denali South Viewpoint. This trail is covered by large trees and surrounded by dense ferns. The trail deadends at the Susitna River. When we did this trail the river was larger than normal and ate up the last 100 yards of the trail. There were lots of recent moose activity on this trail.

Upper-Troublesome Creek Trail (6.1 Miles) - This trail is difficult to locate. The trail starts off a small dirt road on the right side, North of the Lower-Troublesome creek parking lot. The trail pretty much follows the Troublesome Creek for 6 miles, and just as you head north from the creek it becomes the K’esugi Trail. This trail has lots of overgrowth and down trees. Expect to do a lot of climbing over and under some big trees.

Byers Lake Loop (4.8 Miles) - From the parking lot on the right after you enter the Park, follow a dirt road for about a quarter of a mile. The trail starts on the right side. Much of the trail shows signs of no maintenance with lots of overgrowth and downed trees. At about the 1.5-mile marker you will come to a bridge that has been disabled by park service. You will not be able to cross and you must return the way you came or you can swim across. Needless to say, this is not a Loop trail anymore. The best option is to start at the parking lot and head towards the lake and turn left on the trail. Taking this path will give you more options. The trail meets up with the Cascade Trail after 1.6 miles which then leads to the K’esugi Ridge Trail 2.2 miles up a steep ridge.

Ermine Hill Trail (6.9 Miles) - The trail starts right off Highway 3 just past Ermine Lake as you head north toward Denali National Park. The trail heads down into a canyon then across a damaged bridge that is still passable and up a steep hillside. Between the starting point and the beginning of the uphill portion, there are a lot of downed trees. After every switch back during the ascent is a new view of the valley and the Denali Mountain range. The trail meets up with the K’esugi Ridge Trail and continues for many miles in either direction.

Day 3 (Chugach State Park / Eagle River)

Next, we were off to the Chugach State Park / Eagle River area north of Anchorage for a hike along the Iditarod Trail. The road leading to the Eagle River Nature Center has some great views of the towering mountain ridges on either side. Within minutes of leaving the visitor center, we came across fresh piles of bear scat, and shortly after that, we could see a grizzly head pop up off in the distant field. As fast as it popped up it disappeared back into the tall grass. That was the last visual of any wildlife for the next 5 miles. On our return trek down the Crow Pass trail just after the last yurt, we were scanning side to side on the trail for wildlife when we surprised a young grizzly walking up the trail about 25 ft in front of us. As soon as we made eye contact I started to raise my camera for a photo, didn't even have time to focus, he was already running full speed up the side of the hill through the trees.

Trails In the Eagle River Area

All the Trails in this area start at the visitor center and it can get a little crowded during the summer months with limited parking available. Many of the people stick to the trails in the valley which has some beautiful loop trails that provide an occasional bear sighting. If you are looking for fewer people you can take the Dew Mountain loop and turn off on the Crow Pass Trail which will eventually take you to Girdwood. We didn't have time for the 26-mile trail so we stuck to the Dew Mound Loop Trail which follows the Iditarod trail along the edge of the valley and then at Dew Lake turns back towards the Eagle River. We expanded our Loop by adding the Albert Loop Trail. This trail has great views of the river and marsh with a boardwalk-style bridge. Here we came across a Sandpiper Bird.

  • Albert Loop (3.3 Miles)

  • Rodak Nature Loop (0.8 Miles

  • Dew Mound Loop (6.8 Miles)

  • Iditarod Trail (3.8 Miles)

  • Rapids Camp Loop (4.0 Miles)

  • Mountain Loop Trail (3.1 Miles)

  • Crow Pass Trail (26 Miles)

Day 4 (Lake Clark National Park)

Not satisfied with the brief encounter with the young grizzly, we decided to go on a bush plane adventure to the Lake Clark National Park area. You can read more about this adventure here - In Search of the Alaskan Brown Bear

Did You Know: The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race goes from Seward to Nome Alaska. It's an annual race that starts in March and goes for 8-15 days and covers 938 miles in some of the most remote areas of Alaska in winter. The fastest time is held by Mitch Seavey, 2017, 8d 3h 40m 13s

The photographs contained in this website may not be reproduced without the express consent of Shutter Bison.

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Dec 08, 2022

Alaska is my favorite place. Wish I had more time and money to keep going back

Dec 08, 2022
Replying to

I agree with both statements

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