Destination Alaska: Castner Glacier - Backpacker

Destination Alaska: Castner Glacier

Witness the effects of climate change on a challenging trek in the Delta Mountains.

Hike the Alaska Range in all its glory—but without Denali National Park’s crowds and heavily regulated backcountry—in the Delta Mountains, a hundred miles east of the park’s main entrance. This 23-mile round-trip up the Castner Glacier leads into the heart of one of the most accessible glacier basins in all of Alaska, where you’ll find classic sights like icefalls, as well as signs of global warming.

The shrinking Castner is literally collapsing in on itself; much of the central glacier has become a deep, meltwater-filled trench. The off-trail route climbs Castner to the Silvertip Icefield and, despite being almost entirely on the glacier, does not require crampons, ice axes, or ropes. That’s because most of the ice is bare and hard with minimal crevasses, or buried entirely under moraine rubble. Allow exploring time for Castner’s upper forks.

The Way From milepost 218 on the Richardson Highway, just north of Castner Creek, take the gravel road heading upriver for a quarter mile. No contact.