Why Take This Hike?
A roadside hike that gains quick elevation and leads to soaring views? Count me in. A little traveled creek that rushes into one of the wildest whitewater rivers in Alaska? Hmm. Yes, please. A trail all to yourself just a few minutes from Denali’s busy front country area? Now you’re talking. Dragonfly Creek has all this and more, and you’ll only just be getting your feet wet.
Mile 242 of the Parks Highway. There’s a parking pullout on the west side of the highway overlooking the Nenana River. From the South, you may have noticed signs for other creeks such as Iceworm and Hornet. The creeks along this stretch of the Nenana have names that run alphabetically from north to south. Dragonfly Creek has a sign facing both directions. This is where your hike begins.
Cross the Parks Highway and begin up the trail on the north side of the creek bed. Bust through alders and willows for under a mile before emerging into more open terrain above the creek. A dirt slope will bring you on to the ridge that will be your route for much of the remainder of the hike, as far as you choose to go.
Dragonfly Creek is primarily fed by snowmelt. There are snowfields tucked into the gullies below the ridge several thousand feet above you. The creek’s cold temperature is as refreshing as it gets on a warm summer afternoon. Remember this for the way back down.
On the ridge, the trail will fade in and out at points. Continue up to reach the best views. The trail is moderate for most of its length, but should you choose, there is plenty of steep hiking below the upper ridges and snowfields that feed Dragonfly Creek. Wildflowers, large birds of prey such as Golden Eagles, Osprey, and Rough-Legged Hawks, as well as Dall Sheep Rams, Lambs, and Ewes may all be seen in this drainage. All it takes is a keen eye and a little patience to catch a glimpse of some of Denali’s more inconspicuous critters.
At any point, reverse the trail and begin your descent back toward the road along the ridge. This drainage is one of several in your immediate vicinity that offer fantastic creekside hikes to reach alpine ridges. If you’re looking for an off-trail adventure, take your pick from any of the other creeks in this narrow canyon of the Nenana River. To the south, Iceworm, Fox, and to the north, Bison Gulch, all offer fantastic routes along steep creeks flowing down off of the high peaks surrounding you. Whether you’re passing through en route to Anchorage or Fairbanks, or if you’ve been in the park and wish to see what else is here, Dragonfly Creek will not disappoint.