At the bottom of Golden Gate Pass where the road makes a sweeping curve to the right, a marked turn-off to the left leads to Pilgrim Hot Springs. The road traverses private property and travelers must obtain permission to access beforehand. Although this 7-mile side trip offers excellent vistas and access to a unique and historic setting, sections of the road are very rough and, if flooded, may be impassible. The road summit, 2.5 miles from the turn-off, offers a dramatic view of the north face of the Kigluaik Range and an expanse of wetlands in the lower Pilgrim River Valley. The road traverses several distinctly different habitats on the way to the hot springs. American golden-plover, snow bunting, horned lark, and northern wheatear are common in the dwarf tundra of the summit. Gyrfalcon and rough legged hawk find perches in rocky outcrops. Sandhill crane perform impressive courtship displays in late May or early June and congregate in tundra meadows before their fall migration. Whimbrel nest in the moist lowland tundra meadow. Look for tundra swan, American wigeon, and other ducks among the ponds and Wilson’s, yellow, and Arctic warbler flitting through the surrounding shrubs. Beaver lodges and dams may be active. Muskrats in the winter will create mounds of vegetation over a hole in the ice—called “push-ups”—when their numbers are high.
- Nome, AK Driving Directions