The highway twines with countless feeder trails and pullouts—many pioneered and kept open by fall hunters using ATVs. But outside hunting season, these access points beg for exploration and overnight stays.
About five miles east of the Susitna River, watch for an unmarked gravel byway leading north toward a ridge of inviting, vegetated mountains. If you’re game for a bit of exploring, this flat, solid-surface lane leads a quarter mile back to an easy walking path into alpine tundra chocked with berries.
Within first hundred feet, a grassy lane cuts to the west, leading to a commando campsite and a path to the gravely shore of a finger lake tucked into the hills out of sight of the highway. On a fine summer day, the shallow sloping bottom might invite a quick dip. Or tie on a dry fly to test the waters for resident fish.
The road continues toward the hills, ending in what might have been a construction gravel site mostly reclaimed by alder and willow. Park in the obvious turn around, and venture uphill through the disturbed ground until you find a hunter’s trail winding to a campfire ring on the edge of a vast mountain slope, probably where a fall meat hunter might wait for a sign of game with a small campfire for company. You’ve reached open country, with easy walking, brush below waist level. If you’re attuned, go exploring. It’s exhilarating, exuding the feeling that you could meander at will, even pioneering across-country hike straight up the mountains beyond. In August, don’t forget to bring a bag or bucket for the blueberries. They’re everywhere.