Stampede Trail

Path of the Stampede Trail

The Stampede Trail is a road and trail located in the Denali Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. A paved or maintained gravel road for 8 miles (13 km) on its eastern end as far west as Eight Mile Lake, the remainder of the route consists of a primitive, remote, and, at times, dangerous hiking or ATV (All-terrain vehicle) trail following a path where the original road has deteriorated over the years. The route ends at an abandoned antimony mine at 63°44′27″N 150°22′45″W / 63.740739°N 150.379229°W / 63.740739; -150.379229 along Stampede Creek, a couple miles past Stampede Airport's grass airstrip.

Historically, access to the east end of the trail was gained from the Alaska Railroad. Today, the primary access to the trail is from the George Parks Highway (Alaska Route 3) which opened in the early 1970s. The Parks Highway intersects the trail at milepost 251.1, two miles north of the center of Healy. Though this intersection marks the present-day eastern terminus of the Stampede Road, Lignite Road continues a few miles east from this intersection to the railroad tracks and the Nenana River.

The trail is located near the northern boundary of Denali National Park in a small finger of State of Alaska public land that extends into the national park. The valley, known as the Stampede Valley or the Stampede Corridor, is mostly low-lying tundra and watersheds.

The Stampede Trail has been the subject of international attention since the 1992 death of Christopher McCandless, whose remains were found in an abandoned bus deep inside the wilderness about 28 miles down the trail. The bus was first brought to the public's attention by Jon Krakauer in an Outside magazine article; a book in 1996 and a film in 2007 followed. The bus' infamy led to an increase in hikers along the trail as well as complaints of a corresponding increase in unprepared hikers requiring assistance in the backcountry. Many rescues and deaths occurred annually along the trail. The Alaska State Troopers and the Tri-Valley Fire Department (Healy) were primarily responsible for these rescues and assistance.[citation needed] In 2020, citing safety reasons, the bus was removed and shipped to the University of Alaska Museum of the North.[1][2]

The trail currently receives limited tour traffic. In 2015, Alaska Travel Adventures stopped operating Jeep tours along the trail due to deteriorating trail conditions and frequent mechanical problems. Denali Tundra Tours ceased operations of an Argo tour in 2016. As of 2019, Stampede Excursions continues to operate three daily tours along the trail in Pinzgauer 6x6 military grade trucks as well as Volvo C306 6x6 personnel carriers. This tour is called the Denali Backcountry Safari.[3] While they pick up passengers from all Denali area hotels, the 6x6 tours actually begin at their Eight Mile Lake Base Camp at mile 7.5 of the Stampede Road. Their pavilion and other associated buildings are the last permanent structures along the Stampede Road. All tours turn around a few miles east of the Savage River. Traversing the beaver ponds, "mud flats,” and crossing the Teklanika River are major obstacles preventing most vehicles from continuing more than 5 miles or so down the trail.[citation needed]

During the fall, hunting traffic along the trail is heavy as the area is prime habitat for moose. Many hunters use ATVs or Argos to access hunting camps. Moose hunting in this area generally yields high success rates. Winter travel by snowmobile, dog sled, or tracked vehicle is much easier than summer travel after the boggy tundra, beaver ponds, and rivers freeze.[citation needed]

  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference ktva was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference uaf was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ Capps, Kris (2018-05-11). "Explore Denali National Park via air or land". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Retrieved 2018-05-18.