Riley Creek

Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Riley Creek

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    Jule Harle
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      SOURCE: The Alaska Packraft Guidebook: Premier Rivers & Creeks in the 49th State (1st ed) Copyright: 2022 by Jule Harle.  Refer to the guidebook for additional info, photos or detailed river maps. Author permission required to reproduce, duplicate or transfer following content.

      QUICK CREEK STATS:
      Difficulty: III
      Length: 6 miles
      Gauge: Riley Creek Gauge at Parks Highway NWS https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pafg&gage=rlya2
      Shuttle: Varies
      Put-in/trip starts: varies, see descriptions

      Character:  A must-do run if you’re in the area- great symmetry with hiking and boating.  A straightforward hike on a maintained trail followed by continuous class II-III read and run glacial water with an easy shuttle.

      Water Levels: Water Levels: Note that this is a seasonal gauge, and is only operable in summer months.  You can get a visual indicator for water level at Riley Creek campground, “what you see is what you get!” 

      Put in/Trip Begins: You can access Riley Creek from the Triple Lakes trailhead.  The South trailhead begins at McKinley Village, from the shoulder of the Parks Highway at mile 231.5- just north of the river bridge on the west side of the road, look for parking north of the river bridge on the left side of the road.

      The North trailhead begins at the Denali Visitor’s Center.  Beginning the hike from the North is longer with more elevation gain, but means you start and end at your car, bypassing any shuttle logistics.  For a shorter hike, start at the South trailhead.  You can check in with the Denali Visitor’s Center; at the time of writing they offered daily shuttles for thru hikers.

      Hike Description:  

      North Trailhead (6.7 miles): From the Visitor Center, begin by hiking the McKinley Station Trail for almost 1/2 mile; the actual trailhead begins shortly before crossing Hines Creek.  Cross the bridge, continuing the trail that intersects with a suspension bridge over Riley Creek.  From here, you’ll gradually climb through the boreal forest with an occasional glimpse of Riley Creek to the West and the Yanert River to the East.   After 6 miles, keep your eyes peeled for a faint social trail on the right.  This trail steeply descends into the Riley Creek valley, waypoint: 63.67639, -148.89963.  Eventually the trail disperses; follow the path of least resistance as you work your way to the creek.

      South Trailhead (3 miles):  This hike is significantly shorter than accessing Riley from the North end.  The trail immediately climbs through the forest and crosses active railroad tracks.  The switchbacks continue before you work your way towards spur trails accessing the first, second, then third lake.  After the third lake spur, you’ll begin climbing uphill again.  Keep your eyes peeled, for a faint social trail on the left.  This trail steeply descends into the Riley Creek valley, waypoint: 63.67639, -148.89963.  Eventually the trail disperses; follow the path of least resistance as you work your way to the creek.

      Water Description: The first 1/2 mile of Riley Creek is significantly lower in volume and much clearer than the rest of the run.  After 1/2 mile, you’ll notice a large glacial tributary come in from the left; this is when the run picks up the pace- the features feel bigger and the white-water is more continuous.

      Continuous class II-III boogie, late July/lower flow

      There aren’t any named rapids on Riley, it’s more or less a continuous and busy class II-III gravy train.  The creek gradually increases in volume as more tributaries add to its flow.  The section 1/2 mile upstream of the suspension bridge has slightly more technical features, although nothing more difficult than what’s upstream of the run- the waves & holes seem closer together with less time to make moves.  It’s possible that at very high water, this section would be class III+ in difficulty.

      Riley Creek before Nenana confluence 

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Riley Creek