Around Coldfoot there are plenty of mountains to hike, but no trails. It makes for slow, arduous going, but reaching your destination is very rewarding.
If you’re standing in Coldfoot and looking north, the mountain you see is called Slate Mountain, though coworkers and locals call it “Shockpoint.” It’s a moderately difficult hike and can take about six hours for a round trip.
To start, walk about 1.5-2 miles North on the Dalton. You’ll see a gravel road that goes east from the highway. From this point, the mountain looks closer than it actually is. The rough terrain will make the hike longer than you think. Turn right onto the road and head into the woods. If you’re hiking in the middle of summer (like we did), you’ll run into a ton of mosquitoes—bring repellent.
Keep following the gravel road and before long you’ll have to splash across a creek. Your boots will most likely get wet. (I’ve come to expect wet feet when hiking in Alaska.)
The road quickly disappears and then you just bushwhack east for a while. You’ll feel like a moose, lumbering through the trees and bushes, taking long strides across mushy ground.
Recently a few hikers saw a fresh moose kill around here, so they hurried along for fear of the bear that killed it. It’s always good to hike with others. Safety in numbers, just in case.
As the trees thin, you can start to see the terrain sloping upwards. Just keep going uphill. Use your own best judgment as you pick a route up the slope. The trees end and there’s more rock the further up you get. Once you’re on the ridge, you’re golden. There’s certainly still plenty of climbing to do, but there’s no more tussocks, and not much spongy wet ground. It’s easy walking compared to what you just did. And now you have views the rest of the way!
Just keep heading east and up, higher and higher. At times it will look like you’re almost done, but then you crest that slope and another slope reveals itself. Don’t let the false summits fool you. You’re done when you can’t go any higher.
It’s easy to get boxed in by the mountains when you’re down in the valley in Coldfoot. But once you’re on top of a mountain, you realize the expanse of the range all around us. It’s awesome.
If you’re ambitious you can keep walking the ridge, which starts to curve North and makes a big circle, which you can see from the summit of Shockpoint. Make sure to pack plenty of water if you plan to do that, though.
When you’re ready to make the return trip, just head back the way you came as best you can. Down the ridge, down the slope, bushwhack to the creek and follow it back to the gravel road, or cross it and head straight West until you run into the highway.
Hiking around here can be tough and sometimes discouraging. Just keep pushing forward and you’ll be glad you did it.
And maybe you’ll get lucky like we did. We saw a lynx!
A disclaimer from the editor: The Brooks Range is the definition of true wilderness. Trails are nonexistent, and rescue support is largely unavailable. Make sure to employ bear & wildlife safety measures when appropriate. Exercise caution and common sense in planning any and all hikes in the area.