Upper Troublesome Creek Trail

Denali State Park


I learned about this by speaking with a ranger at Denali State Park. As well, I learned this update on the Troublesome Creek Trail: it is maintained and easy to follow. It is no longer closed during the summer as they cleared the sight line to the creek. When the salmon start running up the creek, bears are numerous. That part of the trail was thick with alder with a real potential for surprising a bear. This is no longer an issue.

Oh yeah! I was so psyched! I was going to do this big 4 night/5 day trek starting at the Coal Creek Trailhead and ending here. Unfortunately, the weather was looking real lousy and I decided that I was just going to do this trail up to the Kesugi section and head back. If the weather held, I packed extra food to hang up there another day. On the appointed day, I just wasn't into it and headed back.

It's not a bad trail but it's not my kind of trail. Frequent visitors to this site know that I would rather be above tree line and this trail takes too long to get there. However, the creek is very pretty with huge boulders strewn about. It reminded me of the many brooks and streams I've hiked along on the east coast, especially the huge boulders.

The first 3 miles of the trail follows right along the river bank. You then slowly and easily head up with intermittent views of the creek. At one point is a cool rock formation created by the wind. After this feature, the trail gets a bit overgrown but nothing unmanageable. After this, I don't know what lies ahead, as this is where I turned back.

If this trail was closer to Anchorage, I would probably be more into it as pre or post season hike but being right next to Kesugi Ridge, which is so awesome, why bother. I believe the top is more tundra, so here is my suggestion. Add it to your already planned trek across Kesugi Ridge as an easy way to either get up to the ridge or a nice transition back to the highway, as the other 2 trailheads are quite steep. Another option is to only head to the upper tarns from Kesugi Ridge, then head out, and down to Byers Lake.

One cool highlight of the trip was when I turned a corner, I saw a 3-legged wolf. 3 seconds later I spotted a black wolf nearby. After a moment's hesitation, they took off into the woods and I could hear howling for a good 5 minutes. At first, I thought they must be feral dogs but a friend (thanks Clarence!) let me know that the 3 legged wolf probably was caught in a snare and had to gnaw it off :-(. While not common, but not rare, there are black wolves.

Important Information

Be careful of the rocks when crossing the streams. Most of them are quite slippery with algae and growth.

See above note and be doubly cautious of bears, especially when salmon are spawning.


If you want to camp the night before, you can do so at Byers Lake. There is also an RV parking lot 1 mile below the Little Coal Creek Trailhead. The view is great but the camping sucks. You are not allowed to camp at the trailhead parking lot.

A traverse can be made of any length (see below) and/or direction with Kesugi Ridge and the Ermine Hill Trail.

Coal Creek Ermine Hill Byers Lake Troublesome
Coal Creek 17.2 27.7 36.2
Ermine Hill 17.2 17.2 25.4
Byers Lake 27.7 17.2 15.2
Troublesome 36.2 25.4 15.2

There are various companies offering shuttles that can drop you off and pick you up at the various trailheads. Expect to pay $40-$75.

This hike was rated 3 stars.
Somewhat easy
Connects With
15.2 miles
From Anchorage
138 miles
July to September

Finding the Trailhead

Hike Map

Map of Upper Troublesome Creek Trail