Upper Troublesome Creek Trail

Denali State Park
This hike was rated 3 stars.
Somewhat Easy; mostly level with short bursts of elevation. Trail is a bit overgrown in middle.
Connects With
Miles One Way
Miles from Anchorage
138; trailhead is just off the Parks Highway
July to September


Note from July 15, 2005: I’ve been calling the Troublesome Creek Trail the Curry Ridge Trail since I first published Kesugi Ridge. I was mistaken. Even though this trail runs near it, it is not. Someday there will be a spur trail to the ridge but it would be bushwhacking at this stage.

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.

Topo Map

Upper Troublesome Creek Trail topo map

Comments on hiking Upper Troublesome Creek Trail

  1. Paul Derrick — July 17, 2015

    I just recently hiked up this Trail and was shocked to find how overgrown it is. After about 1/2 mile from the trail head I lost sight of the trail and decided to press on anyhow. After an hour or so I decided to head back to the car, but since I had lost sight of the trail it took me over 4 hours to find my way back. Like somebody else also mentioned on the site, with Kesugi Ridge so close, why even bother hiking Troublesome Creek.

  2. Dianne and Merlan — February 20, 2013

    Difficulty: Somewhat Difficult. There are some really overgrown sections and up near Tarn Point the trail disappears into a very, very steep snow field which required a scramble up a fairly steep slope. There are a number of good, steep, up and downs to cross streams along Troublesome Creek. We were able to find rocks and trees to cross all but one of the streams, in which we switched to wading shoes and crossed.

    Comments: June 25 & 26, 2006. We hiked from Upper Troublesome Creek to Byers Lake campground. The trail for the first 5 miles is well worn but after Ultima Poole, it is far less traveled. The trail has a few steep, slippery bits as the trail dips up and down a lot to cross streams. We didn’t see any big wildlife, but fresh signs of moose, bear, and hoof prints. Along the river, the trail crosses many small streams, some with some fairly steep descents and ascents to cross the stream. The trail follows the river until it takes a sharp left up hill. The trail is a fairly steady up hill till you come out of the woods. There are lots of small ponds to get water on the upper section. The trail is mostly visible, except in a few places. Just look around and you will find the rock cairns and the trail. Some of the rock cairns are more clear than others. Just before you get to the summit at Tarn Point the trail goes right along the north edge, right on the edge of a pond and is marked with yellow paint dots on the rocks. There was a very steep snow field making using the trail impassable and we climbed up the slope and went northeast and met up with the trail just below Tarn Point. The weather was wet and the clouds were right on the deck , so we only had 200 – 300 feet of visibility at times. The trail back to Byers Lake was very clear, a lot more traffic. The upper part of the trail down to Byers Lake was very slippery and muddy in parts, more so than I remember from past hikes on the trail. We were glad we had walking poles and met up with someone else who had wished she hadn’t left hers at home. The bridge over the creek at the north end of Byers Lake that was knocked down in 2005 and sort of fixed is useable and was currently being repaired in a big way, it should be really nice now.

  3. Eruk, Anchorage Boy Scout Troop 26 — February 20, 2013

    Talked to someone who hiked on out Troublesome Creek. He said it was very steep past Tarn Point, then the trail is overgrown so they couldn’t see their shoes. But no bears there.

  4. Tom V. — February 20, 2013

    Just finished this hike on 9/4/06. The last portion down the Troublesome Creek trail is washed out, approximately 5 miles (it took us almost 6 hours to hike the 5 miles). It was very difficult with log jams in the trail and some areas where we had to cross where the hillsides slid down into the creek. I would recommend to descend down to Byers Lake.

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