Honolulu Hoop * * *
29 miles 2-4 days
N. Talkeetna Mountains hike
Some forest, brush; mostly tundra
3,250 foot gain
12 mile walk
Honolulu Creek paddle
Low volume –150 feet/mile
17 mile paddle
A scenic hike in the northern Talkeetna Mountains to run the steep, challenging and technical but beautiful Honolulu Creek (Class IV+). Hike involves forest, brush, and extensive tundra walking with views of Denali’s east side and the Talkeetnas. Best done in June when upper North Fork of Honolulu is runnable and alpine and subalpine vegetation not fully leafed out. A loop trip that begins and ends at Parks Highway Crossing of Honolulu Creek. A remote, difficult run in a brushy canyon.
Description A thirty mile weekend of serious wilderness packrafting. The 6-10 hour walk-in is mostly tundra, open forest, moose trail, and easy brush (B4 or below). Paddling begins with an hour and a half on the North Fork of Honolulu Creek (PR 3-4). Camp above the confluence of Goat Lake Creek and Honolulu Creek. Early start with good communication and paddling skills needed for the long day (8-14 hours) down the 12 miles of Honolulu Creek with some PR 5 paddling unavoidable. Start Parks Highway at Honolulu Creek Bridge, 63.0637 N 149.54335 W. Finish A Loop.
Hiking Starting at the Honolulu Creek bridge walk north along the Parks Highway about a quarter mile or less, looking east 20 yards for the start of a low ridgeline across a steep erosion gully, itself hidden below overhanging alders. The ridge leads to the edge of an ancient alluvial bench 100-200 feet above the forested flats of Honolulu Creek. Follow the edge east for about an hour or so through open spruce-birch forest with some alder patches. En route cross over a few gullies and creeks and beneath the Fairbanks-Anchorage intertie power-line. Eventually (2.5 miles) this rim swings north, parallel to a tributary of Honoulu Creek that leads into the high country. As the rim swings north, intercept a moose trail that weaves in and out of rim-side alder patches (B4). Avoid heading directly up-stream, and instead stay in blueberry meadows among thick alder patches in an effort to gain the left ridgeline. Stay high to avoid alders (B3) on intermittent caribou trails, dropping down to follow the creek upstream of an old moraine. Tundra walking and scree climbing lead up the pass and beyond to the North Fork of Honolulu Creek. During spring run-off, this little creek is runnable from below the 3,400 feet elevation. A good place to put in is where two creeks come in on river left with little incised gorges.
Section three (black on map) may best be portaged (half a mile) to easy water downstream of the first mapped river right stream and river left pond. Section four (green on map) is relaxing PR 2-3 in an open, broad valley that’s over all too quickly. It drops fast (125 feet/mile) but easily.
Relaxation is interrupted in section seven (three red lines across creek), a short, sharp-schist gorge with three powerful drops (PR 5) that can be portaged bankside, the first on river left, the next river right, and the last on river left. The last two arrive back to back. All are runnable in a packraft.
Johnson’s Alaska Whitewater describes section eight (red on map) as a “manky boulder garden” (2 miles, 90 feet/mile, PR 3-4). It goes on for nearly an hour with big waves and steep channels among short splits in the creek. Wood becomes an increasing concern.