Rounding out the green forests of Wrangell, Alaska is a canopy-covered trail that surprises newcomers, every time. Mount Dewey, located within shouting distance from downtown and popular with local families, is often deemed too short, too easy, and too close in for hardy hikers like myself. Mistake. Since first trotting up the wooden steps and narrow benchways of this trail in 2010, Mount Dewey’s half-mile adventure into the towering spruce of southeast Alaska has raised my spirits, every single time.
Technically alone during July’s hike while serving as crew aboard an Un-Cruise Adventure ship, but with 17 young explorers and their parents, I found my feet plodding up McKinnon Street and toward the trailhead after being granted three hours of free time. Easy access through one of Wrangell’s most interesting downtown neighborhoods (a special howdy to the nice lady working in her garden as I went up the steps, and to her dogs, who didn’t bark at me) meant a scenic tour of homes perched on the fringe of town, ample yards flush with native plants, and successful gardens growing things like squash, raspberries, and beets. Many people might miss this peek into small town Alaska life, I’ll wager, as they hurry past on their way to the trailhead. But what a treasure for visiting children! Friendly dogs, interesting vegetables, and kind people; what more could an out-of-town family ask for?
Definitely minimalist in its entrance, the Mount Dewey trailhead is a sharp left off a dirt road around the corner of Reid Street, but tread is well-maintained and clear. With a 400-foot elevation gain at just over .25 miles one way, Mount Dewey is certainly not a hike for those looking for an all day experience, but for parents seeking a creative way to expend some youthful energy, or seek a vantage point for Wrangell and Zimovia Strait, the hike is a must-do.
Mount Dewey also has a bit of history attached to it. John Muir, the naturalist and explorer who used Wrangell as his headquarters for sojourns into the Stikine delta, often found his way up and around the Mount Dewey area, using the natural vista as a perfect place to plot and survey the mountains and waterways, beyond.
Kids will enjoy the trip-trap sound of their shoes on the wooden walkways that cover much of the trail, and the abundance of blueberry bushes lining the way. Bring a bucket or bag to secure your bounty, or do as I did and sit near the viewing deck at the top and munch away, hands and lips turning a distinctive blue-red from the savory juice.
For grownups, it’s the view that keeps many of us coming back. Wrangell’s horseshoe shape and interesting activity is clearly witnessed from the top, and far-off mountains beckon with the same allure as during John Muir’s time. The trail is also quiet, with the hush only a duff-laden forest floor can provide, often the only sounds coming from cheeky squirrels and clucking ravens hidden among the treetops.
Mount Dewey is good. It’s very, very good, if for no other reason than the simple, short, sweet joys of all that is lovely about Alaska family travel. And for that we don’t need more than a mile.
If you go:
– Follow McKinnon Street uphill to a set of stairs, head up again, turning left at the top and following Reid Street to the trailhead sign. The Wrangell Convention and Visitors Bureau can provide a helpful map.
– Be cautious on the narrow, wooden walkways and stairs, especially on rainy or damp days. Encourage walking at all times, and be sure to yield to downhill hikers.
– Bring water, for although the walk is short, it is an uphill climb, and hikers will get thirsty.
For more family fun in Wrangell: