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|Popular For||Day hiking, backpacking|
|Length||11.65 miles (18.75 km) roundtrip|
|Minimum Elevation||3583 ft (3583 m)|
|Maximum Elevation||4418 ft (1347 m)|
|Elevation Gain||3068 ft (935 m)|
|Season||Summer (early June – September)|
|Navigation||Easy, but portions off-trail|
|Estimated Time||3-6 hours|
|Region||White Mountains (Steese) – Eagle Summit|
|Location||Milepost 107.1 Steese Highway (Alaska Route 6)|
|Parking||Medium lot – Eagle Summit Wayside|
Mastodon Dome Overview
The Mastodon Dome Hike, starting from the Eagle Summit Wayside on the Steese Highway, is surprisingly beautiful and entirely above the treeline. Just under 12 miles in length, it is fairly easy to do in a day but does have a few steep sections and a bit of off-trail walking in open tundra. If you haven’t done much hiking off-trail, this would be a good start since navigation is easy on the open tundra ridges, it’s only about 1.5 miles off-trail, and there are intermittent social/ATV tracks can aid in navigation. It’s a great alternative if you don’t have time to do the 30-mile Pinnell Mountain Trail that starts at the same location.
In late June and early July, the wildflowers are plentiful. This location has one of the densest populations of alpine forget-me-nots (the Alaska State Flower) that I have seen. There are Dall sheep, caribou, and moose in the area as well as predators such as wolves and bears. Be familiar with bear behavior and safety. It is wise to carry bear spray and/or a firearm and know how to use them!
The Mastodon Dome trail/route starts on the opposite side of the Steese Highway from the parking area. You’ll see a very distinct ATV trail heading up the steep hill just southeast of the wayside. You can start the hike up that hill, or try to avoid the elevation change by walking around the west side of the hill (off-trail), staying at the same elevation. The side-hilling is a bit uneven and uncomfortable for my knees, so I typically choose to go up and over.
Once over (or around the first ridge), continue across the saddle to the next set of rolling hills. The ATV trail here is still well-defined, but it may be more comfortable and drier to hike across the tundra. The second butte-like hill affords some nice views of Pinnell Mountain to the north.
Another small saddle brings you to the last hill before the climb up Mastodon Dome. You can skirt the last section of this hill a bit to the left (east) side to avoid climbing the whole thing. Now you will descend to the last saddle before the short, but steep climb up Mastodon Dome.
An obvious trail cuts up the steepest section of the Dome, just right of some small talus and rocky outcrops. The steepest section is very short-lived, it’s only about 230 feet to the summit from the saddle. The views are certainly nice, with seemingly endless rolling hills and mountains to the south. Enjoy the views, eat a snack, and head back the way you came.
The Mastodon Dome trailhead is located at milepost 107.1 along the Steese Highway at the well-marked Eagle Summit Wayside. The lot is not huge, so try to not take up to much space as this hike shares the lot with the popular Pinnell Mountain Trail. There is an outhouse and hand-washing station in the parking area.
To get there, follow the Steese Highway (AK-2) north out of Fairbanks. In Fox, veer right at a weigh station to continue on the Steese (becomes AK-6). At about milepost 85, the Steese is no longer paved but is usually in good condition. Continue to the parking area on the left at the Eagle Summit Wayside.