Steese National Conservation Area

Plan Your Visit

Visiting the Steese NCA means making your own adventure. There are no established campgrounds and only two emergency trail shelters cabins in the more than one million acres of public lands comprising the Steese NCA. For those willing to explore on their own, the Steese NCA offers a unique opportunity to see a landscape little altered by humankind. However, careful planning is required for a safe trip.

Location map for the Steese National Conservation Area 

Access to the SNCA

The Steese Highway leads northeast from Fairbanks and passes between the South and North units of the Steese NCA before ending in Circle at the Yukon River. Only a handful of primitive roads actually enter the edges of the Steese NCA, so most visitors gain access via trails or Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River, which flows through the middle of the South Unit. At Nome Creek, Faith Creek, Montana Creek/Bachelor Creek, and Porcupine Creek, roads will bring you close to the North Unit boundary. Roads following Bottom Dollar Creek and Harrison Creek enter the northern portion of the South Unit. All of these roads are unmaintained, and most are suitable only for high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles or off-highway vehicles.

Except for the Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail, both winter and summer routes within the Steese NCA are unmaintained and unmarked. Restrictions on off-highway vehicles apply to some areas.  (See the Off-Highway Vehicle page for more information. The BLM does not maintain any winter trails in the SNCA, so visitors must be prepared for challenging trail conditions that may include drifted snow, poor visibility, extreme cold, and thin ice on frozen rivers and streams.

Camping

Only backcountry camping is available in the Steese NCA. The two emergency trail shelters on the Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail are available on a first-come, first-served basis to users of this non-motorized trail.

Activities

 

Popular activities in the summer include hiking and backpacking, hunting and wildlife viewing, bird-watching, watching the midnight sun, canoeing and rafting, fishing, and rock climbing. Most rock-climbing occurs on Mount Prindle, located within the Mount Prindle Research Natural Area. This area is closed to motor vehicles but can be reached on foot from Nome Creek valley in the White Mountains National Recreation Area or from Zephyr Creek, a tributary to Faith Creek.

 Two snowmobiles parked on a frozen river with the setting sun in the background
Snowmobilers take a break on a frozen stream while riding in the Steese NCA's South Unit.
In winter the Steese NCA provides solitude and untouched scenery to those intrepid travelers who explore it by ski, snowshoe, dog-sled, or snowmobile. Sled dog racers in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race traverse the western corner of the South Unit each February.

Travel Safely

Giardia

All water should be treated to prevent giardiasis. This intestinal parasite can leave you feeling miserable for weeks. Boiling your drinking water is the best way to kill the organism.

Bears

Although there have been few problem bears in the Steese NCA, there are black and brown bears in the area. Prudent campers cook and store food well away (and downwind if possible) from tents and boats. Don't bury cans or garbage; bears will find them and make a mess. Pack it in, pack it out. Be alert and make plenty of noise when walking through areas where bears may be present. The Web site of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides other suggestions for safe travel in bear country.

Topographic Maps
The following U.S. Geological Survey 1:250,000 maps cover the Steese NCA:
 
Circle
Charley River
 
The following U.S. Geological Survey inch-to-the-mile (1:63,360) maps show the SNCA in greater detail:
 
North Unit
Circle B-4, B-5, C-3, C-4, C-5, C-6, D-3, D-4, D-5
 
South Unit
Circle A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-4
Charley River A-6