Burwash Uplands / Amphitheatre Mountain Route
Distance: 45 km (28 mi) approx.
Time: 3.5 - 4 days
Elevation gain: 1,095 m (3,592')
Maximum elevation: 1,960 m (6,430')
Trailhead: 700 m (2,300’) north of the Duke River Bridge, 9.5 km (6 mi) north of Burwash Landing on the Alaska Highway.
Topo maps: Duke River 115 G/6
The Burwash Uplands circuit covers diverse terrain including alpine meadows, creek beds and canyons. There are plenty of creek crossings but no difficult ones. There is no difficult rock climbing and very little bushwhacking. There are boggy patches, which are tiring to walk through, but all in all, the hike, with its spectacular variety of flora and fauna (including caribou and Dall sheep) is an inspiration to all.
A route is not a trail
Routes are not marked with signs or maintained in any manner. The route described here is only a suggestion that may help guide you on your trip. Self-reliance and wilderness travel experience are essential, including excellent route finding skills, map and compass skills. It is the responsibility of individual hikers who choose to follow such routes to adequately prepare and be prepared to rely on themselves.
The route follows an old mining road into the open meadows of the Uplands, then around Amphitheatre Mountain and back to the Uplands.
This route begins at the Duke River, 9.5 kilometres north of Burwash Landing. After crossing the bridge, turn left onto a narrow gravel road. You can drive on this old mining road for 5 to 8 kms, depending on your vehicle and road conditions. After about 5 km of hiking or driving, the road branches to your right at a steep hill; this may be as far as you can drive. If so, leave your vehicle where it will not obstruct traffic; hike up the hill, past a trailer, and uphill along the road for about 5 km. Turn off the road (hiking) to the west (left). There are two ways to get to Burwash Creek from here:
1) Aim for a low saddle on the northwest end of Amphitheatre Mountain. This will take you across open sub alpine meadows just below the Burwash Uplands hill. Watch for caribou in this area. Once over the saddle, drop down to Burwash Creek. Or,
2) Continue to follow the old mining road, which will also take you to Burwash Creek. This is a longer but easier route.
Once at the Creek, follow it first West then South (upstream). There is a Warden patrol cabin situated at the base of a rock outcrop. There are many good camping places in this area. Please camp at least 100 meters from the Warden cabin and remember to practice low-impact camping (distance from old mining road to Warden patrol cabin: 7 km).
This is a nice side trip for an excellent view of the Donjek river valley. To reach this viewpoint, continue along Burwash creek past the patrol cabin for about 1/4 km. At this point an old mining road leads to the west and is easy to follow to Hoge pass. (Distance from Warden patrol cabin to Hoge Pass: 5 km).
After returning from Hoge pass head back down Burwash Creek (north) for 1 km, then turn east and continue along the south side of Amphitheatre Mountain. Gradually climb to about 1890 m (6200') from where you will have a great view of the hoodoos. Continue down to Granite Creek right on the park boundary. You will be required to do some bushwhacking. Interesting sandstone formations (the size of small boulders) and petrified wood in eroded gullies can be seen here. Follow along Granite Creek until you reach Badlands Creek where it is possible to bushwhack up to the alpine (it may look steep and the bush is dense). Once in the alpine, continue over the saddle to a small lake (good for camping). If not climbing here, one is hemmed in by the creek banks and ends up bushwhacking up an equally steep climb after 3 km. The latter route is in alpine terrain and requires some creek hopping. Coming out on the alpine again is glorious. Continue across the alpine for 3 km to a small creek where an evening camp may be set up. The section from Burwash Creek to this point is 15 km long.
The route is then straightforward with very little climbing to get to the road. The bogs are challenging in this area. It isn't too wet, but it can be tedious balancing from grassy knob to grassy knob. This section is 5.5 km long.
What you need to know
Unfortunately, cases of giardia have been reported in Kluane, so water boiling, tablets or filters are recommended.
For all overnight trips in the park Approved Bear Resistant Food Canisters are mandatory and a Wilderness Permit is required. Both can be obtained from the Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitor Centre in Haines Junction or at the Thechàl Dhâl Visitor Centre. For more information, Overnight registration.
Bear sightings are common in this area. Review recommendations for travel in the You Are In Bear Country brochure. Please report all bear sightings to the staff at the Visitor Centre.
Cellular telephones do not work in most of the park. Satellite phones or satellite messaging devices are strongly recommended.