Are you looking for solitude, open vistas and midnight sunshine? JackKnife Mountain is the perfect place to find all of those things. Kodiak Brown Bears and Salmon swarm its slopes, while eagles soar to the brown clad heights. On can view the magnificent Wood River Range from it's ridgeline and summit, as well as the pristine waters of Lake Aleknagik, amidst a host of equally stunning lakes.
JackKnife is a prominent peak rising above Lake Aleknagik in the heart of Southwest Alaska. Its pinnacled summit projects steeply like a JackKnife into the Alaskan sky, while the ridgeline seems to fold back on itself. It is located at the southeast edge of the Wood River Mountains. Kodiak Brown Bears hunt Salmon beneath JackKnife's rugged slopes. Golden Eagles inhabit it's heights. About 30 miles from the town of Dillingham, Alaska, JackKnife can easily be seen from Dillingham with it's jagged ridge poking into the air. Although only just over 2300 feet in elevation, JackKnife Mountain has 1901 feet of prominence.
The Wood River Mountains are steep, brushy and have lots of loose rock. They are located in the Wood-TikChik State Park, a massive pantheon of peaks, glaciers and wilderness lakes. This makes JackKnife a part of the largest state park in the United States, as well as one of the most remote mountains in the state park system.
There are, however, only a few glaciers in the Wood River Range, so JackKnife Mountain is shaped by the harsh winds and bitter cold rain and snow storms that come of off Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea. The summit of JackKnife can be reached via a two mile trail located near a private summer camp (Camp Polaris).
The trail is open for anyone to use any time of the year. Please show respect for the cabins and other buildings located at the small camp at the base of JackKnife. The trail itself is in good shape, but only in July and August is the trail cleared for use, so if you climb any time other then those months expect some down trees, heavy brush and muddy conditions from the abundant rainfall. About one mile up the trail on JackKnife an avalanche slope is encountered and during wet conditions this is especially dangerous to ascend. Once the ridgetop is reached however an easy walk to the northwest along the ridge will give easy access to the summit. With long summer days in Alaska the sun won't set until after midnight and spectacular views can be had in all directions from the summit. JackKnife is truly one of Alaska's hidden treasures for both the first time climber or the experienced climber.
Anyone who wishes to climb JackKnife Mountain certainly needs a boat. It's a 10 mile ride by boat from the little town of Aleknagik, Alaska to Camp Polaris where the trail to JackKnife Mountain is located. By barge (which I took) it takes two hours to reach Camp Polaris. By motor boat it's only half an hour to forty five minutes, depending on the weather. Once you arrive at Camp Polaris, A bunch of shacks painted red, walk to the right of the big red building in the center of the camp and towards the cabins on the right side of the camp. The trail is located next to the outhouses and simply says "Mountain Trail".
There are no permits required to climb this mountain. No Fees. JackKnife is open any time of the year. Just get permission from people at Camp Polaris, if they are there, in order to climb it. Many people in the community of Aleknagik boat out to Camp Polaris and ascend the mountain from the trail quite often. It is really a place of benefit for the community.
When To ClimbJackKnife is usually climbed in the short Alaskan summer months, June through late August or early September. However, expect the possibility of cold rain anytime during that period. Out of the 10 days I spent at the camp beneath JackKnife it rained 8 days and got as cold as 45 during the day in mid July. The trail is hazerdous when wet so it's better to climb after a dry period. Expect rain anytime!
CampingI don't believe camping is allowed on or around the mountain. However, the cabins located at Camp Polaris beneath JackKnife can be used if needed. Please show respect when staying in these cabins as those are intended for the 45 or so children from Dillingham who spend 10 days enjoying the wilderness at a Christian camp.
- JackKnife info page
Good info on JackKnife Mountain. Weather and local conditions as well as maps of the area.