The Red Dog Mine is located in a wild and remote area of north-western Alaska. The area is fly-in/fly-out access only and can really only be visited by workers and contractors at the mine. For the lucky worker who is also a hiker and explorer, the mine is situated in the middle of beautiful mountain ranges. This area is deep in the tundra and on the migration path of the caribou and muskox. Hiking, walking, trekking, and alpine touring are common after-work activities from the mine. In the summer months, the sun barely sets, so at the cost of a few hours of sleep, there is a whole day of hiking available after work.
But where to go? After several trips to the area, I have ventured in all directions and have compiled a list of all the areas that can be reached from the mine.
1 – Smiley
The easiest hike (excluding a walk to the fish weir of course) is up Smiley Mountain. This is best achieved from CC camp (either overnight there or hitch a ride from PAC). There is a tower on the mountain making for a easy beeline up the slope. There is a river crossing to figure out just after CC camp but then it is straight forward.
2 – Volcano
Volcano peak is an aptly named summit visible from the mine area.
I have attempted to hike Volcano twice unsuccessfully. Failure had a lot to do with the amount of snow and running out of daylight and time. My third attempt was successful but there were no views. My 4th attempt was also a success and had great views. Each time I have taken a different route and the most direct bee-line from the mine isn’t necessarily the best choice. It is wise to study the topography of the area and avoid the brambles and river valleys. The starting point is straightforward – head out of the PAC main doors and walk west, below the back-dam and into the wild.
3 – Deadlock
Deadlock is the largest mountain near the mine and is most easily accessible from the the opposite side of the pit. I wasn’t able to negotiate a ride, so I have attempted once and succeeded another from walking directly from PAC towards the fish weir and then looping back around the mine area.
Walking out of PAC and circling around to hike Deadlock in the snow is by far my greatest Red Dog achievement to date. It took around 6 hours round trip and this after a long 10 hour day of work.
4 – Anxiety Ridge
Anxiety Ridge is a range not far from the Red Dog Airport. I hitched a ride from PAC to CC camp to venture out for this one. After gaining the ridge which takes a couple hours, the mountain wraps around like a U shape with fantastic views in all directions.
5 – Pinhead
After hiking everything within reach of the mine, someone pointed out that I missed something. That’s when I discovered that Pinhead mountain was a thing. I guess I’ll have to save it for next time.