hiking table top mountain in alaska

table top mountain fairbanks alaska

I almost said “happy Monday,” then I realized it’s actually Tuesday, and my week is totally off-kilter…but in the best possible way. Memorial Day Weekend, basically the honorary start of summer, has come and gone, and the lower 48 is celebrating sweet, sweet summertime. Here in interior Alaska, our mornings are cool, are days are bright, beautiful, and long. We decided to take advantage of the four-day weekend, and we spent a day hiking Table Top Mountain with some friends. It was exactly the reset we needed, and it was the perfect way to kick off summer vacation.

Table Top Mountain in Fairbanks, Alaska

The best part of this entire hike was that we chose it because it was “local,” and we didn’t have to brace the crowds in Denali for the weekend’s hike. When searching AllTrails, I specifically input local hikes and, on the map, Table Top Mountain looks close. We had a few others in mind, but we chose this hike because it was closest and seemed like the perfect fit for everyone’s individual skillsets for this first real hike of the season.

I didn’t, however, take into account the sheer size of Alaska when choosing this hike. While, yes, Table Top Mountain is in Fairbanks, it’s also two hours away from downtown Fairbanks, so it was a proper little drive. Our hikes in Washington were about two hours away, as well…but that took us wayyyy out there. Long story short though, we drove two hours and still hiked in Fairbanks.

table top mountain fairbanks alaska

table top mountain fairbanks alaska

table top mountain fairbanks

Hiking Table Top Mountain

I know I’ve spoken a little about Alaska’s fickle spring temperament, but I didn’t realize that green-up didn’t happen all at once. In fact, it was still quite chilly out at Table Top Mountain, and the trees definitely weren’t green yet. It dropped from about 52F at Fort Wainwright to about 42F at the trailhead, and I’d hazard a guess that we were closer to the upper-30s when we reached the summit.

The trail was pretty wet, but it was more passable than that time we hiked Gold Mint Trail in Hatcher Pass. Also, unlike the dense forest hikes we did in Washington, Table Top Mountain trail clearly showed signs of a fairly recent wildfire, which had basically clear-cut the entire forest. It was still beautiful and offered gorgeous views, but I have to wonder how spectacular it must have looked before the fires.

This is the first long hike that Mieke has done on her own two feet. And, with significant elevation gain, we were so proud! We made it to the epically windy top, and she was all in for treats whilst Spencer admitted he didn’t like hiking and only does it for me (which I’ll take!)

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hiking table top mountain

hiking table top mountain

How We Approach Hiking in Alaska

We’ve hiked a lot of places now. We’ve done beautiful glacier hikes like Emmons Moraine in Washington. We hiked to Mangwolsa Temple in South Korea and the Marble Mountains in Vietnam. We’ve hiked slot canyons in Utah. Each hike has been slightly different, and Alaska is no exception.

When we hike in Alaska, our primary concerns are bug/mosquito control, wildlife deterrents (specifically bear and moose), and GPS tracking. It’s so wild here that we need to make sure we’re covered. We use 100% Deet mosquito spray because they’re wild on the trail, we have bear spray and horns, and Ryan uses OnX Hunt to track us even when there’s no cell service. We didn’t need any of these whilst hiking Table Top Mountain, but we always try to be prepared.

table top mountain fairbanks alaska

table top mountain

best hikes fairbanks alaska

Tips for Hiking Table Top Mountain

Trail Length: AllTrails clocks this one in at 4.6 miles roundtrip if you summit Table Top.

Level of Difficulty: This trail is listed as Moderate, and I think that’s pretty accurate. The elevation gain and the scramble up the rocks at the top was a bit of a challenge, but it was so fun.

Cost: Free! The last 15 miles to the trailhead were dirt road, and there’s no real parking lot at the trailhead. Simply pull off to the side and make your way up.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on- and off-leash. We brought Danny, and we kept her leashed just in case of wildlife.

Tips: The temperature swing from base to summit was pretty significant, and we actually went through a little snow squall near the top. Part of the trail is still snow-covered at the top, which made a section difficult to pass, but it was still possible. Wear appropriate footwear, and be prepared to either trudge through it or detour/scramble around it slightly.

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