Eldorado - Sentinel

Total Distance: 15 km
Return Time: 4 hours
Elevation Gain: 655 m
Difficulty: Moderate
Region: Atlin
Traditional Territory: TRTFN

The alpine of the Eldorado Creek Valley is a beautiful area south of Atlin, near Sentinel Mountain in the Johnson Range. This is recommended as a backpacking trip with 1-2 nights in the alpine and adding on a side trip up Sentinel Mountain and its extensive ridge. The views along the ridge are beautiful, especially if you get over to the western extent which offers sweeping views of Atlin Lake and the distant icefields. Add distance, time and elevation if you are hiking Sentinel Mountain and its ridge (add 8-10 km return and another 500 m elevation gain). Note Sentinel Mountain and the ridge can also be accessed from Burdette Creek from the south, where the Atlin Alpine Society rents a hut.

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Driving Directions

From Atlin take the Warm Bay Road 15.4 km. As you cross the McKee Creek bridge, the parking area and trailhead sign are on the left for Eldorado Creek Trail.

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Route Description

From the parking area, follow the road off to the left. Shortly after you will come to a fork in the road, take the road to the left (there is also a small yellow hiking sign). Walk down the road for about 100 m and watch for another small, yellow hiking sign that indicates a hiking trail to the right. The road continues to a placer mining operation, where there is no entry allowed.

Follow the single-track hiking trail for a short while, until you join up with an ATV-size trail heading left. Follow the ATV trail as it heads steadily uphill. There is a fair bit of soapberry along this part of the trail and therefore higher bear activity mid-July to mid-August. After 2.8 km from the trailhead, there is a muddy boggy section. Just before this there is a smaller trail that heads around it to the right (watch again for the yellow trail sign markers). This trail brings you around the boggy section and then rejoins the ATV trail.

It is another ~1.5 km from here to the subalpine where the trail levels out a bit and you start to get more mountain views through the sub-alpine fir. Soon after that you'll reach Eldorado Creek (5.5 km from the trailhead). There is evidence of a camp (fire ring and large opening) as well as the old dam from the gold rush era.

Cross the creek and pick up the ATV trail on the other side. It is a bit more of a faint/overgrown trail at this point. But do your best to follow it through the shrub birch as it takes you up the valley, higher into the alpine. The ATV trail eventually ends at the first of several grassy open meadows. Pick your way east, staying high to avoid any of the thicker brush and treed areas. These meadows can be tricky walking with hummock or tussock grass at times, requiring careful foot placement and balance.

Hike until you cross a small creek with a gravel bank, flowing from the northeast. You may find good camping here amongst the wildflowers. You can also continue higher into the alpine at the head of the Eldorado Creek Valley, traversing the open meadows with sparse trees. Here there is good camping along either side of Eldorado Creek. If you camp higher up the valley, you are closer to the beginning of the Sentinel Mountain hike. It is about 2 km from the Eldorado Creek crossing until you reach the start of some good camping options.

There is plenty of wildlife in the area. Marmots abound with their sharp whistle sounding through the alpine. Caribou are common in the area along with sheep on some of the grassy hills and ridges above, and the Mountain Goats claim the high ridges of Sentinel, as evidenced by their wool clinging to the rocks. Also watch for curious White-Tailed Ptarmigan on Sentinel Ridge.

EXTENDED HIKE - Sentinel Mountain & Ridge

It is well worth doing the side trip to Sentinel Mountain (altitude 1,928 m), either as a long day trip from the trailhead or as a side trip from a basecamp up in the alpine of Eldorado Creek. From the trailhead up to Sentinel Mountain and back is 22.4 km (return) and 1,140 m elevation gain. You can also add on some of Sentinel Ridge and come down a different way to the valley for a loop (see yellow line on the Google Earth image as a suggestion). This loop option does not add much distance, just a bit more elevation gain as you hike another sub peak along the ridge. Hiking further west along the ridge is also worth it to get better views of Atlin Lake.

From the Eldorado Creek alpine as shown on the GPS as 'potential camp', head up the ridge that is to the east, with small rocky mounds and outcrops on top. From here it is a nice traverse southeast and south towards the base of the rocky peak of Sentinel Mountain. The main climb of Sentinel from the ridge, is about 200 m elevation gain over large talus and steep slopes, but it is not overly technical. Just take your time. From the top of Sentinel Mountain, you can see down to the meandering creek of Wilson Creek, and the rolling hills, rocky peaks and alpine lakes. Either head back down from here, if just doing the mountain, or continue to do the ridge hike.

To continue hiking the ridge west to gain better views of the surrounding mountains and Atlin Lake, head slightly downhill from Sentinel Mountain along the beautiful narrow, rocky ridge. There is a little bit of exposure along this section of the rocky ridge, but that just adds to the excitement and there is ample room to feel safe. After this you start going up to the next small sub peak along the ridge, with a mix of talus and alpine tundra. There is a great view down to a beautiful alpine lake on the north side of the ridge on the Eldorado Creek Valley side.

Continue along the ridge to the next sub peak. You should be able to see the Burdette Cabin down in the valley on the south side of the ridge (see the Atlin Alpine Society). From the second sub peak, continue down to another smaller sub peak with a final viewpoint over the expansive Atlin Lake. You can even see across to the Llewellyn Glacier to the southwest. All in all, it is about 3 km from the top of Sentinel Mountain to the viewpoint at the western end of the ridge.

From this point the ridge splits to the southwest and northwest. The northwest ridge would connect back down to Eldorado Creek, which you could follow down essentially to the Eldorado Creek Crossing and ATV trail. You are losing a lot of elevation this way and getting into some subalpine vegetation with more shrubs and trees, but it could be worth it if you are just doing a very long day hike from the trailhead. Otherwise consider heading down the ridge shown on the Google Earth map (yellow line).

The Eldorado Creek Trail gives you access to so many options to add on your own adventure.

Route Photos

Hiking up the ATV trail.

Reaching the sub-alpine when the views start to open up.

Reaching the sub-alpine, looking back down the Eldorado Creek Valley after crossing Eldorado Creek.

Wildflowers abound in the alpine.

After about 7.5 km from the trailhead you reach some great camping spots in the alpine.

Looking back down the Eldorado Creek Valley after hiking the ridge to the east, on the way to Sentinel Mountain.

Nearing the final climb up Sentinel Mountain.

To hike the ridge from Sentinel Mountain, hike down slightly to reach the rocky ridge. Fog is common in the area, but adds to the ambience.

Ridge walking (photo credit A. Cooper).

Following the ridge west you get better and better views of Atlin Lake with Llewellyn Glacier in the distance (photo credit M. Pratt).

Views looking north along the ridge (photo credit A. Cooper).

Satellite View

Route Comments

Submit a comment for Eldorado - Sentinel

CKM September 20, 2022
Gem of a hike!!! Beautiful spot to camp in the alpine, right by a nice water source, and the Sentinel ridge hike has really amazing views of the surrounding valleys, Atlin lake, and distant glaciers.

Eldorado trail has a good amount of elevation gain and some drawn-out uphills. The trail is marked and is extremely well kept (Thanks Atlin Alpine Society!!!). Sentinel ridge is a classic ridge walk. Open and rocky but nothing technical, just need to be comfortable with heights and walking on boulders. If you aren't comfortable with scree walking back down the way you came might be more preferable then dropping off sub peak 1. Really awesome "moderate" hike, could be someone's first ridge hike but is also interesting enough for folks that are used to something a bit more challenging. Lots of opportunity to explore other ridges and mountains in the area. There were a few dogs on the ridge hike with us and the dogs made it but maybe opt to leave your furry loved one at home if they are prone to running off- the ridge is a bit narrow in some spots and if your dog runs off the cliff side of the ridge they won't be running back up.