Total Distance: 22 km
Return Time: 2-3 days
Elevation Gain: 940 m
Nines Creek South weaves its way up through two small canyons before widening out. The wide creek valley is easy hiking surrounded by beautfiul Kluane mountains. Near the end of Nines Creek South, where the creek splits, you can climb to a spectacular alpine area with many little lakes and large mounds to explore (highly recommended). If just hiking Nines Creek South (not to the lakes), it is 8.4 km (one way) with 540 m elevation gain. Hiking to the lakes adds 2.4 km (one way) and 400 m elevation gain (about 1.5 hours extra one way).
Drive 97 km north of Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway. Continue 9 km after the Congdon Creek Campground, look for a gravel road on your left. Take this road and follow it around the gravel pit. The road bends right after 400 meters, and after another 400 meters look for a road on your left, before the end of the gravel pit.
The road can be driven 4.3 km to a suitable parking spot, even in a small car. If you drive any further, you may end up in an active mining area, so best to park your car before this.
NOTE: This hike is within the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary and not in Kluane National Park & Reserve.
The return distance is from the parking spot to the alpine lakes above Nines Creek South.
Start by hiking along the rest of the mining road. From the parking spot, you will soon reach the main mining area, and then shortly after you will be forced along the left bank of the creek.
Continue following the mining road when you can. There are a few short sections that require you to go into the trees, but there are paths through them.
Eventually the creek valley will widen and you can walk on the rocks beside Nines Creek. Then you will come to a point where two valleys meet in a 'Y'. The left branch is Nines South, the right branch is Nines North. Follow the left creek.
After 1 km, you will reach a canyon. If water levels are low, you can hop across the creek in the canyon. If water levels are high, you can climb up onto the right bank before the start of the canyon. There are some interesting rock pillar features in the canyon.
Continue up the creek from the canyon. There is another section up ahead where the creek runs against the rocky right bank, forcing you to side-hill on a loose, rocky slope on the left bank. This is the most difficult section, so move carefully when side-hilling.
From here, the creek valley widens and it is relatively easy walking up to the end of the creek valley. It is 5.4 km from where Nines Creek splits into North and South to near the end of the valley, where the creek splits again.
When you reach the point where the creek splits, turn right and follow this creek about 500 m before leaving the creek and entering the bushes. You are aiming for the vegetated ridge up on the left. Pick your way up through the bushes until you reach the alpine where the hiking gets easier. Zigzag up the ridges until you reach the top, where interesting mounds dot the area amongst pockets of little alpine lakes. Explore the incredibly beautiful area. It is 2.4 km and 400 m elevation gain from where Nines Creek south splits, to the alpine lakes.
If camping, this is a picturesque area. Find a dry, flat spot to camp. This is an option to drop down to the valley beyond the lakes the next day, or even hike up and over a pass to connect to Nines North.