Chugach Mountains, Anchorage
Hiking Flat Top was a routine for the friends in Anchorage that I was visiting so they had no problems. For a flat-lander like me from Florida, it was a heck of a workout! The motivation to make it to the top was that I could yell at them for bringing me along.
Despite how strenuous it was, I had a great time. The view from the top was totally worth it. I almost turned back a few times and I would have regretted it.
The trail ends and the grand finale is climb to the top that was exciting.
If you're in to hiking, this is a must-do!
Chugach State park is a huge 1/2 million acre park on Anchorage's east side. It offers many hiking opportunities a short drive from downtown Anchorage. I hiked up Flatop mountain on the cities southeast side.
McHugh Creek Recreation Area is a great place to send an hour, an afternoon or a day. It is located at mile 112 Seward Highway about 17 miles south of downtown Anchorage. Simply get on the Seward Highway headed south.
The large pull off area has lots of places to park, it has multiple levels. They have picnic tables for lunch as well as short and long hikes. From the 2nd level you can take a short 1 mile hike that takes you along the water fall. If you are looking for something more challenging then go to the top level and head up the trail head at the back of the parking lot. You cantake this trail up and to the left or right.
I like going to the left until you come to the next trail turn headed up and to the right. This takes you up switch backs up the mountain. Eventually you will get above the tree lin and have a FANTASTIC view the Turnigan Arm.
No fee for parking! Great day trip and it's FREE!
This trail runs a long while, from the Glen Alps area to the Indian trailhead. It cuts up through a glacier-cut valley, past the cirque at the top and over the namesake pass, descending down to the other trailhead on the other side. Getting up through the pass is a bit of a huff, ascending 1300' on one side and 1900+' on the other. But it makes going down a lot of fun :)
Keep your eyes out for moose and other wildlife. Also in the late summer, mossberries and blueberries grow in profusion along the trail and river.
Trail length: 11 miles or 17.6 km (one way)
Chugach State Park is the third largest state park in the country, covering nearly a half-million acres of wilderness (that's larger than most National Parks down in the lower 48). The park provides a bit of solace from the city-weary, offering wildlife, hiking, climbing, camping, and backpacking. It is a tremendous place to visit, and easily accessible.
We took the trail towards Powerline Pass, and saw 2 moose in a clearing, along with lots of berries and tundra plants along the river there.
View the sunset behind Sleeping Lady, watch teh alpenglow build on the Denali. A spectacular vista in Anchorage with Cook Inlet at your feet and veiws of over 150 miles. See Baluga whales feeding on salmon.
Hiking in the Chugach Mountains. The Chugach Mountains are located near to Anchorage and offers good hiking opportunities. The various trails will bring you into the world of beautiful mountainous landscape and wild animals. You can get a bird's eye view of Anchorage from the mountains. On a clear day, you can ever see as far as the Aleutian Islands. More photos and information are at my VT Chugach Mountains page.
There are a couple of things that make this a great hike: 1. The Turnagain Trail is one of the first trails to be snow-free in the spring making it a safe option long before the high country melts out. 2. Great views for little work - because of it's gentle grade and multiple exit/turnaround points it is ideal for anyone no matter the shape they are in.
Turnagain Arm Trail parallels the Seward Highway and overlooks the saltwater for it's entire length. The trail runs along Turnagain Arm for 9.5 miles from the south side of Potter's Marsh to Windy Point. Spur trails at McHugh Creek and Rainbow are alternate places to start your hike if you don't feel like doing the entire trail. The nice thing about this hike is that the hills are rolling and you don't gain too much elevation which makes it good for anyone who just wants to get out in the woods for a walk. Can be very windy some days so prepare for a different temperature than in the city.
What makes this hike a favorite of mine is the fact that you won't likely see anyone beyond mile four. The terrain in the valley is varied and interesting and the surrounding peaks look awesome. Watch for moose, ptarmagain, fox, and ground squirrels.
There are actually four different destinations that can all be done in one day or on four seperate hikes depending on how far you are willing to go. The Wedge and the Ramp are peaks that lie on either side of Ship Pass and Hidden Lake is in a cirque below O'Malley Peak. If you are just going to Hidden Lake it's about 9 miles round-trip and The Wedge is about a 12 with the others in between. If you intend to summit the two peaks and see the lake start early because it will take some time. High point is around 5300 feet above sea level. This is a fairly long hike so bring extra clothes, food and water. The weather can change quickly and temperature varies quite a bit between the valley floor and the peaks.
From Glen Alps follow the spur trail out to Powerline Trail. Go right (southeast) for 2 miles to a signpost at the intersection with a smaller trail. Go left and cross Campbell Creek (you may get wet if it is spring flow). Follow the trail as it gains a minor bench. When you come to your second creek crossing you will see Ship Lake Pass straight ahead at the end of the valley you are about to enter. The path that goes left leads to Hidden Lake and the approach to the Ramp. The trail straight up the valley floor takes you to Ship Pass and the Wedge. If you are going to do a touch-em-all route I would do the Ramp first then the Wedge. Hidden lake is in the cirque up to your left. The trail to the ramp follows the ridge above Hidden Lake and traverses toward the summit (the higher you go the more this looks like a sheep trail). If Ship Lake Pass is your destination you will make your way up the bottom of the valley and start climbing toward the ridge that separates the two peaks. This is also the route to the Wedge just continue up to the summit on your right.
Wolverine is the big brother to the Near Point hike. At 4500 feet above sea level standing on it's angled summit you will feel like you have accomplished a fairly substantial undertaking. The views of surrounding peaks and valleys make the trek well worth it. Keep an eye out for moose in the valley and ptarmagain, ground squirrels and the occasional herd of dahl sheep as you climb up the rugged tundra.
This is a 10 mile round-trip hike that gains about 3500 feet of elevation from Prospect Heights to the top. This route is commonly used by Anchorage athletes training for the Mountain Marathon series and it always shocks me to see someone run by me as I am huffing my way toward the top!
From the parking lot at Prospect Heights follow the wide trail to a T junction and go left. The trail meanders through the woods and down to Campbell Creek. Stay on the main well marked trail until you come to an intersection with Near Point Trail. Go right. After about a mile you will come out of the brush and gain your first ridge. There is a large rock cairn at the ridge. From here you go left along the well worn trail. Wolverine is the mountain farthest back and to your right. Follow the track up the ridge in front of you. You will gain a false summit with a wrecked airplane frame. From here continue up and to your right roughly a half mile to the summit.
Near Point is a great hike if you are just testing your legs or want to experience a little taste of the Alaskan mountains in a hurry. A lot of locals take this hike for granted using it as a spring or winter workout as they move on to bigger things. But, I love this hike because it has great views, a lot of wildlife and I can safely hike it year-round. Watch for the many moose in the area as well as ptarmagain and fiesty ground squirrels.
Access for this trail is from the parking area at Prospect Heights. From the parking lot follow the wide trail to a T junction and go left. The trail meanders through the woods and down to Campbell Creek. Stay on the main well marked trail until you come to an intersection with Wolverine Trail. Stay left. From here the trail signs end and you start to climb up onto the west side of Near Point. When you reach tundra the trail becomes braided but just keep heading for the ridge and then up to the pronounced peak on your right. This is about a 7 mile round trip hike with 2000 feet of elevation gain.
A fairly easy hike that gets much less traffic than the hikes that leave from Glen Alps and Prospect Heights areas. My favorite aspects of this hike are the potential to see wildlife, the varied foliage from thick forest to tundra, berry picking in season and a great view of the city.
Start at Stuckagain Heights parking area (basic gravel parking pad) go up the gravel road and take the trail cutting down into the woods on your left. This trail will take you down to the valey bottom and the bridge crossing the North Fork of Campbell Creek. After the creek you will start to climb. When you come to an unmarked intersection stay right. From the intersection it is about 2 miles to the top of The Dome. Watch your footing near the top of the trail as erosion has left a lot of loose rock in the trail.
Once you reach the dome you are on top of a broad ridge and have unlimited options to roam and explore the tundra. Weather permitting you will have views of Anchoarge with the Alaska Range in the background. Mosquitos can be a problem some times of the year so consider some repellant or a long sleeved shirt.
Compared to Flattop this hike gets much less traffic and gives you the opportunity to see moose and ramble around on the tundra once you reach the ballpark. It is called the Ballpark because the huge area of green tundra would hold any major league stadium in the USA. If you hit it at the right time in early summer all of the tundra will be in bloom and you are overwhelmed with the scent of flowering plants. In the fall the tundra changes to bright yellow and reds. Great place to chill out and watch the clouds go by!
To get there park at Glen Alps parking area and follow the trail out to the Powerline Trail. Take a right and head southeast on Powerline. After a very short distance downhill take your first left onto a trail signed Middle Fork Loop trail. Take this trail until you cross a bridge across Campbell Creek. Instead of following the trail left take a right branch and start climbing the steep hill in front and to your right. The small peak you see straight ahead and to your left is little O'malley (the trail is obvious). Once you reach the saddle go left to Little O'malley or go right up into the Ballpark and Deep Lake at the base of O'Malley Peak. The top end of the Ballpark is about 5 miles round trip and about 1800 feet elevation gain.
From the top end of the Ballpark, if you still have the legs left, you have the option of climbing O'Malley Peak (straight behind in photo) or dropping down to Williwaw Lakes Trail. If you intend to climb O'malley know how to scramble and beware of falling rock on the loose slopes.
Look for moose in the valley bottom and be on the look out for ptarmagain on the upper slopes.
Flattop is probably the most popular trail in the Anchorage area and surely is the most climbed mountain in Alaska. With good reason. It has great views from the summit of Cook Inlet, the surrounding mountains and the city of Anchorage. And, the access is fast and relatively easy.
The hike starts at Glen Alps parking area and climbs over Blueberry Hill to the ascent on the west side of Flattop. You will reach a saddle area that overlooks the Powerline Valley then the trail starts to climb steadily to the top. Overall this trail is a 1300 ft elevation gain over 3.5 miles round trip. While almost anyone can handle this hike I would caution you to not take it lightly. Wear good footwear and be careful on the top section as it is steep and can be slippery if wet.
Return the way you came up or there is an alternate way down that goes off the backside and drops through the first notch to the east that you come to (do not take the west fork). This trail will drop you down to Powerline Trail and that will return you to the parking area at Glen Alps. Nice round trip and you will lose some of the people going this way. Again good footing is important so wear sturdy shoes.
One word of warning. Do not come here to be alone on the mountain. It is a rare day when you have the place to yourself. But that's not to say that it isn't a great way to spend a half day in Anchorage. It is a beautiful hike on a sunny day when you have some time to kill.
Alpenglow is a volunteer run ski area that is a half hour north of downtown Anchorage and has been around since the 1940's. Because it is volunteer run it has a great atmosphere when compared to big resorts. Very friendly and sociable ski experience at half the price of resort skiing. You will probably know someone who works there on a first name basis when you leave.
The terrain is limited but great when the snow piles up. The nice thing here is that the area is only open weekends so any snow that falls mid-week is still there for you to tear up on Saturday and Sunday. They usually operate a t-bar and one chair lift and this services the whole ridge.
No equipment rentals or lessons available so if you don't have gear get hooked up in Anchorage before heading to the mountain. You will also find a few choice sledding runs along the road on the way to the day lodge and the area can also be a great place to start a backcountry trip up the opposite ridge.
Have 4WD or have chains/studs on your vehicle as the road can get fairly icy and it is steep in places.