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Anchorage, Matsu & Cook Inlet
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Anchorage, Matsu & Cook Inlet



Chugach State Park

Seward Highway (AK9)--Portage to Anchorage

Girdwood & Alyeska

Portage Glacier Recreation Area (Chugach National Forest)

Knik Arm

Glenn Highway (AK1)--Anchorage to Parks Highway Junction





Hatcher Pass

Independence Mine State Historic Park

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Chugach State Park

Location/Size: At west end of Chugach Mountains, adjacent to Anchorage. 495,204 acres.

Main Activities: Hiking, fishing, kayaking, wildlife observation, short hikes and jogging, camping, cross-country skiing, mountaineering.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Anchorage/scheduled air service from Seattle, Fairbanks, and many other points; vehicle access via Glenn Highway (AK 1) and Seward Highway (AK 2) from Kenai Peninsula, Canada, and the Interior. Park access: vehicle parking with trailheads at Crow Creek Canyon via Girdwood; Bird Creek, Indian Creek, and Falls Creek, all along Turnagain Arm; Ship Creek via Ski Bowl Road and Arctic Valley Ski Area; Peters Creek and Eklutna Lake from the Glenn Highway; and Pioneer Ridge from the Knik River Road. In southeast Anchorage, several trails can be reached from Rabbit Creek Road, Hillside Drive, and Hilltop Ski Area.

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: Visitor center, parking lots, access roads, dump station, picnic sites, and viewpoints all around the park perimeter, at campgrounds, and along the highway. Eklutna Lake Campground, Mile 10 Eklutna Lake Road; Eagle River Campground, take Hiland Road toward mountains from Mile 12 of Glenn Highway (AK 1); Bird Creek Campground, Mile 101 Seward Highway. Primitive camping in park interior, a few designated sites. No backcountry lodging.

Headquarters and Information: Visitor Center, Mile 12 Eagle River Road, 694-2108, open daily in summer 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Chugach State Park Headquarters, Mile 115 Seward Highway (AK 1), 345-5014; Eklutna Ranger Station, Mile 10 Eklutna Lake Road, 688-0908, www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/chugach.

While several American cities are backed by mountain wilderness parks, Anchorage tops them all. At nearly half a million acres, Chugach State Park is the third-largest state park in the United States—there’s plenty of room for solitude. The east-central section of the park is crowned with an almost continuous layer of glaciers, while to the west and north long valleys drain northwestward into Cook Inlet. The towns of Eklutna, Peters Creek, and Eagle River are at the mouths of three such valleys, while Ship Creek and several smaller streams flow through greater Anchorage.

Eagle River Road follows the Eagle River a dozen miles into the mountains, providing access to a popular river run. Intermediate or advanced canoeists, kayakers, and rafters can enjoy Class I to Class III waters. The best put-ins are at Mile 7.5 and Mile 9 of the road. See the appendix for outfitters.

Virtually every watershed draining the park has vehicle access and trailheads. Thirty trails are identified by the park service, including six open to mountain biking. Most are short hikes up into closed valleys, though they allow access to high ridges and peaks. Several short spurs and loops climb up from the foothills neighborhoods above Anchorage. With so many options, it pays to stop for information at the Eagle River Visitor Center at Mile 12 of Eagle River Road, the Chugach State Park Headquarters at Mile 115 of the Seward Highway, or the Eklutna Ranger Station at Mile 10 of Eklutna Lake Road (see details above).

Chugach State Park Trails

The routes listed below include all designated through trails, most longer trails, and a few shorter spurs. For details on the shorter trails from the Anchorage foothills, stop in at park headquarters.

Arctic to Indian Trail (22 miles, 2,100' and 1,000' gains northbound, 1,000' gain southbound)—This rugged route starts at Arctic Valley Ski Basin at the end of Ski Bowl Road near Fort Richardson, drops 1,000 feet into the Ship Creek valley, and follows the creek south until the trail disappears in open terrain. From here, you may have a difficult, muddy slog up to 2,100-foot Indian Pass before dropping down Indian Creek on the Indian Valley Trail to the trailhead at Mile 102 of the Seward Highway (AK 1). Day hiking to the pass from the south end is a good option (6 miles to pass, 2,100' gain). Through route—2–3 days.

Bird Creek Trail (15 miles, 2,500'-plus gain)—Begins at Mile 100.5 of Seward Highway just west of Bird House Bar and follows Bird Creek up to treeline in a high basin. The first 5.5 miles are an old road open to ATVs and bikes. The rest is unmaintained and sometimes overgrown. Cirque and ridge options are possible among 5,000- to 6,000-foot peaks with small glaciers. RT—2–4 days.

Bird Ridge Trail (1.5 miles, 2,500' gain)—At Mile 102.1 of the Seward Highway, you’ll find the trailhead for a route that climbs quickly up Bird Ridge, unlike its near neighbor to the east, the Bird Creek Trail, which follows the valley. For a moderate to steep, early season, fast climb to great views, this is a fine choice. The trail ends at the ridgecrest, inviting further exploration. RT—3–4 hrs.

Eklutna Lake Recreation Area and Trailhead (various options)—Take the 10-mile Eklutna Lake Road from the Eklutna exit of the Glenn Highway to the recreation area, a designated portion of Chugach State Park which features a good campground near the foot of this long, lovely lake. There are several trail options:

  • The Eklutna Lakeside Trail (13 miles, 300' gain) follows the east lakeshore to campsites 2.5 miles beyond the lake’s head at the valley fork, then continues through a deep, narrow valley called the Mitre to the tip of Eklutna Glacier. It is open to bikes and ATVs (Sunday–Wednesday only).
  • The Bold Ridge Trail (3-plus miles, 2,500'-plus gain) climbs steeply from Mile 5 of the Lakeside Trail, accessing a high ridge below Bold Peak (7,522'). Good possibilities for further explorations. RT—half day from Lakeside Trail.
  • The East Fork Trail (3-plus miles, 300'-plus gain) heads from the campsites at the head of the lake up a deep valley to the east, offering access to higher ridges and glaciers. RT—half day.
  • The Twin Peaks Trail (3.2-plus miles, 1,500' gain) climbs immediately, sometimes steeply, from the campground to high tundra with great lake views. Further exploration is possible. Watch for Dall sheep. RT—half day.

Falls Creek Trail (1.5-plus miles, 1,500'-plus gain)—Officially ending at treeline, this steep climb can be continued another couple of miles through open tundra into a high cirque. Hikers are rewarded with high-country scenery and outstanding views. Dall sheep may be sighted. The trailhead is at Mile 105.7 of the Seward Highway. RT—half day.

Glen Alps Trailhead (several options)—From New Seward Highway, take O’Malley Road east about 4 miles to Hillside Drive, turn south 1 mile to Upper Huffman Road, then east again for less than a mile to Toilsome Hill Drive. Follow Toilsome Hill Drive as it winds up to the trailhead. Four trails begin here:

  • Anchorage Overlook Trail (G mile, 50' gain)—An easy paved and gravel stroll to an overlook deck with stunning Anchorage and sunset views. Wheelchair accessible. RT—H–1 hr. Flattop Mountain Trail (1.5 miles, 1,300' gain)—The most popular—and occasionally deadly—climb in Alaska. Some steep scrambling; watch for rocks dislodged by hikers above you. RT—2–3 hrs. Powerline Trail (11-plus miles, 1,300' gain southbound, 2,000' gain northbound)—This trail gradually climbs South Fork valley, crosses over a high pass, then drops steeply to merge with the Indian Creek Trail near its Seward Highway trailhead. Good access to high peaks and small lakes, recommended for mountain bikes. Through route—1–2 days. Middle Fork Loop (to Williwaw Lakes) (3.5 miles to Williwaw Lakes Trail junction, minimal gain to junction)—Take the Powerline Trail I mile to Middle Fork Loop Trail, follow Middle Fork Loop Trail about 2 miles to Williwaw Lakes Trail (see below). RT to junction—half day; to lakes—1–2 days.
  • Historic Iditarod (Crow Pass) Trail (26 miles, 2,500' gain northbound, 3,500' gain southbound)—This generally good route follows Eagle River from the park visitor center, climbs gradually to 3,883-foot Crow Pass, then drops down Crow Creek to the trailhead at the end of Crow Creek Road north of Girdwood. Great views, mining ruins, and a couple of unbridged streams to cross. Good day hikes from either end. Through trail—3–5 days.
  • McHugh Lake Trail (7 miles, 2,750' gain)—This moderate route climbs from McHugh Creek Picnic Area at Mile 111.8 of the Seward Highway. Hike northwest on Turnagain Arm Trail for half a mile to a junction, then up to the lakes basin, high peaks, and possible through route to Powerline Trail over Ptarmigan Pass. RT—all day.

Prospect Heights Trailhead (several options)—From New Seward Highway, take O’Malley Road east about 4 miles to end of road, swing left onto Hillside Drive, then right up Upper O’Malley Road about H mile to fork. Bear left up Prospect Drive to trailhead. Three trails begin here:

  • Middle Fork/Williwaw Lakes Trail (7-plus miles, 1,600'-plus gain)—Follow Near Point Trail 1.3 miles to junction. The route follows Middle Fork Trail then Williwaw Lakes Trail to small lakes in a high cirque with steep faces. The Middle Fork Trail continues about 2 miles to a junction with the Powerline Trail (see above). RT—1–2 days.
  • Near Point Trail (4 miles, 1,900' gain)—First 3 miles are easier and open to bikes. Last mile climbs to Near Point and great views. RT—half day.
  • Wolverine Trail (5.5 miles, 3,400' gain)—Take Near Point Trail 2 miles to junction. Follow easy to moderate route to summit of Wolverine Peak (4,400') for great views. RT—all day.

South Fork Valley Trail (6 miles, 400' gain)—Follow Hiland Road from Mile 11.6 of the Glenn Highway near Eagle Creek. From Mile 7.5 of Hiland, follow the signs for half a mile to the trailhead. This easy route follows an open valley among high peaks to beautiful lakes, and includes boardwalk segments for crossing wet areas. RT—all day.

Turnagain Arm Trail (9.4 miles, 750' gain) The trail begins at the Potter Section House Historic Site and Chugach State Park headquarters at Mile 115.3 of the Seward Highway. The path follows an old rail construction support route, paralleling the highway and tracks southeast along Turnagain Arm. The views are splendid, the separation from vehicle traffic is sufficient, and the trail is open early in the season. The route can be shortened or extended in various ways. Look for Dall sheep. Through trail—all day.


Eklutna Lake Campground—50 sites with picnic tables, fire pits, water, latrines, and ranger station. Overflow camping area of 15 sites. Trails for hiking, ATV use, bicycle and horses. Boating and fishing. $10/night. Stay Limit: 15 nights.
Location: 45 minutes north of Anchorage. From Glenn Highway, take Eklutna Exit at Mile 26. Turn toward mountains and follow park signs 10 miles on gravel road to Eklutna Lake and campground.

Eagle River Campground—57 sites with picnic tables, fire pits, water, latrines, flush toilets and dump station. Overflow camping area of 10 sites. Fishing, whitewater rafting. Short hiking trails. $15/night. Stay Limit: 4 nights. From Glenn Highway, take Hiland Road Exit (Mile 12). Follow park signs onto frontage road to river and campground. Half of the campsites are available by reservation year round and up to one year in advance, call 694-7982. Campground usually only open May through September.

Bird Creek Campground—28 sites with picnic tables, fire pits, water, latrines. Fishing, walking, sunsets and whale watching. $10/night. Stay Limit: 7 nights. On Seward Highway, just east of Bird Creek Bridge, at mile 101.