5 Hikes around Anchorage that aren’t Flat Top

Take a break from hiking Flattop this summer, the most hiked trail in Alaska, to take a look at some less hiked trails that despite the lack of crowds are still just as good.

 


5hikes-ptarmiganPtarmigan Valley

Distance: 5 miles one way, 5.5 miles to Roundtop peak

Fees: none

Trailhead: Take North Birchwood exit off the Glenn Highway north of Anchorage and turn right and then right again on Old Glenn Highway, parking lot located just past Loretta French Park on the left.

Equipment: Water and food

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Ptarmigan Valley 2

This hike has some hard pushes, but is well worth the sweat and effort required. The hike begins with an easy upward sloping trail with intermittent downward sloping areas before coming to some relatively steep inclines.

The steep inclines stop when you reach the pass about two miles in.  Here you can see out into the Cook Inlet and the Matanuska Valley.  The trail will often split with snowmobile and hiker trails diverging for a short time.

For a wider trail take the snowmobile route, but for the best views and most immersion into the mountain, the hiker trail routes are best. The trail tends to be muddy on the first mile or so, but is easy to maneuver around.

The hike in early July will have lush, tall grass and wildflowers in the open meadows of the pass. Lots of water and lunch are a good idea if planning to do the whole hike.  This hike also connects to trails at the Skyline Drive Trailhead, where the trail to Mount Baldy is.

 


5hikes-South ForkSouth Fork Eagle River 

Distance: 5.5 miles to Eagle and Symphony Lakes

Fees: State park parking fee – $5/day, State Park Pass accepted

Trailhead: Take Eagle River Loop/Hiland Road exit off of the Glenn Highway north of Anchorage and turn right on Hiland Road, turning right on South Creek Road and then right onto West River Drive, parking lot on the left.

Equipment: Water and food for day hike, overnight gear for camping, rain gear suggested.

 

Hikers at South Fork Eagle River have the options of hiking up the saddle to the pass and then along Rendezvous Peak Ridge (which connects to Arctic Valley) or hiking along the south fork of Eagle River to Symphony Lake and Eagle Lake.

South Fork 3

The saddle provides a short day hike for those who don’t have a long time to hike and want a view of Eagle River Valley and the surrounding Chugach Mountains, whereas the hike to the lakes is for those who want a long day hike to an overnight hike in the subalpine along the river.

The hike to the lakes is relatively flat and terrain wise is not difficult until the boulder field between Eagle Lake and Symphony Lake, which shouldn’t be too difficult for most. If you are looking for a sip of water to cool off at the end of the hike, the water from Symphony Lake is most suitable for drinking because there is no glacial runoff.

 


5hikes-Rabbit LakeRabbit Lake Trail via Canyon Rd. Trailhead

Distance: 4.4 miles one way

Fees: None

Trailhead: Exit the Seward Highway at DeArmoun Road, heading toward the mountains and away from the inlet. Continue on DeArmoun Road to Upper DeArmoun Road. Take Upper DeArmoun Road until it ends and splits into View Heights Way and Canyon Road. Follow Canyon Road to the right. Canyon Road changes to Upper Canyon Road to Highland Road and back to Canyon Road. The trailhead is at the end. (Note: Canyon Road is unpaved and unless you have a 4 wheel drive SUV you may want to park at the gate that separates Highland Rd. and the last stretch of Canyon Rd. and walk to the trailhead as the last section of Canyon Rd. is really rough and hard to get up, this will add an extra 1.3 miles).

Equipment: Water and food, windbreaker.

 

Rabbit Lake

While Rabbit Lake can be accessed from the McHugh Creek Trailhead off the Seward Highway, the trailhead off DeArmoun Road has an easier, less steep trail to the lake. At the end of the hike Rabbit Lake sits with the Suicide Peaks behind it, offering a breathtaking view of the mountain lake. This trail also branches off to Flat Top from the backside.

Parking for this trail is limited to roadside parking on the narrow Canyon Road, and there aren’t facilities available at the trailhead so be prepared. Signs indicating the trailhead are also nonexistent, but it is located at the very end of Canyon Road.

 


5hikes-Winner CreekWinner Creek Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles one way to Winner Creek Gorge and the Glacier Creek Tram, 8 miles on the Winner Creek and Girdwood Iditarod Trail loop.

Fees: None

Trailhead: Take Seward Highway south of Anchorage, taking left at the Alyeska Highway junction. Turn left onto Arlberg Avenue continuing on the road until it ends and then turning left onto Northface Road, where Alyeska Resort’s visitor parking lot is.

Equipment: Water and food, containers for picking berries

 

This trail goes through temperate rain forest and as such has a numerous plants and trees. During early August, berry pickers are seen on the sides of the trail gathering blueberries. There is also an abundance of lichens clinging to the trees and mushrooms scattering the wet forest floor.  There are great views of the creeks at the gorge and the bridge over Winner Creek before the hand tram.

Winner Creek

The trail is well maintained and the chances of getting super muddy are slim unless you plan on trekking off the trail to pick berries.

At 2.5 miles at the confluence of Glacier Creek, Winner Creek and Crow Creek hikers can cross the gorge using the hand tram. If hikers wish to continue after crossing they may continue onto the Girdwood Iditarod Trail that ends at Girdwood Elementary School.

Note that the hand tram between the two trails is sometimes out of service during maintenance.

 


5hikes-Turnagain ArmTurnagain Arm Trail

Distance: 1.9 to 9.4 miles one way, multiple trailheads divide trail into 3 parts.

Fees: State park parking fee – $5/day, state park pass accepted

Trailhead: all off of the Seward Highway south of Anchorage at the Potter Creek Trailhead (mile 115.1), McHugh Creek Trailhead (mile 111.9), Rainbow Trailhead (mile 108.4) and Windy Corner Trailhead (mile 106.7).  Rainbow and Windy Trailheads are directly off highway and parking is limited.

Equipment: Water and food, windbreaker.

 

The Turnagain Arm Trail offers hikers a variety of options for starting and ending their hikes and offers spectacular views. Hikers will be able to see the Turnagain Arm and take in the surrounding aspens and rocky outcroppings. Dall sheep may even be spotted above the trail in the rocks.

Turnagain Arm 1

The trail parallels the Seward Highway and the Turnagain Arm. Taking the small side trails to the rocky cliffs above the highway will allow for the most open view of Turnagain, where Beluga whales can be seen in the summer.

The Turnagain Arm generally has wind, and it would be wise to bring a windbreaker.

Between the Potter Creek Trailhead and the McHugh Creek Trailhead, the elevation gain is not substantial except for what’s right next to each trailhead for a short time. Between McHugh Creek Trailhead and Rainbow Trailhead the incline is much more substantial but still very manageable. From the Rainbow Trailhead to the Windy Corner Trailhead the elevation gain is much like that between Potter Creek and McHugh Creek trailheads.