Rutting moose worth detour on Avalanche Peak hike

There are several ways to get to the top of Avalanche Peak: the southern approach climbing 4,800 feet, the western approach with less elevation gain but a 7.5 mile hike to the peak or bike the western approach as much as possible and hike the remainder.

The views are great whichever route you take. I chose to bike in the first 5.5 miles. It’s not easy to bike uphill with a pack on, but the ride back is fast and your feet aren’t sore from 15 miles of pounding the trail.

The western approach leaves from the Glen Alps trail head. After .8 miles, the trail T’s into the Powerline Trail, which runs another 5.7 miles to the pass before dropping down to the town of Indian just above sea level, 4.5 miles later.

The rut is still going on and the moose are very thick two to three miles up Powerline Trail _” so thick that I had to make a detour because of the photo opportunities. I’m not saying that Marvin Gaye music is echoing through the high valley, but there is still some pretty good moose loving going on in the area.

You have to cross the south fork of Campbell Creek to get close to the moose. This can be accomplished by hopping from one boulder to the next until you miss a hop and end up falling or stepping into the creek. Or you can pack some waders, as I did the following day and discover that the water is deeper than your waders when the creek overflows into your boots.

It was worth it to get my feet wet. Bulls and cows were easily wandering around within 50 feet of me and some other photographers that included the well-known Tom Soucek. When I went back the following day for more photos, a young bull walked within 25 feet of me. Measure it out. That’s awfully close for a 1,200 pound wild animal.

Confident that the moose population was healthy, I continued my slow ride up the trail. After about 4.5 miles, the rocks get larger and more frequent on the trail. Occasionally, you may choose to walk for short distances. At the 5.5 mile point I chose to stash my bike by a power pole and continue up the trail.

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In this region there are two small lakes or tarns, the slightly larger one being Green Lake. If you stand and face the lakes, the views are awe inspiring. But admittedly, when you turn around and face the power lines, the sense of wilderness is gone. Deal with the power lines and follow the trail for another mile to the pass.

The snow is very thin at the pass _” barely an inch and it didn’t get much thicker on the ridge to 5,050-foot Avalanche Peak. From the pass, there is no trail. Simply follow the ridge to the north, staying on the east and south sides to avoid any difficult sections.

The snow is currently so thin it has turned the moss on the numerous boulders into a slippery hazard. The route will be much safer in a month or so when sufficient snow has built up to allow kick-stepping on the ascent and plunge-stepping on the decent. Carry an ice axe.

I stopped shy of the true summit by a quarter mile and about 100 feet of elevation when the route became too slick. The vantage from Avalanche’s 5,000-foot-high ridge, though, offers clear views from the central Chugach State Park all the way south to the Kenai Mountains and west to Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range.

On the descent, the scree slope offers better footing than moss-covered talus. The bike ride out is a bit challenging at first since the larger rocks in the trail require greater concentration and enough strength to keep control of the bike. After two miles, the trail becomes very smooth and the ride to the trail head requires only a slight up hill climb about a mile from the end.

While coasting along the trail, keep an eye out for more rutting moose and keep your ears open for echoes of “Let’s get it on.”

The Avalanche Peak hike is 15 miles round trip, has 2,800 feet of elevation rise and takes five hours round trip with the bike/hike combination. To suggest or join a trip, e-mail: [email protected]