Sunday, September 9, 2018

Symphony Lake - Ship Creek Loop

This hike through the beautiful South Fork Valley and over the mountains into Ship Creek offers stunning views of alpine lakes (Eagle and Symphony), tarns and valleys surrounded by rugged, glaciated mountains. During September you will have the added bonus of vibrant fall colors.

To get there, take the trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes from the South Fork trailhead parking lot. Specific directions for the trailhead and hike to Eagle and Symphony Lakes can be found in either book (available at Amazon through the links below.)

Proceed to the west side of Symphony Lake where there are several camping spots if you decide to camp here for the night. Once on the southwest side of Symphony Lake, look to the mountains directly west for a broad mostly tundra slope with a saddle at the top. After a 1600 foot climb you will reach the saddle where you can see the North Fork of Ship Creek. At this point you can either drop about halfway down to Ship Creek to find an old horse trail.  Follow the horse/animal trail to Rendezvous Pass where you will climb over into the South Fork. Once over the pass, the trail will take you back to the parking lot.

The other option is to turn northwest to follow the ridge(s) and eventually drop down into the South Fork Valley. Depending on where you drop from the ridge, you should eventually intersect with the trail to the South Fork trailhead parking lot where you started. This is a hike for clear weather as you will need to have good visibility to see the route on the ridges. There are a number of ways to go. You will need to be adept at route finding and navigation as there are no trails on the ridge. The horse trail below is badly overgrown in areas and very difficult to follow. Happy Trails!

More photos at  Alaska Llamas Facebook Post - Symphony-Ship Creek Loop

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Williwaw Lakes and Long Lake - Chugach State Park, Alaska

Walrus Lake (Uppermost Williwaw Lake)
The hike to Williwaw Lakes is one of my favorites in Alaska's Chugach State Park. This trek which is a short drive from  downtown Anchorage, offers a variety of options including day hikes, overnight or multiday adventures, In the winter, it is also popular ski trail. The lakes are alpine jewels situated in a mountainous valley above Anchorage at the base of craggy Mount Williwaw (elev. 5,445 ft.). The trek to the lakes takes the hiker through alpine tundra amid a variety of alpine flowers, grassy meadows and scrub hemlock. The pristine lakes offer the hiker an alpine paradise with spectacular views of surrounding mountains with the added bonus of wildlife viewing of dall sheep, moose, coyotes, fox, and various waterfowl. There are plenty of camping opportunities around the Williwaw lakes.

Saddle SE of Near Pt.
There are several ways to access the lakes. For the more gentle but longer route, take the Middle Fork Trail from the Prospect Heights Parking lot. For a shorter but more rugged trail option, start from the Glen Alps trailhead/parking lot to connect with the Williwaw Lake Trail via the Ball Park. For more detailed information on the trails, driving directions to trailheads, and maps refer to the following books. (Both are available on Amazon at the links below.)

The Loop/Traverse to Long Lake
From the pass above Walrus Lake (upper most Williwaw Lake) you can opt for a longer (possibly two day trip) to Long Lake and the valley of the North Fork of Campbell Creek. By the way "Williwaw" means “very windy” so be prepared for high winds, and secure your tent well (if camping.) The weather can change quickly and drastically at these elevations. I have also encountered very windy, wet and wintery conditions while camping around Long Lake in late summer. It is best to do this traverse June through August if you want to avoid adverse weather.

To make the traverse/loop from the pass to the Prospect Heights trailhead, continue around either side of Long Lake and follow the North Fork of Campbell Creek downstream about 2.5 miles beyond the last lake. At this point look for a trail on your left which climbs about 800 ft. (up the northwest ridge of Wolverine peak) to a notch/saddle on the ridge sou
Climbing from Long Lake (below) to the pass above Walrus Lake.
theast of Near Point. From here you can connect to a trail that goes back to Prospect Heights by (1) continuing on the trail up and over Near Point or (2) bushwacking from the saddle to the trail (that goes back to Prospect Heights.) The second (2) is my preferred option to avoid climbing over Near Point. Again, for more details on this trip, refer to the books cited above. What I like about the Williwaw-Long Lake traverse is that it is a delightful and very accessible "wilderness" trip in Southcentral Alaska right at Anchorage's back door.
Long Lake

*When I do the traverse, I prefer to take the trail to Near Point and proceed over the saddle/notch into the North Fork Valley of Campbell Creek and camp at Long Lake. The next day, we climb the pass and descend into the Williwaw Lakes hiking out mostly downhill to the Prospect Heights parking lot. The photo above (left) shows us heading down from this saddle into the North Fork of Campbell Creek.

 Hiking along Williwaw Lakes on trail through alpine valley.

Click here for photos of "Williwaw Lakes" trek and Facebook Post

Click here to download a map of Chugach State Park, Chugach State Park Map - Alaska DNR

Monday, July 30, 2018

South Fork Eagle River Trailhead Update

As of July 30, 2018 the Southfork trailhead is now open after being closed due to the fatal bear mauling in the area. There were very few cars in the parking lot when we left on Monday afternoon.  (Follow links below for more info on bear attack.)

State tests show 3 bears shot in South Fork weren’t involved in June attacks

Fish and Game still seeks bear in Eagle River Maulings

On July 30th, we headed into Ship Creek for several days.The horse/game trail in Ship Creek which you can pick up after climbing over the pass on Rendezvous Ridge is quite overgrown and difficult to follow in spots.

We did have two bears come into camp (separate encounters) so be sure to take some type of bear deterrent if hiking in this area.

For more on hiking Ship Creek, see my July 1st blog post "Hiking Upper Ship Creek, Chugach State Park."

Taking a break on the ridge above Ship Creek with a view of the mountains above the South Fork valley in the background (top). Climbing over the ridges into upper Ship Creek affords spectacular views and fireweed in full bloom makes for nice photo opportunities (above).

South Fork Valley
Heading to the north fork of Ship Creek.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hiking with a llama: Is this the next big thing...

Instead of carrying a heavy backpack into the backcountry, some people are bringing along a llama for their adventures. 

"I’ve seen a growing trend in the past year: Hikers and backcountry campers using llamas to help carry supplies and to add some four-legged company to a trip through the southwestern Colorado wilderness or the high elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park.

I always turned into a conversation starter. People would tell me how they’ve done difficult hikes in the past, and the llamas made it much easier. Others talked about the enjoyment of having the animals with them on their adventure."  by Will Swope,, Denver, CO.

Follow this link to read the rest of the story:  Hiking with a llama: Is this the next big thing for Colorado adventures? (, Denver, CO)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Hiking Upper Ship Creek, Chugach State Park (Alaska)

Camping in upper Ship Creek
If you want to get off the beaten path for a more wilderness experience close to Anchorage, take a hike in the upper Ship Creek drainage in Chugach State Park. To avoid snow and harsh weather in the passes and upper reaches, I generally hike there June through mid-September. My preferred access point is the South Fork trail head  (although there is access in Arctic Valley.) To get to the trail head, take the Eagle River Loop/Hiland Road exit off the Glenn Highway just past the weigh station. Turn right at the traffic light onto Hiland and continue about eight miles up the road. Take a right onto South Creek and follow it to West River Drive and take another right. The parking lot is on your left.

The trail starts out on a boardwalk for a short distance and then turns into a trail that traverses the right side of the South Fork valley as you head away from the parking area. (If you continue on the main trail, it eventually drops down to a bridge that crosses the South Fork of the Eagle River and continues to Eagle and Symphony Lakes at the end of the valley.) 

To access the Ship Creek drainage, continue ahead on the trail (past the main trail on the left that drops to the river.) This trail climbs steeply into a pass on the ridge above. Continue over the pass and descend into the Ship Creek drainage watching for the horse/game trail that heads up Ship Creek drainage (on your left.) (This route will take you into the upper reaches of Ship Creek if you choose to go that far.) We generally stay higher on the hills to avoid the brush choked areas closer to the river which can be difficult to negotiate. Once you are in the Ship Creek, drainage, the hiking possibilities are limitless. Hiking Alaska: South Fork Eagle River offers many grass-roots options You can limit your outing to just a day hike or take an extended trek to the North Fork of Ship Creek and beyond. But don't expect signs, mileposts or even trails here, just enjoy the wilderness. 

You can find more detailed information on hiking options in Ship Creek and Arctic Valley in the books below. These are my "go-to" books and have a wealth of information on hiking in Southcentral Alaska and Chugach State Park. (Both are available on Amazon at the links below.)

50 Hikes in Alaska's Chugach State Park
55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska
Click here to download a map of Chugach State Park, Chugach State Park Map - Alaska DNR

Rendevous Ridge with view of Cook Inlet
Llamas trekking on the ridges and benches above Ship Creek.