Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lower Eagle River Trail or River Woods Trail

Boardwalks in the pond area.
The lower Eagle River trail also known as (AKA) River Woods Trail runs along the Eagle River in Chugach State Park and is often overlooked. However, it's an easy walk that offers convenient access for those in the Anchorage area looking for a short hike, nice views of surrounding mountains and a chance to see some wildlife. The trailhead can be accessed from the south side of the Briggs Bridge off the Eagle River Loop Road where there is pubic parking and a boat launch. For directions and more specific information about the trail and how to access parking /trailhead, see "River Woods Trail and South Fork Falls"pages  85-86 in
50 Hikes in Alaska's Chugach State Park

From the Briggs Bridge access, the lower Eagle River trail goes east for about two miles through birch and spruce forest over relatively flat terrain w. The old section of trail skirting the private land has been improved over the years and is now clearly marked. (See photo on left.)  Boardwalks have been added to a marshy section next to the Swan Pond. Remains of charred trees and scorched ground remind us of the wildfire that burned about 25 acres in this area over the Memorial day weekend in 2016.  More info on the May 2016 wildfire at this link - Hiland Road Wildfire. 

May 2016 Burn Area
Before the trail reaches the South Fork, a trail to the left cuts through the woods and takes the hiker to the confluence of the South Fork and Eagle River. If you walk a short distance beyond the trail to the left, you will reach the South Fork itself. The bridge across the South Fork is long gone so you will have to ford the stream if you want to pick up the trail on the other side and continue to Barbara Falls, AKA South Fork Falls.

Since our destination today was the Eagle River, we took the trail to the left. It's a short hike (maybe 1/4 mile) from here to the Eagle River. When salmon are in the river be particularly "bear aware" along this stretch as you could surprise a bear due to river noise. At the confluence, there is a grassy area and exposed gravel bar where you can take a break and enjoy views of the river and surrounding mountains. The trail is open to biking as well as hiking so it's not unusual to see fat tire bikes on the trail. It is also common to see rafts and kayaks floating by on the Eagle River at this location.
Llama gazing at moose in pond.
Pack rafters on floating the Eagle River

Update on trail conditions as of June 20th (2018).  The trail is mostly dry now with only a few wet spots remaining. However, if you want to continue to Barbara Falls from here, fording at the former bridge site on the South Fork is no longer doable due to high water levels. The river was too muddy to see salmon but the kings are likely in the river now, so be vigilant of bears.

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