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Hiking in Arctic Valley

(View of the Eagle River Southfork Valley from above the Saddle)

The climb to either Mt. Gordon Lyon (elevation 4,134 feet) or Rendezvous Peak (4,101 feet) are shorter less demanding hikes with a breathtaking 360 view of Anchorage, Eagle River, and the South Fork Valley. Starting north: Denali and the Alaska Range (on a clear day) Knik Arm, Highland Mountain, the town of Eagle River (and the river), its surrounding peaks (Magnificent, Baldy, Black Tail Rocks, Harp, Vista & Roundtop), the south fork of Eagle River with Eagle and Symphony Lakes in the distance, Rendezvous Peak, Ship Creek and Indian Valley, Anchorage, Turnagain Arm, and Cook Inlet. You will also get a good view of the Site Summit where Nike Missiles were held years ago. (As a side note, take care not to trespass on the military instillation which borders the trail near the trail head. There may be fines if you are caught.)

Why I like this hike: 
Good for all skill levels, trail is easy to follow with various options, great views and easy access near Eagle River and Anchorage.

Getting there is straightforward. Take the Glenn Highway to the Arctic Valley exit and follow the switch-backing road for about seven miles to the parking area run by the Anchorage Ski Club. (Caution: Dirt and gravel road can be washboard.)The trailhead is at the end of Arctic Valley Road, adjacent to the Alpenglow Ski Area. There is a $5 parking fee at Arctic Valley and the State Park Pass is not valid here.

For detailed directions, check the online trail guides or books such as "50 Hikes in Alaska's Chugach State Park" but here are the basics. From the parking lot, take the main trail marked "Rendezvous Peak Trail."  The trail is easy to follow and there is a small spring fed creek for most of the way up the valley. Hike for about a mile and climb about 900 feet to a broad saddle or pass  (elevation 3,460 feet) between Mt. Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous Peak. Once in the saddle, turn left (north) to follow the trail up to the summit of Mt. Gordon Lyon (elevation 4,134 ft.) or turn right (south) to climb to Rendezvous Peak (4,101 feet). I hiked this at the end of May 2020 and there were still a few snow patches.

A bit of trivia - Mt. Gordon Lyon was named in 1964 by Mrs. Gordon Lyon for her husband, Gordon Miller Lyon (1906-1964), an engineer who spent much of his professional career working on military construction projects in Alaska.

There are a number of options once you reach the saddle. For a longer more demanding hike (from Gordon Lyon), head over to nearby Highland Mountain (elevation 3606 ft.) You will need to descend about 500 feet along a ridge from Gordon Lyon and then climb back up another 500 feet to reach Highland’s summit.

I will include yet another option for the more adventurous wishing to get off the beaten path. You will not find this in the guide books but it's possible to traverse from Arctic Valley to Hiland Road. Just be aware there is no established trail and be prepared to bushwack. For this route, climb to the saddle, head north (left) and sidehill under and around Gordon Lyon. Continue hiking north maintaining the same elevation (when possible) until you get to the tree/brush-line beyond Highland Mountain. To descend to Hiland Road, you will need to follow sketchy game trails since there is no established trail. We did this in May, and although we knew a route, we still had some serious bushwacking. It's about 6.5 miles depending on where you come out on Hiland Road with an approximate 3000 foot descent.  (Note: I would not recommend this route unless you are adept at orienteering and bushwacking.)

Although most hikers will prefer to climb Rendezvous Peak, Mt. Gordon Lyon and Highland Mt. during the summer months (depending on weather and snowpack) they can also make an excellent spring hikes. (See photo above taken from the saddle.) Depending on winter snowfall, the southeast face of Mount Gordon Lyon can have a very good snowpack and you may see some skiers taking advantage of this in the spring. Later in the summer, Arctic Valley is prime berry-picking territory.

Quick Facts about Mt. Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous Peak hikes*
  • Length: About 1 mile to Saddle, and less than a mile from there to Rendezvous Peak or Mount Gordon Lyon; 3-5 miles round trip.
  • Elevation gain: About 900 feet to Saddle; another 600-700 feet to Rendezvous Peak and Mount Gordon Lyon.
  • Parking fee: $5. Chugach State Park and military decals not valid.
*More here  - Arctic Valley hike: Accessible and Awesome  (ADN Article)


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