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Mt. Gordon Lyon & Highland Mt. (June Featured Hike)

View of the Eagle River Southfork Valley

Here's an excellent conditioning hike to start off your summer or a shorter less demanding hike for an Anchorage visitor who doesn't have a lot of time but wants an overview. You will be rewarded 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, an old Military site, 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 they used to hold Nike Missiles 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.)

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. 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. (I just did this hike at the end of May 2020 and there were still a few snow patches that are likely gone by now.) Climb about 900 feet up to the a broad saddle between Mt. Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous Peak. Once in the saddle, turn left (north) and follow the trail up to the summit of Mt. Gordon Lyon (elevation 4,134 ft.) . 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.

For a longer more demanding hike, 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.

Although most hikers will prefer to do this hike during the summer months, depending on weather and snowpack, it can also make an excellent spring hike. (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. Happy Trails!