Enter the Chugach: 7 Trails to Try in the Mountains near Anchorage

The Chugach are Alaska’s most accessible mountains, but that doesn’t make them tame. You can find out what you’re up against on these challenging trails near Anchorage.

Hiking Moderate, Difficult

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Eklutna Lake seen from the ridge on Pepper Peak
Eklutna Lake seen from the ridge on Pepper Peak Photo: Jesse Weber

Description

Alaska’s famous Chugach is the mountain range wrapping around the south-central coast of the state. They jut upward from Anchorage but extend far down the coast and inland as well. Icebound peaks and massive glaciers define the interior, where roads and even trails can’t penetrate, but the “Front Range” near Anchorage is comparatively more accessible. Imposing nonetheless, these peaks rise starkly from sea level to more than 4000 feet and are often crowned in snow, forming a fierce backdrop to Alaska’s largest city. Rugged though they are, the Chugach are basically the backyard of Anchorage, offering a year-round playground for residents and visitors alike.

Best known internationally for winter sports, the Chugach reaps some of the world’s highest snow totals each winter. In March and April, Anchorage is a mecca for skiers and riders harvesting the best of Alaska’s snow conditions. By May, however, as the northern sun lengthens its laps in the sky, much of that snow has melted. By the start of summer, the Front Range peaks are mostly snow-free, and the sun hardly sets. Then the mountains are awash in daylight and steeped in trails, making Anchorage a hiker’s paradise.

Most of these trails are within Chugach State Park, which is among the larger state parks in the country. Not to be mistaken for your average road trip getaway, however, Chugach Park has little in the way of facilities. It’s mostly wilderness, but with ample trailheads that provide access. Well-trodden trails lead to untrammeled backcountry, and hikers can decide how far they want to go.

Though certain routes are quite popular, the vast majority of the Chugach is rugged and rarely traveled. And on any trail, no matter the number of people, it’s important to remember that this is still Alaska–– where conditions can be tough, wildlife can be dangerous, and help might not be close by. Forging deeper into the Chugach requires a familiarity with these mountains that can’t be gained in just a few hikes.

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of starter hikes in the Chugach, as an introduction to Alaska’s backyard mountain range. These include some very popular trails, but also more remote routes to earn a taste of solitude. You’ll find forest walks to glacial rivers, uphill jaunts to fields of tundra, and steep slogs to lofty peaks––all within easy reach of Anchorage but with a feel for wild Alaska.

Routes included

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