Winter (non-motorized) Trails of Chugach State Park
Winter landscapes can be explored with multiple modes of transportation. Listed below are many ways people venture into the Chugach Trails. Try one or try them all!
Cross Country Skiing: Cross-country skiing is allowed anywhere in the park. Anchorage Hillside, Eagle River Nature Center, and Eklutna Lake are good places for beginners and intermediate.
Back Country Skiing: Backcountry touring and skiing is a popular winter activity in the park. Knowledge of avalanche terrain, weather, and snowpack are your responsibility. Before going into the backcountry, take a class. Know what to bring and how to use it. Visit the Alaska Avalanche School for more information.
Ski Touring: Once again, know before you go. Take a class and be aware of the variables when skiing uncontrolled areas. There are several popular traverses in the park.
Arctic to Indian Traverse (Ship Creek Valley):
Access: Indian Valley Trailhead or Arctic Valley Trailhead.
Travel Means: Foot or ski.
Distance: 22 miles or 35 kilometers one way, first 3 miles are drop to valley floor.
Elevation gain: 1000 feet or 305 meters drop to valley floor, 1000 feet or 305 meters gain to Indian Pass.
Special Features: First 1.7 mile is on military land. Use respectfully. Designated wilderness, spectacular scenery. Wolves, bears, moose, beaver.
Eklutna Traverse (Unmaintained Route):
Access: Eklutna Lake Trailhead or Girdwood Valley.
Travel Means: Foot or ski
Distance: Depending on route taken ~ approximately 38 miles
Difficulty: High. Avalanche terrain, undefined trail, crevasse crossings.
Special Features: Glacier Traveling, Visit Mountaineering Club of Alaska website for hut information.
Classic/Skate Skiing: When time and resources permit several trails in the park will be groomed for classic and skate skiing. These trails include 15 miles of loop trails out of the Glen Alps Trailhead, and a short loop out of Eklutna Trailhead through the campground. Several local groups may also groom trails within their local areas. These include trails connecting to the Eagle River Campground and sections of the Indian to Girdwood Bike path around the Bird Campground.
Downhill Skiing: Downhill skiing is available in the park at the Arctic Valley Ski Area
Arctic Valley is run entirely by volunteers from the Anchorage Ski Club, a 501(c)3 Non-Profit.
Snowshoeing is a great way to explore wooded areas and is also a good workout. Explore Anchorage Hillside trails leaving from Upper Huffman Trailhead or the Eagle River Greenbelt Accesses.
Dogsledding is easiest where there are old roadbeds. Try the Eklutna Lakeside Trail, Peter's Creek, or Eagle River from the Eagle River Greenbelt Accesses.
Skijouring: If you think being towed on skis behind a dog sounds like fun, try the dogsled areas mentioned above.
Ice Climbing: Of the many popular ice climbing areas in the park, the most accessible are the frozen waterfalls along Turnagain Arm. Others can be found in the Eagle River drainage and the Eklutna Lake Serenity Falls area.
Photography: Winter is very photogenic. Carry extra batteries, keep them warm and protect your cold camera from condensation.
Skywatching: Night is non-existent in summer but comes in double doses during winter months, along with brilliant stars and northern lights. Dress for extreme cold. Skywatching is a sedentary activity. The Eagle River Nature Center conducts astronomy programs.
Tracking: Many animal tracks are visible in winter snow. Good areas for finding tracks include the Eklutna Lake area, the trails around the Eagle River Nature Center, and Ship Creek.
Winter is the longest season in the Chugach Mountains. Freezing temperatures and snow are an important part of the weather for up to ten months of the year. In higher elevations, snow can fall anytime in August and remain on the ground through May. The harsh winter weather challenges resident wildlife and park visitors alike.
Fortunately, the challenges of winter are accompanied by many rewards: bright snowy days, tracks left by wandering wildlife, the frozen beauty of ice crystals, whole frozen waterfalls, lingering alpenglow, northern lights...and the chance to play in the snow!
Note from the Ranger Log at the Eagle River Nature Center -- "Dec. 21, shortest day of the year. Minus 22 F the high today, minus 35 F the low. Sun so low in the sky that it is constant twilight on the valley floor, though the sunrise colored the south facing peaks pink for almost an hour. Bird feeders are being hard hit by at least 40 chickadees. Always surprised such tiny birds can manage in this cold. Skied down to river at lunch. New coyote tracks since yesterday. Hoar frost crystals are forming flowers on the creek ice. Their cold fragile beauty shatters like delicate glass under my skis."
Please respect the private property near the trailhead. Parking is poor and we ask that you not block access for the local residents.
For further information, you may contact the Chugach State Park Headquarters office at 345-5014 or the Public Information Center in Anchorage at 269-8400.