The Chugach Mountains of Alaska. Bushwhack your way to around 2,000 feet and you’re out of treeline; now you’re in an endless alpine wonderland, a paradise of ridgewalking, an intact wilderness with grizzly bears, moose, wolves, black bears, views of both rocky, glaciated peaks and the sea, limited by only your own imagination and your willingness to trudge uphill on steep, soft tundra.
The sun is bright, the air smells of Labrador tea and the earth is a carpet of blueberries and crowberries. Sheep trails contour cleverly around peaks, there’s a clear creek and a copse of birch trees in every valley, and the days are long.
This summer I created a 70 mile route that traverses the Chugach Mountains on these enchanted ridges. I used trip reports I found online, cross country routes I found on maps, and the knowledge of my friends. This route is on Dena’ina land.
The Chugach Traverse is a 70 mile traverse of Chugach State Park, from the Knik River to Turnagain arm. Chugach State park is right outside Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. The route’s northern terminus is the Pioneer Peak trailhead, and its southern terminus is the Indian Valley trailhead. The route is 35 miles of trail and 35 miles of cross-country travel. The terrain is a mix of steep soft alpine tundra, ridge walking, epic passes, talus, traveling up one river valley (on the Crow Pass Trail), and about three VERY slow miles of alder bushwhacking. On this traverse, you’ll climb from close to sea level up to 5,000 feet and then drop down to near sea level, and repeat this multiple times. The route has 25,000 feet of elevation gain and about the same amount of elevation loss, and is best hiked north to south.
My friends and I hiked this route in 7 days, averaging 10 miles a day. Much of the route, for me, was 1mph travel, due to the steepness of the climbs and the slowness of the cross-country- spongy soft tundra, brush, talus, etc. There is plentiful water in the valleys along the route, as all the creeks there are running, but water on the ridges is non-existent except for the occasional snowpatch. I hiked this route in August, and the weather was perfect.
If you’d like access to the maps, GPS track and trail notes for this route, I’m asking people to donate at least $10 to Keeling Mutual Aid, the neighborhood mutual aid project I’m a part of in Tucson, Arizona. You can donate here. After you donate, email a screenshot of your donation to email@example.com, and I’ll send you links to all the route info.