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Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park Review

Comprising nearly a half-million acres, Chugach State Park is the third-largest state park in America. Just on the edge of Anchorage, the park is Alaska's most accessible wilderness. It has nearly 30 trails for all types of hikes and hikers. Totaling more than 150 mi, the hiking trails range from 2 mi to 30 mi long. Although the park is technically an urban park, in that it is connected to the largest city in Alaska, it is far from being a typical urban setting. Chugach State Park is anything but tame; it's real wilderness, home to Dall sheep, mountain goats, brown bears, moose, and several packs of wolves.

Miners who sought the easiest means of traversing the mountain peaks and passes initially blazed most of the trails within the park. Today those same trails are restored every spring and maintained by park rangers and various volunteer groups. Trailheads are scattered around the park's perimeter from Eklutna Lake, 30 mi north of Anchorage, to the trailhead for the Crow Pass Trail near Girdwood, 37 mi to the south. It is free to hike in the park, whether you're there for an afternoon or a week; however, several of the more popular trailheads charge a $5 daily parking fee.

The park offers some truly intoxicating views, and depending on what perch you're looking down from, you can see across the bay to the looming white mountains of the Alaska Range, the great tides of Cook Inlet, and, on clear days, Mt. McKinley in all her glory. One of the best and most easily accessible places to try for such a view is from Flattop Mountain on the park's western edge. The peak is the most popular destination within Chugach Park. It is a 1-mi-long hike to the top, and hikers of all abilities make the trek. Be advised, however, that although you may see people hiking in flip-flops up to the peak, it is strenuous and can be very challenging. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and proper attire. The trail up can be exhausting, and the way down can be very taxing on the knees. It's always wise to hike with trekking poles; they help relieve the stress on the back and the knees. Carry water and a snack, and as always, be prepared for sudden weather changes. Every year people are rescued from this trail because they have underestimated its potential for calamity, so be prepared.

Updated: 06-12-2013

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