Comprising nearly a half-million acres, Chugach State Park is the third-largest state park in the United States. On the edge of Anchorage, the park is Alaska's most accessible wilderness, with nearly 30 trails for hikers of all abilities. Totaling more than 150 miles, the hiking trails range in length from 2 miles to 30 miles. Although Chugach, connected as it is to Alaska's largest city, is technically an urban park, this is far from being a typical urban setting. Hardly
tame, this is 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 park's trails. Today they 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 miles north of Anchorage, to the trailhead for the Crow Pass Trail near Girdwood, 37 miles to the south. Hiking in the park is free whether you're here for an afternoon or a week, though a $5 daily parking fee is charged at several popular trailheads.
The park serves up 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 its glory. One of the best and most easily accessible places to seek out such a view is from Flattop Mountain, on the park's western edge. The peak is the most popular destination within Chugach Park. A 1-mile hike leads to the top, and hikers of all abilities make the trek. You may see people doing so in flip-flops, but the hike is strenuous. 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 wise to hike with trekking poles; they help relieve the stress on the back and the knees. Carry water and a snack, and be prepared for sudden weather changes. Every year people are rescued from this trail because they have underestimated its potential for calamity.