Historic Iditarod Crow Pass Trail

Eagle River, Alaska

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1 Review
5 out of 5
For a grand tour of the best Chugach State Park has to offer, head to the Historic Iditarod Trail. More commonly known as the Crow Pass Trail, it leads through quiet stands of birch; over a swift, cold river; and past high valleys, deep gorges, sapphire-blue tarns, and an immense glacier. Add several jagged peaks and scattered remnants of Alaska’s gold mining days, and you’re in for an unbeatable backpacking experience. Regular maintenance and heavy traffic (by Alaskan standards, that is) make the Historic Iditarod Trail less remote and wild than other hikes in this guide, but do not even think about missing it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a lover of Chugach State Park who hasn’t hiked this trail multiple times. Of course, you need not hike the whole trail. Excellent out-and-back trips are possible at either end. From Girdwood, hike to Crow Pass in an easy afternoon, lounge at Crystal Lake, and perhaps climb a nearby mountain. Start at Eagle River for walks of a different character, where you can hike through serene forests at the river’s edge and camp in the shadow of forbidding peaks named Korohusk, Kiliak, and Yukla—all derived from Dena’ina words meaning “evil spirits.”

Historic Iditarod (Crow Pass) Trail Professional Review and Guide

"For a grand tour of the best Chugach State Park has to offer, head to the Historic Iditarod Trail. More commonly known as the Crow Pass Trail, it leads through quiet stands of birch; over a swift, cold river; and past high valleys, deep gorges, sapphire-blue tarns, and an immense glacier. Add several jagged peaks and scattered remnants of Alaska’s gold mining days, and you’re in for an unbeatable backpacking experience. Regular maintenance and heavy traffic (by Alaskan standards, that is) make the Historic Iditarod Trail less remote and wild than other hikes in this guide, but do not even think about missing it.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a lover of Chugach State Park who hasn’t hiked this trail multiple times. Of course, you need not hike the whole trail. Excellent out-and-back trips are possible at either end. From Girdwood, hike to Crow Pass in an easy afternoon, lounge at Crystal Lake, and perhaps climb a nearby mountain. Start at Eagle River for walks of a different character, where you can hike through serene forests at the river’s edge and camp in the shadow of forbidding peaks named Korohusk, Kiliak, and Yukla—all derived from Dena’ina words meaning “evil spirits.”"

Activity Type: Backpacking, Hiking
Nearby City: Eagle River
Distance: 26
Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 1 to 3 days
Season: Best in the summer months
Local Contacts: Chugach State Park
Local Maps: USGS Anchorage A-6
Driving Directions: Directions to Historic Iditarod (Crow Pass) Trail

Recent Trail Reviews

6/8/2002
1

Unbeknowst to many, this traverse can be started right at tidewater on Turnagain Arm in Girdwood, or from a number of other jumping off spots in the Glacier (Girdwood) valley that will add immensely to the diversity of your experience. Glacier Valley is the northernmost extent of northern latitude rainforests in North America, is in largely pristine condition, filled with many big and small wild critters (griz to neo-tropical migrating songbirds), and laced with numerous trails. You could easily spend a day or more exploring all the trails in this valley, and I recommend it! This is one of the most beautiful valleys in Alaska (but remember, this rainforest ain't here by coincidence!) My recommendation is to start at the "new townsite" (the "old" townsite down by the Seward Highway flooded on the first high tide after the 1965 Earthquake because all the land in this fjorded area had sunk about 20 feet during the five minute long 9.2 Richter Scale quake). At the intersection Alyeska Hwy. and Hightower Ave (the new townsite)follow the bikepath north to the school, and then head off to the NE until you meet one the trails on the west side of Glacier Creek. This will feed you into the Upper Valley segment of the Iditarod National Historic Trail...this route continues north one mile until thru untouched rainforest before you turn west on an obviously gravelled segment of the trail. In about 0.6 of a mile, you'll cross Crow Creek Road. The current alignment of CC Rd. was established as the first road in Anchorage in 1922 . You're now at mile 1.6 of CC Road. Cross the road to the NW onto another segment of the Iditarod...this segment was abandoned in 1921, and had lain overgrown until just the past few years, when it was rehabbed by folks from the Girdwood area with the support of the Municipality of Anchorage and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program. This segment is cleared and improved for 2.5 miles paralleling the CC Rd., but the old growth Sitka Spruce and Devils Club is so thick you can hardly see the road. Note the cuts into bedrock for the trail which carried four horse teams to the Crow Creek Mine, and travellers over Crow Pass. Look for corduroy logging still intact since the turn of the century, and almost indistinguishable mossy covered briges over small brooks. After about a mile you'll cross to the east side of CC Rd (the old timers built the trail around a very prominent avalanche path) and follow it for another mile or so where it connects to the (privately owned) Crow Creek Mine, a National Historic Landmark where you can camp, or pan for gold. A fantastic must-not- miss side trip is on an intersecting trail heading east just before you get the mine. The "Tram Trail" will take you in 0.2 mile to a 200 foot hand operated cable tram that carries you 100 feet above the high velocity flows of Glacier Creek. Once on the other side, you can follow this Winner Creek Trail about 2.5 miles to the east side of the valley, and the terminus for an enclosed aerial-tram at the posh Alyeska Resort. You can ride to the top for more than a couple of bucks and get a heck of a great view of this unique valley. From Crow Creek Mine, you can either follow this narrow forested dirt road up to the trailhead for the Crow Pass segment of the Iditarod, or for a real bushwacking adventure, try to find the still overgrown segment of the Iditarod that takes off in a N/NW direction just from just south a couple hundred feet from the entrance of CC Mine. You might be able to find it by looking for a corridor huge alder (in AK these things aren't trees, they're clumps of 15' high shrubs with numerous branches starting at ground level, the branches the size of your thigh). These nitrogen fixing plants clog the disturbed area (ie., historic trail) and are obviously much different than the surrounding old growth spruce. In a number of places there are no alders and the walk can be very pleasant...wouldn't recommend trying to follow the route through the alder clogged av paths; just walk east to the road, walk around the path, and then walk west along the edge of the next old growth segment, and you should be able to find the historic trail. Finally, the trail reconnects to the road at an old gravel pit at mile 3.9. From there you need to stay on the road. You'll pass thru a funky subdivision clinging to the steep slopes informally called "Avalanche Acres", since its built in the "red zone". By this time you'll have sweeping views of the 2 to 3,000 vertical ridges to your north that hold the Eagle and Whiteout Glacier icefields. From here it's another mile to the southern trailhead for the Crow Pass segment of the trail. Lots of adventures to be had, and you haven't even hit the trail in all the guidebooks! Enjoy!



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May 2018