Considered to be one of the best hikes in all of the Chugach Mountains, Crow Pass follows a portion of the original Iditarod Trail, including its highest point. End to end, it’s a 21-mile trail, which most people do in 2 days, but just the first 4 miles will lead you past some breathtaking scenery. Along the way you’ll find glaciers, waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, mine ruins, and berries (in late August and September). Hiking is not recommended in winter due to avalanches, but the trail is usually relatively snow-free by late June (though the Crystal Lake basin, south of the pass, and some of the gullies north of the pass may still have snow well into the summer).
The first section of the hike is uphill with a generally modest incline. About 1-½ along, you’ll find ruins of the Monarch Mine, active from 1909 to 1938. Just after the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of prospectors heading for other parts of the state on the Iditarod Trail passed the Monarch’s undiscovered vein without knowing it. After you pass the mine, the trail forks: you can take the higher route, or the lower, which winds through a rocky gorge with a series of waterfalls at mile 2. Both routes merge about a mile or two up the trail, near the top of the pass. Be careful when you reach this point, as the trail here can be steep and there's plenty of loose rock. Look for arctic ground squirrels, marmots, and mountain goats in this area; bears, moose, and Dall sheep are frequently spotted further along the trail. At the top of the pass, about mile 3, you’ll see a shallow pond known as Crystal Lake on the left (along with a Forest Service cabin that you can rent), followed by a spectacular view of Raven Glacier at mile 4. The trail will then head consistently downhill for the next several miles; you’ll move into Raven Valley, which eventually merges with the larger Eagle River Valley. Here you’ll need to ford the Eagle River, which can be dangerous; it’s not recommended to cross alone. Then the trail heads left and follows the valley west; this is the majority of the hike. But pay attention: the trail splits and re-joins a few times. The best rule is to stay to the right, which is at a higher altitude than the trail on the left, which can be inaccessible due to water. (Yet either may have places that require water crossing.) Near the end of the trail, several wooden posts will let you know that you're almost to the Eagle River Nature Center. Established campsites along the trail are located at mile 1.7, mile 3, mile 5.5, mile 6, and mile 9. Of course, plan to have a car waiting on the other end of the trail—it’s a 21 mile hike back to Girdwood!
Distance: 21 miles