The overlook to Campbell Creek Gorge— where the creek cuts beneath sheer cliffs in the Chugach foothills east of town—is one of Anchorage’s best-kept secrets. It’s just a 20-minute walk from two trailheads in Chugach State Park and can also be easily reached from Far North Bicentennial and Hillside parks.
Eagle’s Eye View
From the canyon rim beneath the Hillside power line in the Chugach foothills, the precipitous slopes plunge nearly 200 feet to a narrow bed where the sun rarely shines. The boiling whitewater drops 250 feet in less than a half-mile. Over eons, this powerful stream carved a stunning chasm, creating one of the most unexpected and least visited natural wonders in the Anchorage Bowl. It is almost inaccessible to humans.
But an amazing view is free to anyone willing to walk less than a half hour over mountain paths. From several tree-covered overlooks, you can gaze down a sheer cliff into the brush-infested canyon. As I crawl to the edge, grab a sturdy aspen, and poke my head over the chasm, I always feel a dash of vertigo mixed with an urge to find wings and jump into the updraft, just like the resident crows, eagles, and magpies do.
Choose Your Jaw-Dropping View
There are so many great views here: You can look across the gorge at other granite faces interspersed with steep, alder-covered slopes; glance upstream at the front range of the Chugach Mountains; or point downstream for a view of Anchorage, framed by the gorge’s walls. The topography of this location is the most rugged you’ll find in the Anchorage area and it’s easy to see that if bungee jumping were to ever be introduced in Anchorage (it won’t happen), this would be the spot for it. Adventurers have been visiting the Gorge for years. For a few weeks each spring (after the snow melts and before the leaves open) you might catch a glimpse of airplane wreckage at the bottom of the chasm, compliments of one adventure that got too close.
How to Get There
Narrow paths follow both the north and south rims, leading to many spectacular views. But the two easiest-to-find and most dramatic overlooks are where the power line crosses the gorge.
North Rim access from Basher Trailhead (1/3 mile)
Take Campbell Airstrip Road south from Tudor Road. Drive just over three miles as the road turns into Basher Drive. A small parking area is on the south side of the road just east of the power line. The trail leads south into Chugach State Park, basically following beneath power line, to the canyon rim.
South Rim access from Prospect Heights trailhead (1/2 mile)
From Hillside Drive, take Upper O’Malley east (uphill toward the mountains) to Prospect Drive. Drive north (left) for one mile to where Prospect merges with Sidorof Lane and continue to the left (northwest). The Chugach State Park trailhead entrance is 200 yards ahead on the north side of the road.
From the trailhead: Go north to the Power Line Trail and head west (away from the mountains.) Watch for a fork just past where the powerline cuts downhill, about a quarter mile out. The main trail continues to the right (northeast) but you need to take the path heading sharply downhill on your left (west). Intersect the power line corridor and continue north trail to the rim.
More south rim adventures . . .
If you’re up for slightly longer hikes over interesting hillside trails, you can reach the south rim from two trailheads in Hillside and Far North Bicentennial parks.
South Bivouac Trailhead (1.5 miles)
From the trailhead, go a quarter mile east to the bridge over Campbell Creek and turn left (east) onto Spencer Loop. (Note that Spencer is ski-only during ski season.) Take Spencer uphill about one mile, passing a steep section signed as “Wall Street,” until you reach a dramatic switchback with the main trail cutting sharply to the west. Look for a path leading uphill into the brush right at the turn. Take that path another 350 yards uphill to the power line corridor to the rim. Many other paths cut off this trail to the rim.
Hilltop Ski Area Trailhead. (2 miles)
Take Abbott Road to HIlltop Ski Area inside Hillside Park. Park at the far north end of the parking area. Go north on the flat gas line corridor about one-half mile, then veer northeast downhill to the bridge over Campbell Creek. From there, go north (right) on Spencer Loop, following the same directions for the South Bivouac Trailhead.
P.S.: Bear Alert
Be on alert for bears that frequent this area, especially when the salmon start running from mid-July on. The Campbell Creek corridor and all the trails have relatively high densities of both black and brown bears. Travel in a group, make noise and carry bear spray for deterrence.