Why Take This Hike
This 5-mile trail begins in Moose Flats Recreation Area on Portage Lake Road, 80 miles south of Anchorage. It winds through woods, over streams, and by lakes and ponds. Along the way it serves up stunning views of mountains, as well as the glaciers that hang from the gullies and ravines between those mountains.
This trail begins by following a mix of smooth gravel and boardwalks around some ponds. It then crosses Portage Glacier Road and, for the next 4 miles, continues through woods, past ponds, and over small streams on the east side of the valley.
As you continue upstream to Portage Lake, you follow the retreat of the glacier that once filled this valley. Look carefully and you should see evidence of the retreat—in the rocks, streams, plants, and even just the lay of the land. You can also see the scattered remnants of the glacier dropping down various valleys and ravines.
Less than 5 miles up the valley, the trail crosses Portage Glacier Road again and climbs a very short and steep rise before descending rapidly to the southeast corner of the Begich, Boggs Visitors Center parking area on Portage Lake, where it ends.
There you can explore the wide-open shores of Portage Lake just beyond the end of the trail. Look across to Maynard Mountain and Shakespeare Shoulder, with Portage Pass in between the two. As you do, try to imagine the scene not many decades ago when Portage Glacier towered in the shallows just offshore—or the scene not many centuries ago when it filled the entire valley. Today, it has shrunk back around the corner of the lake, over a quarter mile to your left, and seeing it requires taking a ferry.
If you have the ability to transport bicycles, this trail makes for a great afternoon trip. First, head south from Girdwood to the Portage Valley, 10 miles away. Take a left, and about one mile in, you’ll turn left into the Moose Flats Recreation Area. Park here and head out on the trail heading east: The dirt path winds through the Portage Valley, passing glacial lakes and ending at Portage Lake (this part of the trip is 5 miles each way). Make sure to bring your camera: you’ll see hanging glaciers and, very likely, some wildlife.
Beginner | 10 miles roundtrip | Hybrid Bike
(For more, see Walk-About Guide to Alaska, Volume One by Shawn R. Lyons)