Cordova Parks & Trails

The trails around Cordova serve up tons of variety. Most are located in the Chugach National Forest and are very well maintained by the Forest Service. In fact, you’ll find some 40 miles of maintained, road-accessible trails (and well over 100 miles of trail in total) that take you through everything from muskeg meadow to alpine ridges above treeline, often in just a few miles.

The climate within the forest creates a landscape that’s especially spectacular. While other parts of the Chugach get around 60 inches of rain each year, Cordova can see as much as 180 inches, which brings a lush, mossy green to the trees. Of course, all that rain also makes for a marsh-like environment with wet ground. Fortunately, many miles of these well-maintained trails are laid with planks, both to protect the environment and help you walk without sinking in.

Each year, the trails are typically clear of snow by May; just be aware that depending on the winter, some of the trails with open slopes may still have some snow until early June.

With such a wide variety of trails it can be hard to know which to hike if you have limited time in town. Here are some ideas to get you started. Or, jump to list of trails.

Trail Highlights

Easy: Pipeline Lakes and McKinley Trail Loop. This 4- to 5-mile round-trip hike is suitable for most anyone. Start from either of the two trailheads along the Copper River Highway (they’re close together, making for an easy walk to your car when you’re finished). Pipeline Lakes takes you through dense forest that opens up to meadows and fantastic mountain views. If you’re interested in some trout fishing, take the short spur trails, which lead to several small lakes filled with them. Along the way, you’ll intersect with the McKinley Lake Trail, which takes you through old-growth canopy of Sitka and hemlock spruce.

Moderate/Challenging: Heney Ridge Trail. This 6.1-mile trail offers great views, though it does require some effort to get to the top. It starts out following Hartney Bay stream on a gravel walkway; you’ll soon come to a beautiful bridge over a creek that in mid-July and August is full of chum spawning salmon. Turn around here if you don’t feel up to the more challenging part of the climb.

But continue on and you’ll pass through beautiful forest and muskeg meadows; be sure to look back over your shoulder for terrific views of Hartney Bay and Prince William Sound. The last mile gets pretty steep, but the payoff is in the views of Cordova, Nelson Bay, the Sound and some of the main islands.

Best View: Alice Smith Intertie. Any of the trails that take you into the alpine will offer great views. But 6.6-mile Alice Smith Intertie features the area’s most jaw-dropping sights. It takes about 5 hours each way, via either the Power Creek or Crater Lake trails (or you can hike the ridge from end-to-end, 11 miles, if you arrange for a shuttle vehicle at one end). Once you reach the ridge, you’ll find unforgettable views of Prince William Sound, Eyak Lake, and the Copper River Delta. Just be aware that the trail is prone to dense fog, so it’s wise to come prepared to spend the night (there’s a free shelter halfway).

Winter:The easy Pipeline Lakes and McKinley Loop we mention above is also a fantastic winter walk. Another is the Saddlebag Glacier Trail. This 6.1-mile round-trip is flat, making it popular for both snowshoeing and fat-tire biking. And the payoff is a small, pretty lake at the foot of a spectacular glacier. Locals will pack their ice skates in case the lake is frozen.. A similar experience is available on the shorter Sheridan Lake Trail, where you only have to walk about a mile to get to the lake. Don your skates and glide around icebergs frozen into the ice. Best conditions for skating are generally late November through early January, before there’s much snow accumulation.

Picnicking

If you’re not necessarily interested in a hike, but want to enjoy the outdoors and some potential wildlife viewing, there are a few great picnic and recreation areas just beyond town along the Copper River Highway.

Alaganik Slough Recreation Area has a boardwalk with an observation deck, plus a blind to spot wildlife without disturbing any critters. Play in the water or fish for Coho. Come in spring and you’ll also find hooligan (or candlefish), who arrive in massive numbers. And the seals, sea lions, and birds who flock here for the feast create a cacaphony of noise. You’ll find four separate sites with picnic tables and fire rings; spend a day or set up and camp for a week.

Both 18-Mile and One Eye Pond each have day-use picnic areas; walk the trail around the pond and look for the Coho salmon that come to spawn.

Show Map

Parks & Trails

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 6 miles

6.2 round-trip easy hike through the Chugach Nation­al For­est to a glacial lake. Pop­u­lar in win­ter for fat bik­ing and ice skat­ing. In sum­mer, hik­ing and paddleboarding. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 8 miles

This 4.1‑mile trail starts through for­est and muskeg mead­ows. You’ll cross a beau­ti­ful bridge over a creek that in mid-July and August is full of spawn­ing chum salmon Then once you’re at the top take in views of Cor­do­va, Nel­son Bay, and Prince William Sound. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles

This 1.5‑mile hike is an easy stroll down to the lake that offers a great pay­off in the form of a gor­geous glac­i­er. If you’re here in win­ter, bring your ice skates for some wilder­ness ice skating!

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 6 miles

This ridge route has amaz­ing views of Prince William Sound, Eyak Lake, and the Cop­per Riv­er Delta. About halfway down the trail, there is small shel­ter avail­able for day use or overnight camp­ing. It is avail­able on a first-come first-serve basis.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

The hike begins through the for­est before it begins to climb. There are rock cairns to help guide you along the way. From the top, you’ll have impres­sive views of the Sheri­dan and Sher­man glaciers.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

An easy trail, about 0.6 miles long, that will take about 1 hour to hike and leads you to excel­lent views of Child’s Glac­i­er. Impor­tant note: While the For­est Ser­vice still main­tains it, you can’t get here by car, as the Cop­per Riv­er high­way is washed out at Mile 36. You can only access the trail by hir­ing a boat or a plane from town.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 2506 feet

Dis­cov­er year-round recre­ation above Cor­do­va on this gor­geous moun­tain. In win­ter, you can lose your­self among the puffy snow­drifts and pow­der-cov­ered trees as you schuss down the slopes. And in the sum­mer, you’ll find berry pick­ing, hik­ing, and festivals.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

The first mile and a half of this trail leads up over rocky slopes that offer a great view of Eyak Lake and the Orca Inlet. At this point the trail splits in two and the hik­er has a choice of going around the south end of Mt. Eyak or climb­ing straight up to the top.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

This is a steep climb that ends where Crater Lake sits. The first half climbs over rocky sec­tions with numer­ous switch­backs, with mud­dy areas and wood bridges. The sec­ond half con­tin­ues to climb, but at a much nicer grade. At mile 1.2 there is an inter­tie to Ski Hill trail and at the lake there is the option to hike the Alice Smith Inter­tie. The entire loop from Crater Lake to Pow­er Creek Trail­head is 12 miles. Along this trail there is good…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

This trail has impres­sive views of the Chugach Moun­tains. Short spur trails offer access to five small lakes that are excel­lent for cut­throat fishing.

This very active glac­i­er forms a wall along the fabled Cop­per Riv­er near a his­toric rail­road route that once ser­viced the world’s largest cop­per mine. NOTE: A bridge at Mile 36 of the Cop­per Riv­er High­way is cur­rent­ly (2020) impass­able, with repairs not expect­ed for sev­er­al years. Child’s Glac­i­er is not cur­rent­ly acces­si­ble by road. Con­tact Cor­do­va Ranger Dis­trict for cur­rent venders pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion options to the far side.  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

This ski trail weaves through muskeg and for­est and grad­u­al­ly gains ele­va­tion until it ends. The trail leads to a high muskeg that over­looks the Cop­per Riv­er Delta, Heney Range and the Gulf of Alas­ka. This trail is very wet dur­ing all sea­sons exclud­ing win­ter and is not a hik­ing trail. 

Difficulty: Moderate

This trail fol­lows Pow­er Creek then leads it’s hik­ers up mul­ti­ple switch­backs. Mid­way, the Cor­do­va Elec­tric Hydropow­er Dam Can be seen from the trail. The last half pass­es by many beaver ponds and hang­ing glaciers. 

Difficulty: Easy

Locat­ed at Mile 17 of the Cop­per Riv­er High­way. An acces­si­ble board­walk leads vis­i­tors to stun­ning views of both the expan­sive wet­lands of the Cop­per Riv­er Delta and the sur­round­ing moun­tains. A wide vari­ety of wet­land ani­mals includ­ing trum­peter swans, moose, brown bear, and shore­birds can be seen in the area, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the spring and fall. The first half of this trail is paved with geoblock, so that it does not have a negative…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

This is an easy .8‑mile board­walk trail with lots of stairs. The board­walk leads to over­look of the Cop­per Riv­er Delta with many signs. Be sure to bring your cam­era, this is a great place to see moose and bear. 

Difficulty: Easy

This is an easy 2.4‑mile hike with excel­lent fish­ing for sock­eye, Dol­ly Var­den and cut­throat. You’ll find access to McKin­ley Trail and McKin­ley Lake pub­lic use cab­ins. It is a well-main­tained trail that has sev­er­al bridges for easy stream cross­ings and inter­pre­tive signs to explain the trail’s history. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles

The 3.3‑mile long trail is most­ly board­walk over muskeg. This is an excel­lent spot to bird-watch, look for water­fowl feed­ing on Eyak Lake. Trum­peter swans fre­quent this lake. Most fly south for the win­ter how­ev­er, up to 100 swans will win­ter here in this ice-free lake. 

Difficulty: Difficult

This is a light­ly slop­ing trail that par­al­lels the Scott Val­ley and pass­es the shores of large and small lakes. The trail pass­es through an area that was pre­vi­ous­ly logged. It is not a well-main­tained trail. 

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