Girdwood Parks & Trails
The Girdwood Valley and the peaks that rise above it offer something for everyone, whether you want a quick stroll in the woods or a multi-day expedition.
It’s also gloriously unique. Since Girdwood sits in North America’s northernmost temperate coastal rainforest, it features a very different ecosystem than anything else you’ll experience in Alaska: You’ll find Rufous hummingbirds, lichens, ferns, fungi and mosses found only in such wet, forested environs. It also offers some visceral delights: Nothing beats the clean, earthy smell of the Girdwood woods after a rain shower.
Want to explore this lush area? If you’re not ready to hit the trails alone, Ascending Path offers nice guided hikes around the Girdwood area. But if you’d like to set out yourself, here are the best places to start:
Easy Hike: Winner Creek Trail
Everyone flocks to this trail, and for good reason—it’s a classic. Starting and ending from the luxurious (but still down-to-earth) Hotel Alyeska, the Winner Creek Trail leads to a gorge and the hand tram through a think forest of spruce and cottonwood trees. Granted, this trail can get crowded, but typically on just the first mile, which has a nice, accessible boardwalk and interpretive signage.
Off-the-Beaten Path: Upper Winner Creek Trail
If you want the convenience of the Winner Creek Trail, but away from the crowds, just hang a right turn at the Winner Creek Trail’s T intersection. Instead of heading toward the gorge and hand tram, you can take the Upper Winner Creek Trail toward Berry Pass and some spectacular Chugach scenery.
Hearty Hikes: Crow Pass Trail and North Face Trail
The Crow Pass trailhead is located at the dead-end of Crow Creek Road. The trail leads over the Chugach, past glaciers and—if you’ve got a lot of time—into Eagle River Valley. This thru-hike typically takes a few days, but a day hike to the Pass provides outstanding wildlife-viewing opportunities, as well as workout.
The North Face Trail, which leaves from Hotel Alyeska (and then heads straight up), is a must-do for strong hikers. One bonus: It’s free to ride the tram back down the mountain. Plus, there are often a lot of blue, salmon and watermelon berries to nibble along your 2,000-foot hike.
A Quick High-Alpine Adventure: Ride the Tram
For speed and scenery, nothing beats riding the Alyeska Tram up the North Face into the ski area. You’ll see glaciers galore, high-alpine tundra, Turnagain Arm’s bore tide, and a fair amount of wildlife in the distance.
Keep these other hikes in mind, too: California Creek, Bird to Gird Pathway, Iditarod National Historic Trail (from Crow Creek Mine), the Beaver Pond Trail and, really, any other ski trails within the Alyeska ski resort. If you drive down the road a few minutes, Portage Valley offers several great hiking trails, too.
Girdwood Hiking Trails
This short day hike — with an easily accessible trailhead a few hundred meters from the Begich Boggs Visitor Center — offers you big views of the Byron Glacier.
Primarily built to provide pack-rafters and kayakers access to the headwaters of Twentymile River, this 9‑mile-long trail has also proved a draw for hikers — and with good reason. Just 45 minutes south of Anchorage, it makes for a very scenic hike into some high, wild, glacier-girted country.
If you want a great workout — to stunning mountain views high above the valley floor below — but want to save your knees on the way down, this trail is for you. It leaves from the Alyeska Resort tram building and climbs steep switchbacks 2.2 miles and 2000 feet to the mid-mountain restaurant where you can catch a free aerial tram ride back down to the hotel.
Our guide to the best bike trails around Girdwood and Turnagain Arm. You’ll find gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, creeks, and a variety wildlife — as well as plenty of bicycle trails that make it easy to absorb it all at your own pace. Need a bicycle? You can rent them at Powder Hound Ski and Bike Shop, located in the heart of Girdwood at the base of Alyeska Resort.
Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood (45 minutes south of Anchorage) is one of our favorite trails to take visiting friends and family. It’s an easy 3‑mile hike or bike ride on a wide, well-developed trail with a gentle elevation gain that winds through America’s northernmost rainforest, crosses a wooden bridge over a thundering blue-water gorge. 2022: Hand tram currently closed, may replace with bridge. Local weighing in.)
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 ...more