For a challenging and compact cross country ski area where you’ll find just about every kind of terrain, you can’t go wrong at Beach Lake Nordic Ski Trails off South Birchwood Loop in Chugiak. The 15-kilometer-plus system ranges from easy gliding to a sprawling advanced loop with sudden headwalls that morph into thrilling, high-speed descents.
The area is remarkable for featuring so much varied skiing inside such a small footprint. It feels much bigger than it is. Notable for loops with rollercoaster turns, it’s a blast, and very popular among Chugiak and Eagle River skiers and ski families. About half of the system has lights for night skiing.
Welcoming to beginners
From the Beach Lake Chalet, beginners will find easy routes that meander through the forest and lead to the high school on the broad “Low Road” and “Mainstreet” corridors. The ski stadium at the school offers another flat groomed zone connecting to about three easy kilometers on that side of the road.
The lighted blue loop—running out and back from the school via the tunnel—is a favorite backbone for ski races. Considered to be moderately challenging, the route features a headwall-like climb nicknamed “Agony Hill” and curving descent onto the Mainstreet returning trail called “Devil’s Corner.”
For a grand tour that includes some strenuous and even slightly technical segments, follow the 10.2-kilometer red loop. It traverses the ski area from north to south, featuring the hairpin turns of Junkyard in the north and the sustained climbs of the Hill Loop in the south. An especially fun feature: at least three kilometers parallel the Alaska Railroad tracks, making for interesting moments when trains trundle past during tuck-and-go descents.