Why Take this Hike
Black Tail Rocks is a very airy climb that stretches to 4,446 feet above Eagle River, a town located just north of Anchorage. It’s a journey that involves only a minimal amount of hand-over-hand scrambling; you’ll be following a trail for most of the 4-mile, 2,750-foot hike. And you’ll have a fine view from the top, looking up the length of the secluded Meadow Creek Valley and well into the deep inner reaches of the Chugach Mountains.
To reach Black Tail Rocks, you must first climb Baldy (3,281 feet), a popular hike in the mountains above Eagle River. Many find the climb to Baldy’s open summit satisfying enough, but you’ll find a greater reward if you continue. From the summit of Baldy, the traverse along the ridge to the base of Black Tail Rocks should prove most enjoyable. Hiking high above Meadow Creek far below to the right, this ridge walk does not climb up or down very steeply for very long, allowing you to enjoy the sights.
When you reach the southwest base of Black Tail Rocks, the trail begins to climb steadily, though without any great urgency. Higher up, the trail skirts along the base of the spires lining the summit ridge—here, you’ll probably have to use your hands, as the trail crosses a number of rocky gullies. Just above the last gully, the trail reaches a saddle; look across and up to see the summit cone.
This cone may look imposing; steep, fluted gullies scar its flanks. But a gully slanting down the left (southwest) corner of the face will allow you a relatively safe route up some loose scree to the summit (4,446 feet).
At this point, ambitious hikers may want to continue down the far side of Black Tail Rocks to the saddle below. From there, you can hike up to the next ridge and then turn west to climb the long and broad summit of Roundtop (4,755 feet). Though the initial descent to the saddle crosses involves hiking over loose stones, it gets easier. Once in the saddle, follow the faint, gradually climbing trail up to next ridge and then over to Roundtop. It makes for a far easier climb than the one to Black Tail Rocks. Just make sure you have the stamina to complete the round-trip, otherwise you’ll find yourself sheepishly explaining to friends back home how a helicopter had to pluck you off the mountain because you got a little tired.
(For more, see Walk-About Guide to Alaska, Volume Three by Shawn R. Lyons)