Why Take This Hike
This short, paved trail is an hour’s drive north of Anchorage in southern Wasilla. It leads out to a bluff on Palmer Hay Flats—a large stretch of wetlands with all kinds of wildlife. There, a viewing platform overlooks the flats and the Chugach Mountains beyond.
The parking area for Scout Ridge Loop Trail can be a bit tricky to find. From downtown Wasilla, follow Goose Bay Road south to Fairview Loop. Then follow Fairview Loop to Hayfield Road. After driving another mile down Hayfield Road, turn left on an unmarked dirt road and take that to the parking area.
From here, follow the paved trail 40 yards through the cottonwood and birch forest out to Scout Ridge Overlook. The platform alone makes this trail worth visiting. Overlooking Palmer Hay Flats, it offers a wide view of the Chugach Mountains from the Knik River Valley and Pioneer Peak to the southeast all the way to the Anchorage peninsula in the southwest.
Listen for robins and thrush in the woods nearby. Look for all kinds of birds winging back and forth across the expansive flats, and keep an eye out for moose and bears grazing in the "wild pasture."
Though wheelchairs will have little problem negotiating the paved trail out to the overlook, this does not hold true for the remainder of the loop. Once past the overlook, the surface of the trail turns much less wheelchair-friendly. This is especially true along the crest of the ridge above the flats; here, the trail drops sharply to a dirt road. Once on this road, though, wheelchairs should have a much easier time negotiating the terrain. Continuing along a lake, visible through the trees on the right, you soon come to a short trail leading down to its shores. Beyond the lake, the trail turns rough again as it leaves the road for the last few hundred winding yards back to the parking area.
After completing this trail, you might have the urge to visit the overlook once more. It’s undoubtedly the highlight. Covered from the elements, it makes a fine place for a picnic or just to sit and watch the wildlife come and go. It can even seem a magical place, especially late in the day when you can hear the last birdcalls drift over the dimming flats.
(For more, see Walk-About Guide to Alaska, Volume Three by Shawn R. Lyons)