Best Hikes in Chugach National Forest (AK)

Chugach National Forest Overview

The most northerly and westerly forest in the National Forest System, the 5.4 million-acre Chugach National Forest is composed of three distinct landscapes and compares in size to the state of New Hampshire. The Forest is home to many of Alaska’s Native peoples, including Ahtna, Chugach, Dena’ina, and Eyak. Chugach National Forest hosts more than half a million visitors each year. Visitors explore the 3,500 miles of shoreline in Prince William Sound, the glacier-studded Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area, the Kenai Peninsula’s 175-miles of the Iditarod National Historic Trail-Southern Trek, or the Copper River Delta, the largest contiguous wetlands complex on America’s Pacific coast and a spring migration stopover for millions of shorebirds. More than 500 miles of trails, 40 cabins, and 16 campgrounds provide plenty of opportunities to explore, making it a popular destination for those wanting to leave the bustle of the city behind. Below you will find more on the best hikes in Chugach National Forest.

Nearest Metro AreaAnchorage, AK
Area Size5,384,336 acres
EstablishedJuly 23, 1907
Hiking Trails500 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Bests Hikes in Chugach National Forest

(*** = Best hikes in Chugach National Forest)

Byron Glacier Trail*** – 2.8 miles out and back
Skating into an ice cave. Byron Glacier, Chugach National Forest, Alaska
Skating into an ice cave. Byron Glacier, Photo by Paxson Woelber

This 1.4 mile trail offers an easy walk for all ages.  It allows a close-up view of a glacier with rugged mountains in all directions. A good family outing with a variety of things to do for the whole family. The alder/cottonwood forest is lush with ferns for a serene beginning to the hike. Byron Creek is a cascading, whitewater, glacial creek.

Heney Ridge Trail*** – 8.2 miles out and back
Aerial Cordova, Photo by Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA

This local favorite is a mere five miles outside the town of Cordova. As you make your way through old-growth forest with massive moss-covered Sitka spruce, you cross the oldest split log bridge in the area and begin to ascend along a series of switch-backs. Views from the switchbacks tantalize you as they come in and out of focus. Two and a half miles later you are rewarded by views of Orca Inlet to the east. If you are still feeling strong, continue another 1.5 miles for a knockout view of the Gulf of Alaska and Kayak Island.

Hope Point Trail*** – 7.0 miles out and back

The Hope Point Trail has great views of Resurrection Creek Valley, Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, Fire Island and the Chugach Mountains. This trail makes a great day hike and adventurous hikers can head off-trail out to other summits in the Kenai Mountains for overnight hikes. The first mile is relatively easy, but quickly increases in difficulty with over 2300′ in elevation gain in 3.5 miles. Some scrambling is required beyond the rock cairn to reach the summit of Hope Point.

Portage Pass Trail*** – 4.0 miles out and back
Portage Glacier, Photo by Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA

The Portage Pass Trail is a segment of the longer Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT). This 2 mile trail, with 750 ” elevation gain, is a good day hike for all ages and provides spectacular views of Passage Canal and the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Divide Lake, 1 mile into the trail as a good picnic site. Taking the route to Portage Lake has an overlook for great views of the glacier and lake. It is the only hike with a view of Portage Glacier! The trail starts in low shrubs, then into trees, but is in open tundra by the time one reaches the top of the Pass. Wildlife includes mountain goats and is a good spot for bird-watching.

Slaughter Ridge Trail*** – 5.0 miles out and back

This 2.5 mile trail climbs a steep 2500′ to the summit ridge of Slaughter Mountain. Outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. The incline on the way up is extremely challenging but well worth the effort if you can manage.

Trail of Blue Ice*** – 9.0 miles out and back
On the Trail of Blue Ice
On the Trail of Blue Ice, Photo by Kylie Czajkowski

A walk in the woods that is fun for the whole family is waiting for you in Portage Valley. The wide trail allows for side-by-side strolling and has accessible, smooth surface gravel, pavement, or wood decking. The views are spectacular as you walk along the creek and through the glacial valley. Hike or bike round-trip from Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform to Moose Flats or customize your trip with a 3-mile loop that begins and ends at Portage Lake. The trail is always open, but check-in at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center for a map of the area and suggestions on customizing your walk.

Winner Creek Trail*** – 5.0 miles out and back
Nice colors at the Winner Creek Gorge
Nice colors at the Winner Creek Gorge, Photo by Frank Kovalchek

The Winner Creek Gorge Trail is a segment of the longer Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT). Take a leisurely day hike through Winner Creek Gorge and experience the hand tram, or to extend the hike to the more challenging and primitive Upper Winner Creek Trail. If continuing on Upper Winner Creek Trail, beautiful camping locations can be found through Berry Pass. Winner Creek Trail is a great hike for the family, and people of all ages. The Winner Creek Gorge is where Winner Creek flows through a small cleft in the rocks, making a picturesque series of small waterfalls and cascades on its way down to Glacier Creek. The Winner Creek Hand Tram is a modern pulley system with a metal cart that carries users across Glacier Creek. The trail goes through a tall spruce and hemlock forest with ferns and blueberry bushes, which make for great berry picking. Wildlife includes moose and bear, watch out for them along the trail. In the summer many songbirds can be seen and heard along the trail in the surrounding forest.

Featured Image: Boggs Peak and Begich Peak – Chugach National Forest, Photo by Paxson Woelber

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on: