Girdwood, AK: Hiking Galore!
We came to Girdwood with one thing on our mind: Hiking. The small but charming ski town of Girdwood is surrounded by beautiful, snow-capped mountains. With so much to do in the area, I was definitely ready to get back on trail. And we did almost immediately.
Soon after arriving at our spot, we took off our bikes and rode through the neighborhood to the Virgin Creek trailhead. This short but sweet trail goes thru a rainforest along the aforementioned creek, which plunges thru mini-canyons and small waterfalls. A great introduction to Girdwood.
The Alyeska Resort offers dry camping in their overflow parking lot during the summer. It’s just a parking lot, and can get pretty crowded, but it backs right up to the slopes and the views are great!
The next day, we geared up and drove up the dusty Crow Creek Road to the Crow Pass trailhead. The day was cloudy and sultry. A friendly group of hikers introduced us to salmonberries, which grew along the trail in huge numbers and made for a great snack right off the branch.
The trail kept going up and up, climbing past the treeline and up a gravel slope. We crossed several waterfalls and it got colder and colder.
At the top of the pass, the trail leveled out at glacial-blue Crystal Lake. There was a public-use cabin situated by the lake, too! Nobody was there, but I thought how cool it would be to stay there, up in the clouds, with almost nobody around.
After a bit of time at the lake, my family headed back down the valley while me and my brother walked across the tundra to the top of the pass. We got to the top and saw the glacier, a mass of blue-white ice sliding down the mountainside. It was amazing.
We had only seen a few glaciers before coming to Alaska, and those were small and far off. Now that we were less than a mile from a sizable one, it was hard for me to imagine the way it was thousands of years ago, when they carved all these mountains and covered hundreds of miles. And with the current climate crisis causing mass melting of the earth’s glaciers, it felt like an extra-special moment, one that we might not have in a few years.
We started our next hike right out our back door!
My dad was working, but everyone else was down to hike. The trail gradually rose up the slope, with lots of salmonberry bushes (yum) and views of Turnagain Arm out in the distance. About halfway up we met a guy frantically looking for his dog (a Rhodesian Ridgeback). We promised to tell him if we saw her. A few minutes later here comes the dog, slowly trotting downhill. We tried to call to her, but she never stopped moving.
We made it to the top, where the lodge, tram stop, and gift shop resided. A wedding was taking place when we arrived, which was pretty cool (I could never see myself getting married, but if I did I would definitely have my wedding in a cool natural setting like that). We checked out the gift shop and lodge, then took in the views before heading down the tram, which offers free rides down the mountain.
At the bottom, we saw the guy from before, who was happily reunited with his dog.
Downtown Girdwood was cool, too. There was an awesome coffee shop called The Grind, a laundry complex, and a thrift shop called (what else) Thriftwood.
After a few more days, we left Girdwood for our next stop: a place called Tangle Pond, a pulloff along the Portage Glacier road to Whittier. You are allowed to dry camp for free there. And it’s a great spot, especially at sunset.
In the next post, I’ll be writing about our adventures in Whittier and Seward. Stay Tuned!