Bird Creek Trail

4840 and Bird Peak. Photo by Joe Rozak.
Difficulty Somewhat Difficult; Some elevation gain here and there. The difficulty lies in navigating to the right trail.
Connects With Penguin Peak
Miles One Way 5.2
Miles from Anchorage 20; off the Seward Highway (Turnagain Arm)
General Vicinity Chugach State Park
Season May to September (If there's a lot of snow be avalanche aware!)
Ratings
Hike rating Bike rating
This trail was rated 2 moose hooves for hiking. This trail was rated 4 moose hooves for biking.

Description

This could be a pretty good hike once you get away from the roads and onto the trail. The problem is finding it! What was once a mining area, the first part of the valley is literally criss-crossed with dirt roads. These roads have no markers or trail directions, and many dead end into the river. While a great adventure of fun for mountain bikers, it’s an extremely frustrating experience for backpackers.
When my friend and I did this hike in June of 2001, we thought we were on the right track; we were following what we thought was the river but wound up along one of its tributaries where the trail petered out. We even thought we had passed the ford marked on the map. We must have done the route that curved off (see the topo map). While we had a great spot by the river, and a great time nonetheless, we were hoping to get into the real backcountry.

Coming back was a complete nightmare. We kept on taking dead ends to the river. I finally whipped out my compass and tried to keep south as long as we could and finally found the bridge that led to the parking lot.

I’d like to try this trail again, definitely with my bike, but also with a backpack, where I truly get all the way into the backcountry.

Important Information

Go to the second parking lot; what looks to be a big field.

There are extremely swift, deep, and cold sections of this river. Know the basics of how to ford a river. There is one ford marked on the map but be prepared for more.
Depending on rain or breakup, be prepared for marsh and newly made ponds on the trail. Gaiters are highly recommended for this hike.

  1. The following was contributed by Andrew McInnis:

    Rated 2 moose hooves
    Somewhat Difficult

    We did this trail on a bike (thank God) and I can’t see it being a worthwhile backpacking trip. There isn’t a clear trail marked, many side trails that dead end, the main “road” is mostly just mud, and there’s a TON of ATV traffic.

    This trail’s a fun bike ride if you’re into mountain biking and don’t mind the ATV traffic, as the first reviewer pointed out, though with all the dead ends and no clear trail marked this would be frustrating on foot. Once you get up to the ridge you finally get the feeling you’re out in the woods and the views are great. There are better trails in the area for backpacking though.

  2. Ross Timm graciously contributed the following on accessing Bird Peak:

    Rated 2 moose hooves
    Somewhat Difficult
    Suitable for Overnight
    7.5 Miles One Way from Bird Creek Trailhead
    June to September

    I had wanted to do this hike every since reading it was “the most arduous hike in this book” (50 hikes in Chugach State Park). Well…it is arduous, but maybe not in the best way. It starts off Konikson Road at Bird Creek. There were four wheelers taking off down the old road, and reports of grizzly bears with cubs! We started down the road and it follows the book; a somewhat muddy dirt road, then you cross the river over a nice bridge, then a side road that climbs to about 1500ft, increasingly smaller track, until you finally come to the game trail the book describes and climb up a little more and then start traversing along the hillside. Eventually, you come to the avalanche chute you must climb.. IT IS NOT CLEAR! where to start climbing, or where you should head, but it ended up we guessed right and ended up, 1 hour later and severely scratched (rose bushes and stickers) and tired (we had packs on to camp out as the book suggested). Now we were at about 3500 feet, on alpine tundra, looking down on the upper valley we would have to get down to, still with snow fields. The rain clouds were moving in, and we were not in good spirits, and the peak was daunting, still with lots of snow. The thought of climbing it (2000 more feet) the next morning in the rain was not sounding fun, so we bagged it and headed down. It was a difficult slope back down the avalanche slope, and hard to pick up the game trail.. if you miss it it will be a unhappy hike back up from the river valley to find your way. The hike down after finding the game trail was easy, but again, many bear signs. I will probably not do this hike to the summit because it seems like too long of an approach and a pretty steep one at the end if you have a pack, and it is too long to do the whole thing in one day unless you are really strong. I would rather get the same elevation and better views with other hikes. That said– aside from the jets flying overhead, it was COMPLETELY isolated once you were on the side road, and true wilderness feeling once off of it.

  3. Joe Rozak graciously added to Ross’ description:

    Rated 4 moose hooves

    We did Bird Peak in one, long day hike which is why I give it about a 4, otherwise I would agree with the other rating for an overnight trip.

    This peak is fairly difficult to grab in one day, but it is possible. You can bike in about the first two miles. Even though the road is very rocky, it makes for a fun ride back to the parking lot.

    We tried this hike a week prior and were turned back because of weather. We got to the top of the avalanche chutes and saw most of the peaks in the clouds. With all the route finding involved with this hike, we decided that it was a good idea not to proceed any further.

    On a better weather-day we headed up again and had fantastic views from an entirely different perspective in the Chugach.

    This hike shouldn’t be taken lightly considering the ample amount of route finding and bushwhacking. In the woods, there is a lot of devils club and in the brush there is abundant cow parsnip and rose bushes that you need to walk through. I would recommend a machete, gaiters, long pants, long sleeve shirt, and bike gloves. Don’t forget bug juice and sunscreen. There is a nice stream to fill up the water bottles, so bring a filter or chemical treatments. You will go through a lot of water on this trek.

  4. The following was contributed by Justin Wholey:

    I made it up Bird Peak on 7/11/08. The initial route on the ATV trail is dry and easy walking until 900 feet where it turns into a hiker trail and heads through tall grass and brush. I had no problem following the trail, though it was overgrown. It was just tall grass and low brush up to the knob and an easy side hill into the upper valley. It’s about 1000 feet of moderately steep elevation gain to the knob, so take this into account if deciding to camp in the valley or not. Another option is to camp at the bottom of the avalanche slope (below the trail, next to Penguin Creek), and make a day trip to Bird Peak from there. There was no real bushwhacking, just some bushes crowding the trail here and there, and lots of cow parsnip.

    The upper valley has nice camp spots, take precautions to protect your gear from the arctic ground squirrels. I had some gear chewed up in my vestibule.

    To continue to Bird Peak hike higher into the high valley and ascend a ridge on the right (just look for the easiest walking). There is some steep scrambling on the ridge, and as of yesterday there is about 150 feet of snow to climb up to get to the skyline ridge. The rest of the rocky ridge is snow free to the summit. It was pretty socked in when I was up there, but the route was easy enough to follow.

    I enjoyed camping in the valley and summiting the next day. It’s only 5 miles to the upper valley so there’s plenty of time to get to camp on the 1st day. This would be a tough day hike, but definitely an option for those used to this type of terrain. I’d set aside at least 12 hours for this. There were no real surprises, just a lot of elevation gain.

Have you done this hike? Please share your experience below:

Bird Creek Trail topo map