Indian Valley Trail

indian-valley-trail-7
Difficulty Difficult; steady increase in elevation for the first 6 miles; then annoying and frustrating bushwhacking and/or post holing depending on time of year (which earns it the difficult rating). Trail is very overgrown late summer.
Connects With Ship Creek Trail
Ship Lake Valley
Powerline Pass
Bird Ridge Tarns
Miles One Way 13.4
Miles from Anchorage 40; drive south on the Seward Highway. It's very easy to miss; the road is right after the Turnagain House, a restaurant.
General Vicinity Chugach State Park
Season All year (cross country ski or snowshoe in winter)
Ratings
Hike rating XC Ski rating
This trail was rated 2 moose hooves for hiking. This trail was rated 3 moose hooves for XC skiing.

Description

I hate this trail! I’m sure there are people who will disagree with me but I don’t care. The three times I’ve done it have been absolutely miserable. I won’t even use it to get to Ship Lake Valley which is one of my all time favorite places to be in the Chugach’s.

Why do I hate this trail? Let me count the ways:

The trail to the Pass is gross: The one part of the hike with a clearly marked trail is underneath canopy. There are parts of it with this gross smelling marsh stuff and half of the trail is usually muddy. The last 1/2 mile is ok for the nice view of Turnagain Arm.

The post holing: I’d be lot more mellower about this but it’s never ending once you get to the pass. Because the area is covered by an abundance of low shrub, you’ll never know if that next step is going to have you sinking up to your thighs.

The bushwhacking: When the snow finally melts, the brush grows pretty high. 1 mile can take forever as you wind your way through willow and shrub hoping you don’t fall down because you didn’t see that hole. Once, I made it 3 miles in and I finally got to a hill and when I saw miles more of it, I turned back and said the hell with it. Someday, a trail will be blazed and this will be a great hike. For now, it’s just a pain in the A**.

No decent campsites: After spending hours bushwhacking, it took me a half and hour just to find a halfway decent place that was level and not crowded with brush.

The only good thing about the area is that there is some beautiful scenery but there’s plenty of other places that look just as good without all the trouble.

The following was added on August 23, 2009:

So, I decided to go back this weekend, with the attention of either turning into Ship Lake or the valley of tarns that lies below Bird Ridge. This was the first time hiked this trail in late summer. Boy! Does this trail get overgrown. I made sure to make a lot of noise due to the numerous sightings of bear scat.

My verdict is still the same. This just isn’t a pleasant trail to be on.

However, it is worth putting up with to get to glacial valley’s that join it, including Ship Lake, Bird Ridge, North Fork Ship Lake (Grizzly Bear Lake), and other un-named cirques.

Important Information

Make sure you filter your water. There are a large amount of beaver dams along the creek. Be avalanche aware during snow season.

If you’re using this trail to get to Ship Lake, beeline toward the ridge of Ship Lake Valley and at least you’ll avoid a lot bushwhacking there too.

Etc.

The best way to hike this in the winter is to buy a cheap plastic sled and carry your stuff on it. For details about how I built mine, go here.

For the advanced backpacker:

Frank Banker has a route from Crow Pass to Eagle and Symphony Lakes that uses part of the trail above that you may interested in: link here.

Chris Harper has a route from Eagle Lake to Eagle River that uses part of the trail above that you may be interested in: link here.

  1. The following was submitted by Ruth on June 12, 2010:

    I hiked up to the Pass last weekend and wanted to let you know that they have done some intensive trail maintenance at the entrance. They have put in braced gravel beds, dug drainage ditches alongside the trails, and they are repairing the bridges. While the trail collapses into the river in a few spots, playing leap frog on the rocks can keep your shoes dry. Due to the maintenance the bugs levels are reduced. We managed to the Pass and back to the Parking lot in 5hrs. Also they have named the road that leads to the parking lot Boretide. Up until 2 months ago the road name was Ocean View. Just a little update.

  2. The following was submitted by Madeleine & Nutmeg, junior apprentice hiking canine:

    Indian is good, you’ve just had bad days. I plan to check it out for fiddleheads, usually excellent for this. The Arctic to Indian ski is a classic, but downhill to Indian unpleasant in my experience, icy zigzags, so prefer, as do some others, skiing Indian to Arctic. Indian also tends to be accessible early in that in-between time.

  3. The following was submitted by Paul “Kegger” Koecher:

    I think Indian Valley is haunted or cursed or something in between. Everyone I know has bad stories there…including me. I did this hike with 4 friends and planned on camping overnight with one of them. The others left as we started setting up our campsite 4-5 miles up the trail from the Turnagain Arm. We filtered our water (first time with that filter) and I had an MRE while she made some stew. She got ready for bed and my stomach started to shout at me. (twilight approached) I started shivering in a curled up ball just outside the tent. The reason I was outside the tent was because I had to run a ways away every couple minutes where my MRE decided to come out (both ends)…thank you TP and shovel. I also found out that I ended up puking right next to a relatively fresh pile of bear scat. Needless to say, we ended up packing up the tent after the sun was down (still had a little light since it was summer), and hiked the 5 miles back to the car. I nearly passed out on the way down. I’m never going back there…ever. (I will look down upon it once in a while from the Suicides/Bird Ridge/Avalanche, though I’ll probably flip it the bird)

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

Indian Valley Trail topo map