This hike was rated 5 stars.
Difficulty
Somewhat Difficult; strenuous uphill for the first 3 miles, then easy after that. Overgrown but manageable foliage towards the end.
Miles One Way
23
Miles from Anchorage
50; trailhead is at the end of Crow Creek Road near Girdwood
Season
July to September

Description

THIS IS A GREAT HIKE!

What was once part of the historic Iditarod Trail, this ranks as some of the best scenery in the area. Some of the incredible and varied sights that await you on this hike include mine ruins from long ago, a rock chasm waterfall, Crystal Lake, Raven Gorge, and awesome Raven Glacier and its massive cascades. This is truly an Alaskan hike and if your main objective coming up here is the hiking, definitely put this on your list!

The area around Raven, as well as the glacier itself, is amazing, dramatic and awe inspiring. Your conception of glaciers and what they can do to a landscape will never be the same.

Most people hike right through to Eagle River with a dropped off car waiting at the Eagle River Nature Center. But I think it would be better to hike as far as the gorge and use the time to explore the Crow Pass area as it is the most scenic part of the hike. There are lots of ridges, waterfalls, and other glaciers for the viewing.

If you want to go to the end to the river ford, this is a great alternative as well, as there are nice flat campsites with plenty of wood and a great view of Eagle Glacier. Camp at the lake for added privacy. You can even add a day to explore this glacier as well.

Important Information

Bears! It’s almost a guarantee that you will see them here. An acquaintance of mine once saw 12. I saw 3 one time I was there. While you should always practice bear safety wherever you go in Alaska, it is especially imperative here. From the gorge to Eagle River, 1/2 of the trail is either underneath canopy or chest high foliage. It is important to be noisy as possible to avoid surprising them. I shout “Hello!” every few seconds.

Even in summer, there is still snow in many areas of the trail, especially after Crystal Lake. Add to the mix some really steep parts to the trail, you may want to consider a walking stick.

Near the mine ruins, you have 2 choices to continue to Crystal Lake. The ridge trail will save you some elevation exertion but the trail that comes near the chasm offers better views. Either way is fine.

There is a public cabin for rent near Crystal Lake. You are only allowed to use it if you have a paid reservation. Be aware that’s it’s right on the trail and you will have very little privacy. Visit this website for more information.

Feel free to drop your bag and hike down the moraine to Raven Glacier. But unless you know what you’re doing, do not travel on the glacier. Snow could be hiding a deep crevasse and if you fall in, it was nice knowing you.

As you descend down to the river, after Raven Glacier, look left and you will see the trail going up the bank (see pic on photo page). It’s hard to spot if you’re not looking at it. The map implies that you follow the riverbed. Be prepared that you may have to wade shin deep if it’s been raining a lot.

There are no water sources from the the second bridge to Eagle River. Make sure you have an adequate supply before leaving the bridge.

A great place to camp is just before you head down to the river. You get a great view of the Raven Glacier as well as the stark terrain gouged by it.

If you do the traverse with Eagle River, the smart move is to start at the Crow Pass side, as the elevation would be mostly downhill if you do. Be aware that midway you will have to ford the river where it may be waist high and chilly (it may be lower or higher depending on when you do the hike and the previous rainfall).

The following was added June, 18, 2008:

There is a new shuttle service for transportation to and from the trailheads: Girdwood Shuttle, Tours and Transportation.

Etc.

Hold onto your bladders! The two roads to get to the trailhead are very rough and are more pothole than actual road.

If you’re going to do the traverse to Eagle River, parking at the Nature Center is $5 a day. Your Chugach State Park pass is not valid there. They usually consider overnight one day.

If you’d like to educate yourself about glaciers and their awesome power, please visit All About Glaciers, a great introductory website.

Topo Map

Crow Pass topo map

Comments on hiking Crow Pass

  1. naz — August 5, 2018

    I did this hike on the 29th of July 2018 with my co workers, I loved it the first 6 miles , from Gird Wood , but after that tall grass and river crossings were very tough , river was fast and very cold, I hated the ladders and ropes, hanging on to them for my dear life, it kind of made me think if there was an other option available, that way maybe life is not lost for site seeing, also that 44 yard wide river crossing also needs ropes to hold on to, I bet you, it will make it little bit less stressful to cross.
    i enjoyed the hike and if i do it again , i will make sure that i have at least three days to do the whole hike and plenty of coffee!

  2. Nathan Goold — March 31, 2015

    I just wanted to make the comment that this topo map is only HALF of the hike the first half . Very confusing. Search google for full map

  3. The following was submitted by Renee:

    Completed this hike first weekend of Aug, 2008. Took a Saturday and Sunday to complete. I would suggest to everyone to try and make it to Thunder Gorge for overnight stay – established fire pits and campsites make for easy set up and break down. Camping outside of this area prior to the main river crossing is very windy, cold and highly populated with bears. I would suggest pushing through to make it to the gorge as it is the halfway point of the hike. It’s the most beautiful hike I have done and I would recommend it to everyone who wants to do a great over night hike. The river was flowing pretty strong and the guy we were with had to cross several times to carry 2 large dogs back across, the current was just too strong for them. Might want to reconsider taking a dog especially after the amount of rain we have had this summer unless you are ready and willing to enter the very cold water more than once. Water was up to my thighs…I’m 5’1. Enjoy

    Etc:

    Make sure you have at least a .44 mag revolver with you just in case you have a run in with a bear that might want to come at you. Also, we did use a water purifier to pump fresh water and it was perfect to not carry that much weight on our backs. They can be bought for around $80 and we haven’t had any problems with the silt in the water.

  4. The following was submitted by Tapia:

    We did the hike 8/18-19, 2007. Four of us went and one amazing dog. We started on the Girdwood side. We camped right before the river that night. That half of the hike was nice and trail was good. There were some areas where the vegetation was quite thick and bear scat was frequent. One of our gang saw two bull moose in a meadow a few miles before the river. There were a ton of great camp spots. Ours was near the water and offered a great water source. I would recommend tying a handkerchief or some such additional filter to your water purifier due to heavy silt. The river crossing was ok. It’s a strong current and I would highly recommend trekking poles and leaving your smaller dogs at home. It’s well marked and you should follow the white poles. The trail splits shortly after the crossing. There’s an established trail and a flagged trail. We followed the flagged trail and may have missed some sights (like Thunder Gorge), but were nervous about trail washouts and whatnot on the other trail. This half was more difficult than the Girdwood side. There was a very slick, washed out bridge near Twin Falls and a gnarly crossing around Heritage Falls where the channel of some creek was moving hard and fast and braided in areas. There were a couple areas where we ran into a ladder and a rope for hauling your self up rocks. This side was equally heavy with bear scat and we hollered a lot! Overall, gorgeous and enjoyable. Will aim for a one day completion next year and skip hauling that big ol’ pack for one night.

    Etc:

    The cell phone reception is spotty at best once you reach the Nature Center so be sure to arrange your pick up ride ahead of time.

  5. The following was submitted by Cosy:

    Did the traverse to Eagle River on Saturday 21st July, starting around 45 minutes after the (obviously insane) runners. The trail in the bottom half of Raven Valley is very grown up and cow parsnip abounds. Also, the trail towards the bottom was a little confusing in places so pay attention to where you are heading, it’s easy to waste 10 annoying minutes thrashing around looking for the real trail. Also, the marker for the river crossing on the Raven Valley side of Eagle River was down. Look for the white post on the Eagle River side and head upstream approx 100yds. The post should (hopefully) still be lying on the ground next to the walk in point.

    I hope you all enjoy this hike as much as we did.

  6. The following was submitted by ActionStaffords concerning the entire Crow Pass route to Eagle River Nature Center:

    Rating: 3 moose hooves

    Difficulty: Difficult – elevation and remoteness were contributing factors to hike difficulty.

    Description:

    To start, I am a 32 year old woman, overweight and out of shape, but I maintain an uncontrollable sense of adventure! Hiking this trail without a good able body and packing 35-45 pounds makes it twice as hard. It is said the first 3 miles are the hardest, but it seems to be forgotten that you have at least another 3 miles down the mountain on loose sharp rocks, and over compacted snow. Following that, the trail is riddled with uneven terrain, sharp rocks, and roots, which easily tripped me up once I became fatigued. Bear feces was very common just before and many miles after the ford site which is mid way in (13 miles). I did not see a bear, but be prepared. There are few cliffhanger spots that require the use of ropes (already in place) and near edges that drop down to the river, so hold your balance and make sure that your footing is solid.

    Warnings:

    Pack light, plan ahead, use caution, pace yourself. The rocky terrain was hard on my feet and toes. One wrong step and you could easily twist an ankle and be done for. The rooted areas are just as hard, and when you reach high fireweed areas and thick brush it makes for the trail harder to see so step carefully. Cross the river in the morning if at all possible. The lady at the nature center (thank heavens for her) stated the the water level is lower in the morning that in the night. If you bring a dog be sure he is agile, and don’t forget first aid for his feet! Some of the sharp declines almost need to be slid down on your butt, lest you risk losing your footing, and falling down the mountainside is not an option. Just take it easy and take breaks if needed, ESPECIALLY if you are a novice hiker like me, I would not recommend this to someone just starting out, I had to learn this the hard way.

    Etc:

    Historical Iditarod Trail is interesting even for the life-long Alaskan. Most come to Alaska for it’s nature & beauty and you will get all this and more.

  7. The following was submitted by AK-Stamper:

    Rating: 4 moose hooves

    Difficulty: Somewhat Difficult

    Description:

    7-7-09 started my hike at 10am from the Girdwood Crow Pass Trail Head. First 3-4 miles are up hill but not too difficult. At the top of the summit you are at 3500 ft and there is a cabin available to rent for around 35 dollars a night. I pressed on after a quick break going down the back side of the mountain which has a few snow shoots to cross and some loose rocks to navigate. After descending down into the valley the landscape changes into tall grass, brush and devils club up to about 5 ft tall. I ran into 3 bears here around the Raven Creek crossing so be careful! The trail here is not very wide and is often covered, but there are a lot of rocks and roots hidden under there that could cause a nasty injury. As you continue along the left side of the valley you will have a switch-back that takes you back toward Eagle glacier; eventually you will get to the Eagle River crossing. This was painfully cold! The river is partially marked with posts that give you a basic guide where to cross (when they are upright). The river was fast and high (I am 6′ and it was about waist high). The river was probably higher due to the runoff and the heat that day being around 85 degrees. The first section was the widest about 40 yards across, I came to a small sand bar and crossed 3 more branches before getting all the way across. The water was so cold it caused some muscle cramping almost immediately. The next half of the trail follows Eagle River with a few detours that skirt the mountain sides. Some of the trail was flooded due to the high water so it was difficult at some points to find the trail. There are sections here that have some ropes and ladders and a few bridges with ropes to help navigate the obstacles. This portion of the trail seemed never ending, the landscape doesn’t change much and fatigue set in. Echo Bend is a good spot to rest; it is a nice camp area with some benches and is about 5 miles from the Nature Center. The trail is well marked here and well groomed. Over all I found the hike challenging

    When I do this hike again, I will take more time to enjoy the scenery and camp for at least one night so I can do some exploring.

  8. The following on Milk Glacier was submitted by John Z.:

    Rating: 3 moose hooves

    Difficulty: Steep climb / descent

    Description: Intending to do Jewel Glacier (which I eventually got to), but not having remembered the notes about how to get to that one off of Crow Pass, I “messed-up” and ended up at Milk Glacier by doing the following:

    From the upper Crow Pass trail, at a distinct 3″ pipe that crosses the path, there is a fairly beaten path leading up (which is what I thought I remembered as the signal for Jewel Glacier). This path makes some switchbacks before bringing one to a ledge and seemingly ending. Backtracking 50 feet from the ledge, it is possible (but not easy) to climb up through a mixture of scree, tundra, and large rocks. There certainly isn’t a set way, after a while I made my way to the distinct notch. From the notch you get a good view of Milk Glacier, along with what the remaining task to get to it is. The other side of the notch is just as steep, and there is then another ridge (steep, of course) that must be crossed. I made my way down the notch at an angle, then turned left and went up the gully between Jewel Mountain and the next ridge, then made my way down along the boulders (which looked like they should have remained in place but not all of them complied so be careful). From there you are close to the glacier and free to explore.

    Returning to Crow Pass, I reversed the above course except for choosing to come down along the scree against Jewel Mountain, the route I had gone up I thought could lead to quite the fall on a misstep combing back down.

    Warnings: I was glad I brought gloves as those rocks were sharp. My knees were jealous as they took the brunt of it.

    A small dog managed to do all of the ascent to the glacier (low center of gravity helped), but had to be carried a little bit on the descent. Larger dogs might be at a disadvantage with the scree.

    This is not a hike for kids or those that are timid, and the glacier had its share of crevasses and other dangers.

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