Eagle and Symphony Lakes

Chugach State Park
This hike was rated 4 stars.
Difficulty
Easy; very little elevation gain. A stretch of boulders at the end commands caution while maneuvering through them.
Miles One Way
6
Miles from Anchorage
25; on the outskirts of the town of Eagle River
Season
June to September

Description

One of my favorite places to go! Very convenient to Anchorage and one of the most accessible ways to get into the backcountry. The trail starts over a ridge then descends into the valley. At the end, after climbing over the a slew of rocks and boulders from a long ago slide, are two lakes situated on both sides of a lateral moraine; Eagle Lake, which is a green milky color and Symphony Lake, a rich blue aquamarine color. The contrast in color is amazing and is one of the coolest sites in the park.

While many hike to the Lakes as a day hike, plan an overnighter to allow time for exploring. The scenery is gorgeous whichever lake you decide to camp by. Some people choose to camp right on the spine of the moraine getting views of both lakes. On the ridge is a strange wooden structure that was supposedly the start of a cabin.

If you head further down past Eagle Lake, a deep canyon forms where large herds of Dall Sheep reside. You can proceed up the end to Flute Glacier and Eagle Peak. Further down the Symphony Lake side is another canyon with waterfalls, boulder slopes and hidden lakes (tarns), as well as the trail to Triangle Peak. You may even want to explore the mountain, Cantata, that runs right up the middle of the moraine.

While this trail gets a lot of traffic, it’s still a great place to go and for intermediate backpackers who may be little freaked by trail-less areas, this is a great destination.

Important Information

Until you get to the bridge down in the valley, you are on private property. Stay on the trail and respect the owners.

There are good spots to pitch a tent but you have to look. Drop your pack on the spine and take a good look around before you decide. Expect to get your feet wet if you head into the Eagle Lake Canyon; some parts are marshy. Frank Baker, who submitted the hike for Flute Glacier, suggests bringing tennis shoes to use till you get to the end of the canyon.

If traveling with your pooch, keep a jug of water and a bowl in your vehicle. There are no water sources (except boggy stuff), from the bridge to the trailhead. If it’s a hot day, your dog will thank you.

Etc.

From a geologist’s perspective, the landscape is quite interesting. Here we have two glaciers running side by side each grinding a different set of minerals affecting the color of the tarns they left behind. FYI-glacial lakes get their color from the sun reflecting off the minerals that the previous glacier ground to a fine silt.

Finding the Trailhead

Take the Glenn Highway to the Eagle River Loop / Hiland Road exit. Turn right off the highway, and then another right onto Hiland Road, which you will follow for several miles, nearly all the way to the end. Turn right on South Creek Road, then another right on West Creek Drive. The parking area for the trailhead will be on your left. This is a very popular trail, and on a busy summer weekend (especially if the weather is nice), expect to find cars overflowing the parking lot and lined all along the side of the road.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Topo Map

Eagle and Symphony Lakes topo map

Comments on hiking Eagle and Symphony Lakes

  1. Joshua — May 26, 2018

    Its amazing, I live about 2 miles from the trail head and take my kids every summer on a 3 night hike and fishing trip! its one of the best times of summer! Bring a fire arm though, Wolves, moose, bears you name it you will probly see it if you spend more than just a day there. The fishing is amazing! I catch and release, I save my freezer for salmon out of seward not grayling 🙂

  2. Claire — June 28, 2016

    I went on this hike for the first time last week and loved it. I would suggest bringing more than enough water because on a hot day that Boulder field will kick your butt if you get lost. Once you cross over the bridge at the end of eagle lake, stick close to the edge of the lake as you make your way across the boulders to symphony lake. There are a few trails to follow that are helpful. We tried to cut right through the boulders and it ended up taking us an hour and a half vs. half an hour sticking by eagle lake using those few trails coming back.

  3. Friday Night – Four Favorites | — September 19, 2015

    […] This Friday night I’m sharing four photos from a recent hike J and I did up to Symphony Lake. […]

  4. Spencer — March 11, 2015

    The “cabin” was originally built for geologists that would go out there. So they could get out of the wind and rain wit out having to set up a tent on the rocky ground.

  5. Sujay — February 19, 2015

    Hello, we are planning on doing this hike in mid-June this year. We’d like to go as far as Symphony lake and return. Are there any possible camping spots near the beginning of the hike or maybe halfway? We want to be closer to the car in the morning after the camp…

  6. April — July 22, 2014

    Took my 11-year-old daughter on our first overnight hike here July 18-19, 2014. It was a perfect first-time overnighter to get my daughter accustomed to carrying a pack, given the minimal elevation gain. The wildlife didn’t disappoint. We saw a hoary marmot, beavers in Eagle Lake, moose, ptarmigan and plenty of arctic ground squirrels. Didn’t catch any grayling, but didn’t try very hard either. The weather was great, and the scenery fantastic. Bring your bug spray!

  7. The following was submitted Sharay Hikes with Kids:

    Rating: 4 moose hooves

    Difficulty: Somewhat Easy

    It was a great hike but with my kids 7 and 8, it was hard for them when they reached the boulders, but they did do it.

    Description:

    A great hike for kids. I love backpacking trips kids can go on. However, I would not make my kids walk to the Lakes anymore because you can camp before you get to the boulders. I love the flat trail, unlike Reed Lakes with the uphill work, then hard boulders. Here you just have a nice walk.

    I really can’t wait to snowshoe this trail. However, I will only snowshoe as far as the first bridge, about 2 miles in.

    Warnings:

    If not backpacking don’t over-pack I carried a lot of stuff. I would only bring 20oz of water and raingear if hiking in the summer. It’s really just a walk in the park. until the boulders but its doesn’t require any extra gear to do it.

  8. The following was submitted anonymously:

    We took a newbie friend of ours with us for Memorial Day Weekend (2009) promising a true backcountry Alaska experience with fish galore! He said “impossible”, I said “follow me!” 6 miles later from my house ( I live in the south fork off Highland) we were there with tents set up and lines in the water and an hour later, fresh fish in the belly! This is a guaranteed turn on for the newbie or new Alaskan hiker! The short distance and small gains in elevation and the unbelievable scenery on this short easy hike are great. This hike is one of my favorites and it’s literally in my backyard.

    We spent plenty of time with the great arctic greyling of Alaska! Alaska Fish and Game (AFG) started the stocking in 2001 and the fish have matured and are a year long excitement. My son and I snowshoed the same trail this past March and iced fished on Symphony Lake and caught numerous 16-20 inch mature beautiful greyling, the colors in their fins are amazing in the sun light!

    This trip proved no different. The fish were plentiful and we had a great time. A small tip: when you clean your fish at the lake make sure to throw your fish scraps in deep water away from the bank. Panther martin yellow and red dot spinners in 1/16 oz to 1/4 oz are the bait of choice. Top water dry flies on fly rod bring them to the top every time!

    Fish on every cast!

    The boulder field is a challenge but take your time and follow the markers. There really is no right trail through the boulder field, just find your way. Take a small rod, some Panther martins, and your good for as many hours of fishing fun you can you handle.

    Great hike, take the family for a camp out on the small outcropping on the southeast corner of Symphony Lake for a guaranteed flat tent pad.

  9. The following was submitted anonymously:

    I think this is a 4 moose hoof because of the easiness of the trail and the combination of the view and wildlife opportunities.

    September 15, 2007

    Hiked out here with some friends and 10-15 minutes out of the parking lot we saw a pack of wolves up on the mountain. These are the same wolves that usually travel in the Eagle River Valley and they were a nice surprise. Also, the mountains by the lakes had a nice dusting of snow from the nights rain. :o)

  10. The following was submitted by Tracer:

    Did this as a day hike on July 6 (2007) with the family (wife, 6 year old and two dogs). What a great hike!, but the boulder field can be a challenge for the dogs. Make sure you follow the trail markers. Symphony Lake is stocked with graylings for some great shore fishing. Lots of ptarmigan in the area.

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