Football Field / O’Malley Peak

Chugach State Park
This hike was rated 3 stars.
Difficulty
Somewhat Difficult; the hike up O'Malley is very steep. If you plan on going down the scree (to Black Lake), add another point of difficulty (as well as going back up).
Miles One Way
4
Miles from Anchorage
In town; about a 20 minute drive from downtown
Season
May to September

Description

Most people use this as a thru hike to get to Williwaw Lakes but it makes a fine day hike and overnighter in its own right. The climb up to the saddle of O’Malley is a bit tough, but once you get up there, the terrain and landscape features are very unique and spectacular, and worth the effort. First on the menu is a glacial valley that literally is almost as flat and wide as a football field. In the fall, it is a colorful mosaic of rock and scrub. Note: Some people call this area the Ballpark.

As you head further up the slope, you come to Deep Lake. It’s quite interesting as it looks like a huge bowl that is half filled.

About a 1/4 mile from that, you will look down at Black Lake from a dizzying height with a gorgeous view of Williwaw Valley and sights beyond. The lake is a wonderful deep blue color, almost like a marble. As a day hike and a final destination, it is definitely worth it. It is an incredible view and a great place to have lunch. There is a good chance of viewing dall sheep as well as eagles, fox and arctic ground squirrels.

Important Information

I am stating the obvious but be careful going down the scree to Black Lake. Always make sure the rock is secure before putting your weight on it.

Ascending the scree can be quite daunting looking at it from the bottom. Once you start climbing, you’ll realize it’s mostly in your head. Stay on the left side where there is less rock and more boulders to grab onto. Take your time and do a little Rocky Balboa dance when you get to the top.

If you’re day hiking, consider walking back via the North Ridge to get great views of both valleys. There is a spectacular rock formation just before you would cross over the Football Field to rejoin the trail.

Etc.

The Glen Alps Parking Lot requires a $5 parking fee (bring exact amount). The price for an annual parking is $40. You can purchase a pass at the Federal Building at 4th and F or the Atwood Building on 7th and E, 12th Floor.

Here are the directions for getting there: take the Seward Highway to the O’Malley exit and head east. After a few miles, follow the signs to Glen Alps. Make a right on Hillside Drive then a left on Upper Huffman. Turn right on Toilsome Hill. this road will twist and wind up the hills for about two miles.

There are a lot of great hikes around this area. Don’t let the proximity to Anchorage deter you from this wonderful place. For hikes in this vicinity, go to the Powerline Pass hike page.

Topo Map

Football Field / O’Malley Peak topo map

Comments on hiking Football Field / O’Malley Peak

  1. Joel — September 10, 2018

    September 7th, 2018
    Rating: This is a serious hike

    Accompanied by my friend Chris, we left the Glen Alps parking lot and made it up Little O’Malley in 45 minutes. When we reached the BallField, we headed east parallelled with the ridgeline. This is a very peaceful hike in itself. As we strolled along the BallField, we reached the western base of O’Malley. I read about the Northeast route, so we proceeded past what is called Deep Lake and continued past Black Lake. At the bottom of the Northeast ridgeline is a beautiful view of Willawaw lakes and peak. We proceeded up the ridge, and everything seemed pretty easy at first. The trail was very obvious, and we followed it.

    Both of us are experienced hikers and have ascended O’Malley several times from different routes. We had never done this route before.

    So, as we ascended up the Northeast ridgeline towards the top, we encountered some pretty tricky climbing as the trail dropped out of site. We had one of two choices. Climb the twelve-foot wall and risk getting ledged out or go around the wall by walking on the edge of the west side of the ridge. We went across the west side and found the trail again. This was a bit sketchy as you are exposed to a 300 ft. drop on your right-hand side.

    We kept moving on the trail, and we were basically climbing rocks. There is exposure all around, but the ridge is wide enough to avoid danger if you don’t panic.

    Then we got to the “pucker” section.

    The ridgeline becomes exposed entirely on both sides and is about 15 feet long and about 4 feet wide. If you fall, you are dead. I am not exaggerating on this. We got on all fours and slowly crossed this very thin and exposed ridgeline. I felt a sense of significant relief after we passed it.

    The view though is so amazing that I have to say the fear was worth it. It is just astonishing to see the tall granite rock juxtaposed against Black Lake and the mountains to the east.

    We finally got to the summit, and it was spectacular. NOTE: O’Malley peak is always cold so bring something to warm your head and hands. We climbed down a bit on the south face and moved east toward O’Malley Peak. It took longer than I expected. It was really awesome. As we approached the top, it began to sleet. The sleet would impact our decent later on.

    Let’s talk about exiting O’Malley. We decided to come down the south face. It was challenging. We moved eastward to find some grass and boulders to hold on to, but it is very steep. Our legs were pretty burnt by the time we arrived at Hidden Lake. The hike back to Hidden Lake was pretty tough as we expended a lot of energy on this hike.

    In summary, we took a chance on going a different route, and it paid off concerning the scenic views and having a real Alaskan adventure. However, this route is NOT for a novice or even a somewhat experienced hiker. You need to have some mountaineering skills, and you need to be in good condition. We covered over 12.5 miles that day. I hope this helps.

  2. Anthony Martin — August 27, 2018

    On a stellar day, I took the west ridge route (between Little O’Malley & Fake O’Malley to the O’Malley Peak summit. It took about three hours from Flattop Parking lot to the saddle on the top what I will call the No Joy scree slope (acess from the BallPark). I left via No Joy Scree and the Ballpark, etc.
    Comments: On the w. ridge there was some, “what am I doing here by myself scrambling and scree” which propelled me forward because I didn’t want to return the way I came. This could be a major consideration if up there and the weather turned. IMO, dogs not recommended. The two other logical points of exit or approach are the n.w. scree slope and a south facing valley ( tundra grass). If considering the latter ‘route’ should be marked on a map or GPS, reference: Summit Post/O’Malley Peak to see how it connects to the Hidden Lake Trail. Note: previously I had reconnoitered that route, but ended up going towards the west side of Hidden Peak via the Hidden Lake trail, but stopped short of thehigh ridge because of weather). This opens the possibility of biking to the start of the Hidden lake trail and rounding O’Malley and Hidden Peak. I don’t know about the ridge connection between those points though.

  3. Jen — November 12, 2017

    My husband and I did this hike with our dog in November 2017. We’re experienced hikers and so is our dog. We went up the as saddle between little O’Malley and False Peak, where we stop for lunch. We got a late start (also we had aimed for the south gully route, but I thought we way further down powerline paas befroe crossing anoth bridge, so turned around after a couple of miles and came back for this route).

    We put our big puffy jackets on as we stopp for lunch, and as we moved to the ballfield in early afternoon, never took them off even while moving since it was so much colder on that side that particular day. Crossi the ballfield with no flotation was easy due the sestrugi.

    We had crampons and an ice ax a piece. We made it about 40% of the way up the gulley befoee our dog could nor go up anymore. She loves hiking and climbing on some crazy stuff with us. If she can’t do this, I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND BRINGING YOUR DOG on this route, at least when there’s snow. As soon as turned back and got on the ballfield again, she was fine.

    The route was fun, too much for the dog with early season snow.

  4. Kristen — June 28, 2015

    I did this hike solo on a fairly overcast day. I started in glen alps parking lot and took the powerline trail down to the williwaw lakes turnoff and continued up to the little O’malley saddle. The trail up was dry and took me 40 minutes from the parking lot to the top of the saddle. Instead of traversing across the ballpark, I took the immediate right following the ascending ridgeline that parallels the ballpark. This ridge heads back to O’malley and you have great views of the pass. This is not a novice climb. There are sections of rock face that you are free climbing with some pretty steep drops of more than 500 ft. Travel is much slower this route and took me about an hour to get to the next saddle that is noted in the books as a scree climb at the end of the ballpark to access the trail to o’malley. I continued on the trail up to O’malley which took about another 30 minutes from that point.

    The view is very rewarding, as it is the tallest peak on the front range of the chugachs. It is do-able alone and I passed a few other hikers. I descended via the scree path into the ballfield. Keep a heads up for any hikers that may be ascending and vice versa, as it is inevitable that you will send some nice size rocks tumbling down.

    Trail was great, not super defined on the last section, and its easy to divert off so be aware if you’re hiking in the clouds. Otherwise. I made it up and down without any issues.

  5. Ross Timm responded to Clint’s submittal:

    He took an extremely advanced route, which he stated, but it may not be clear that he did almost a rock climbing ascent by taking the north ridge- which is amazing, by the way. The route I described is long but very doable by anybody in good condition and not afraid of a little scree.

  6. The following was submitted by Clint Helander (Alaska Outdoor Club):

    Rating: 4 moose hooves

    O’Malley is one of the most prominent peaks in the frontal Chugach range. From Anchorage, it appears to be the tallest and most rugged. Completing this hike to the top is quite significant.

    Important Information:

    I climbed this peak solo in mid May from Glen Alps. When I got to the Football Field, I hung a left and gained the Northwest ridge of O’Malley. This is truly not a climb for novices, as it is incredibly steep and vertical drops of at least 1500 feet are at times, less than two feet away from where you are climbing. This is not a hike, it is a climb. There were literally times where I was free climbing as if I was on a vertical rock face.
    It has a lot of potential to be dangerous. Make sure you have good hand and foot holds at all times. That being said, it is an awesome climb. I definitely took more difficult route up from the standard Glen Alps/Powerline Pass route.

    There are some awesome ice lines waiting to be climbed on the North face of O’Malley. I intend to tackle them next winter. They lead almost directly to the top from the tarn at the base. It would be one hell of an ice climb.

    Also, I wouldn’t suggest doing this climb solo as I did. There were several spots where I was in a very precarious position. Had I fallen, no one would have found me for a long, long time.

  7. The following was submitted by Nic:

    Rating: 4 moose hooves
    Difficulty: Moderately Difficult (“Going to the ‘real’ peak is moderately difficult. The first saddle to Little O’Malley is good for novices.”)

    On August 6, I decided to head to O’Malley Peak. Once at the Ballpark, I headed right keeping south aiming for the shallow right gully up O’Malley’s face. The scree was not bad at all. Zigzagging my way up, I had almost no difficulty. I also brought some gloves, just because the rocks can be sharp. Once at the second saddle I picked up the sheep trail heading northeast. Finding the peak was pretty confusing because there are so many false summits. Eventually, after climbing east on the ridge, you will see a highpoint before it drops down and goes back up to Hidden Peak; you are there. Go back the way you came, or try exiting out Hidden Valley (The valley beneath you) Also, I was somewhat concerned about coming down on the scree, but I found minimal difficulty, and just going with the flow. After ‘skiing’ the scree, head back across the Ballpark and down to Glen Alps.

    Etc:

    Fantastic views, but sometimes the area can get socked in. Also, consider bringing gloves for toe rocks. And take care going down the first saddle near Little O’Malley Peak because it is very eroded.

  8. Climbing up to the furthest summit is doable. Ross Timm graciously contributed the following:

    Rating: 4 moose hooves
    Difficulty: Moderately Difficult

    The “big” O’Malley Peak (versus “little” O’Malley) is a great day hike. You start at Glen Alps, and the feeling of bypassing the Flat Top crowd is the first bonus. The first mile is down through Powerline Pass/Campbell Creek, then very steeply up to a saddle (usually with a snow pack at top through the summer) at which you can go left to Little O’Malley, or right into “the Ballpark”, at which you begin a long mellow alpine tundra walk to the base of “big” O’Malley peak. At this point you see the scree slope the books tell you to go up- at first it seems very intimidating, but I found it’s not too bad if you take it easy and use the steps that have been eroded into it. At the top you find another snow saddle at which you take a left turn and follow just below the ridge via slight trails. There are many false peaks until you finally find the highest (these appear as a tight group from Anchorage, which is deceiving.) The trail is slightly dangerous here. Unfortunately, in early July, the peak itself is overrun with no-see-ums, even though the trail itself is bug-free. The trip back is loose rock- especially the scree field. I think it is best “skied” down in the loosest portions- with care this seems easier than picking your way down. The return is fine except the trip back down from the first saddle is very eroded, loose rock. O’Malley is also a good side trip from a camp-out in the Ballpark. The book, 55 hikes in Chugach State Park said 5 to 8 hours. I travel pretty fast (toot toot)- it took me 4 with few breaks, and little lingering at the peak because of the bugs. Enjoy!

    A few months later, he added the following: Regarding the scree slope on O’Malley- the trick is that the scree here is so loose and so small in diameter and so deep that the trick is to not find stability- in scree like that it is relatively safe to “ski” down with the “avalanching” scree. As long as you are capable of keeping your descent in tack, it is pretty care free, and I think safer than picking your way down.

    If you plan on going to the real peak be careful of short steep portions, scree, and steep ridges.

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