Grizzly Bear Lake

Chugach National Forest
This hike was rated 4 stars.
Submitted By
Martin Olsen
Difficulty
Difficult
Connects With
Miles One Way
9
Miles from Anchorage
50; above Girdwood
Season
June to September

Description

Grizzly Bear Lake hike has been listed in Shepherd and Wozniak’s book, 50 Hikes in Alaska’s Chugach State Park. Their description of the trail is accurate with one possible understatement regarding the steepness of the north side of Paradise Pass. It can be a little tricky, but if you take your time and choose your route carefully, it can be done by most anyone with decent scrambling skills. Once over the pass, it is a very pleasant and straightforward journey to the Lake. More on that in a moment…

The Hike:

Start at Crow Pass trailhead. Go past Crow Pass and exit the trail just before the big drop down into Raven Creek Valley. This is about 1.25 miles past the Crow Pass Cabin. You will need to cross Clear Creek. I found we needed to walk a contour upstream a little ways until a safe snow bridge was found. From there, continue walking a contour (about 3200′) for roughly a mile until you catch Paradise Valley, a hanging valley that heads up to the East. Walk up valley, staying to the right until you see Paradise Pass. It will be the low point in the valley headwall, and it is a steep and barely stable scree slope to the top. The scree is fairly fine so it is not dangerous per se, just a little bit of a pain in the keister.

Drop off Paradise Pass (I angled down to the left and tried to avoid spending any time on the steep snow faces). Once down it is a gentle, rolling moraine walk until you reach a very small lake (un-named, I call it Upper Grizzly Bear Lake). This is a great campsite with a remarkable sense of solitude. To reach GBL itself, continue down valley and be careful descending the boulder moraine which marks the southern edge of the lake. There are many great places to set up camp, and you will see very little evidence of human presence here. For a nice day hike, head up to the peak just north of the lake (5240 on the map). It is a nice ridge climb with awesome views.

Important Information

Coming down off of Paradise Pass is rather steep and unstable. If traveling in a group, ensure that there is enough spacing to avoid rock fall injury. If snow is on the pass, be aware of avalanche risk.

Best to travel in a small group (3 to 5). Only do this alone if you are fully competent in the backcountry. You truly get a sense of isolation at this place, even though you can see some of the peaks of the front range of the Chugach down the North Fork Valley. We saw no grizzly bears but I did run into a blackie during the side hill adventure leading to Paradise Valley.

Topo Map

Grizzly Bear Lake topo map

Comments on hiking Grizzly Bear Lake

  1. The following was submitted by Chris Harper:

    South Fork Valley to Eagle River Nature Center, July 18-24, 2009:

    DAY ONE: From the South Fork trailhead we headed up the relatively flat and well worn trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes, where we spent two nights camping on the Eagle Lake side of the ridge that separates the two lakes. The hike in was not very strenuous and we were blessed with sunshine for most of it. Unfortunately, that was the last we’d see of the sun for a while.

    DAY TWO: We hiked up toward Flute Glacier, hoping to make it all the way. But when we climbed up into the valley above the waterfall it was raining and windy, so we decided to head back. Another error we made was trying to stay high and clear of the brush and the streambed on the way up to the falls. After reading reports that you would have to cross the stream(s) several times if you walked the valley floor and would likely get wet, we opted for the side-hilling approach, which made for slow progress. On the way back down to Eagle Lake, we stayed on the valley floor and only had to cross the stream 2-3 times, none of which were more than a few feet wide and a few inches deep. Certainly the better route.

    DAY THREE: We started out by heading around the southeastern end of Symphony Lake which turned out to be home to a large beaver dam and pond, so we were forced farther up the valley to find a good stream crossing. In hindsight, going around the northern end may have proven to be a better option. From there we wrapped around the northern side of the knob/ridge that juts out north of the westernmost tarn and below the 4605’ peak. There proved to be a lot of loose and not entirely stable talus and boulders in that small drainage and made progress slow. Once in that drainage we headed south and had to scramble up and over a small ridgeline to get into the bowl above the tarn. The bowl was a steep grassy walk up to the pass. Once over the pass we descended a grassy slope toward North Fork Ship Creek and begin to contour our way south and slightly east. We camped on a broad plateau prior to reaching Ewe Valley.

    DAY FOUR: After dropping into the brush to find a clear and level campsite the night before, we headed southeast along various game trails paralleling North Fork Ship Creek on it’s northern side. When present, the trails were fairly distinguished and easy to follow. We followed game trails and bushwhacked our way past Bird Creek Pass and camped for the night across from the second of the two cirques to the east of it. Even though we did some side-hilling to avoid the willows, there was a lot of bushwhacking this day. Coupled with rain and a cold wind, it was the least enjoyable day of the trip.

    DAY FIVE: From our campsite we headed east until crossing the creek that flows roughly from Mt. Ewe and Flute Peak. After crossing the creek we followed the drainage down to reach the flat and open valley floor. We then crossed North Fork Ship Creek and followed a low ridgeline up to the south of Grizzly Bear Lake. From there to Moraine Pass was nothing but loose rock, but for the most part the topography was a gentle ascent. We opted to drop down from Moraine Pass into Camp Creek Valley for two reasons: it seemed like a shorter and we couldn’t conceive of a route over Paradise Pass. Maybe we were looking at the wrong spot, but it looked impassable to us without some technical climbing. Nonetheless, Camp Creek Valley proved to be worth the trip. It was wide and grassy. It was also boggy in some spots, but it made for easy hiking. We stayed on the western side of the creek and followed it down until the valley got steep and brushy. Rather than battle that, we made camp for the night.

    DAY SIX: We headed northeast toward Raven Creek on some great moose trails. As we began to head more northerly, the trail gave out and we found ourselves in thick patches of alders interspersed with patches of tall grasses. We picked up another game trail and followed it as it paralleled Raven Creek through dense alders and devils club. Eventually we found our way to the bottom of the valley right at the confluence of Raven Creek and Eagle River, on the west side of Raven Creek. After hiking down the Eagle River and one failed fording attempt, we hiked back up to Raven Creek in search of a spot to cross. It was really moving, but thankfully we followed it about a quarter mile upstream of the confluence and found a bridge built by the Army reserves or National Guard. It does not appear on any map that I’ve seen, but it was quite literally a lifesaver. After crossing Raven Creek we headed southeast along the river toward the recommended fording site. We picked up the Crow Pass trail along the way and that made for much easier hiking. After eating dinner, we forded the river and hiked downstream and eventually camped near the confluence with Raven Creek.

    DAY SEVEN: The hike into the Nature Center was pretty straightforward and uneventful. It was mostly flat or slightly downhill, but there were quite a few short and steep climbs. Nothing in comparison to other parts of the hike, but after 7 days out, any rise seemed like a mountain. There was a large state park work crew tackling numerous projects and we had our first contact with other people since Day Two. The Crow Pass Trail was easy to follow and very established, sometimes maybe a little too established.

    Overall the route was good. The scenery was amazing, but the weather was less than ideal. There were a couple of things we could have done differently that might have made the trip easier, but all in all I was pleased with our chosen route. I have tried to include those questionable decisions in my report so that others will at least have more information to consider. I believe that we may have had an easier time if we had been able to go over Paradise Pass and connect with the Crow Pass trail sooner, but as I said it did not jump out at me as a good route and Camp Creek Valley was one of the best parts of the whole trip, despite the heavy bushwhacking near the end. The existence of the bridge over Raven Creek is possibly the only reason that that route was successful, so it’s important that people know that it exists.

  2. The following was submitted by Frank Baker:

    Crow Pass Trail (near Raven Glacier) to Grizzly Bear Lake via Paradise Pass and Moraine Pass and then to South Fork Eagle River, Eagle & Symphony Lake, Aug. 8-10, 2008:

    Friday: Dave Gahm and I took the recommended route to Grizzly Bear Lake from Crow Pass trail, side hilling uphill across Clear Creek and into Paradise Pass. Cresting over the pass we found a lot of snow that was packed fairly hard. Crampons would have been very handy. We made our way down through Moraine Pass to Grizzly Bear Lake by early evening, an easy day and beautiful weather at the lake.

    Saturday: Rain all day. We fully expected to go down North Fork Ship Creek and cross over ridge into South Fork, near Symphony Lake, by evening. But trip was longer than anticipated, going was tougher (No trail. ’55 Ways’ book and other maps list “route” and that is an important distinction). Staying high on right hand side of valley, however, enabled us to avoid the nearly impenetrable willows, and as we got lower, alders. We made a major navigational error about eight miles down valley, ascending to a high ridge that we thought would bring us into view of Symphony Lake. We were looking directly out at Mt. Concerto and needed to head down valley another mile before making the right-hand crossing. The only redeeming moment of this mistake was seeing a wolverine below us, sliding in the snow on his back. Instead of reaching Symphony Lake on 2nd day, we camped in timber on North Fork Ship Creek. Before we could make this camp, sow grizzly and two cubs kept us on the mountain for an hour until she and cubs moved on.

    Sunday: Pt. Cloudy. A lot of traversing and side hilling as we passed Triangle Peak, on our right, and moved down valley but over the ridge separating North Fork Ship Creek and South Fork, Eagle River. We had packed a lightweight spinning rod to do some grayling fishing at Symphony Lake, but crested over about 1/2 mile down valley from Symphony, looking directly down on the BOULDER FIELD. With some very steep down climbing we were on a gradual slide down to the boulder field, and in our weary state, just went for the trail to the parking lot. Wildlife sightings in three days: 6 bears (3 were grizzlies), 2 moose, 1 wolverine, 1 coyote, 2 eagles, scores of dall sheep, scores of parka squirrels, ptarmigan, a pika and a vole. Conclusion: Three days wouldn’t have been too bad had it not been for the major navigational error that caused us to climb 2,500′ ridge that we didn’t need to. Otherwise, a great trip. We are considering Bird Creek as more direct route into North Fork Ship Creek, but certainly not fond of thick brush, which I’m sure the 7-1/2 miles without a trail contains.

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