Great views of Anchorage and the Eagle River Valley. Great view of Denali on a clear day. Can be crowded due to its proximity to Anchorage.
You have 2 options for where to start this hike, with pretty widely varying degrees of difficulty. From the Arctic Valley side, you’ll have a mostly gentle climb. From the Eagle River / Hiland Road side, you’ll have a pretty steep climb ahead of you.
From the Arctic Valley side: the trail is a relatively easy (kid and dog friendly) walk up. It is lined with berries in August. In the winter it is a great cross-country ski trail that will challenge at times. I believe that mountain bikes are allowed although I did not see any tracks. I am unsure of camping restrictions.
From the Eagle River side: this is a great cardio workout for people who live in Eagle River. As you head up to the saddle, there are great views of the South Fork Valley with distant glimpses of Eagle and Symphony Lakes. If you want to make it a quick and easy hike, continue across the saddle for pretty decent views of Arctic Valley and Anchorage. If you have the time and the endurance, take the trail on the right and head up to the ridge line and continue until you reach the peak. To get to the actual ridge can be a little tough in places but just make it to the ridge and the rest is easy. On a really clear day you should be able to see Sleeping Lady and the Alaska Range but I’ve yet to confirm this on the two cloudy days I’ve gone. Theoretically, you could continue right to Alpenglow into Arctic Valley but for me, the logistics of two cars wouldn’t be worth it.
Another option is to take a left at the saddle and head up to the other mountain ridge. I plan on checking it out the next time as it’s a trail less traveled (and I’ve heard sometimes that can make all the difference).
If doing this hike early in the season, it is imperative that you are educated about avalanches and how to determine the risk. If there is too much snow on the ridge, do not attempt.
From the Arctic Valley side:
The washboards on the drive up the Arctic Valley road can be brutal for a low clearance vehicle. Just go slow. The gate hours (you drive through portions of Fort Richardson) are 0600-2200 (6 am – 10 pm).
Arctic Valley Road is on a military reservation and as such, you are being given the privilege of using it to get to the trailhead. Please obey all traffic signs. Be prepared in these troubled times that the road may be closed if the base is on alert.
Do not go near the military installation! It is a restricted area and you can be fined if caught. Here’s more information about hiking on or near military lands.
The Arctic Valley trailhead is at the end of Arctic Valley Road, adjacent to the Alpenglow Ski Area. Take the Glenn Highway to the Arctic Valley exit and follow the switch-backing road for about seven miles to the parking area run by the Anchorage Ski Club. Note that there is a $5 parking fee at Arctic Valley. Your State Park Pass is not valid here.
The Eagle River Trailhead is near the end of Hiland Road. 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.