Ship Lake Valley

Chugach State Park
This hike was rated 4 stars.
Moderate; from Indian Valley, the bushwhacking and/or post holing in certain areas can be frustrating. From Hidden Valley, a very steep mountain to get back up on your return. Otherwise, very easy.
Miles One Way
Miles from Anchorage
20; Via Hidden Valley: 20 minute drive from downtown.
Via Indian Valley: 40 miles down the Seward Highway.
May to September


One of my all time favorite places to backpack!, a perfect example of a glacial valley. It looks like a giant dipped its finger down the valley as if it were licking the frosting off a birthday cake. I’m so into this place! Space does not allow me to praise all the great things I love about this place.

The best way to get to Ship Lake is via Hidden Valley. As you head up the slope, the peak on the left is known as The Ramp for obvious reasons. The left peak is known as the Wedge. When you get to the top, get out your windbreaker and camera because you’re going to be snapping pics like there’s no tomorrow. Take your time and explore the ridge. Don’t say you’ll do it on the way back because your a** will be too whupped from climbing back up and you won’t be as motivated.

If you only have the day, the hike to The Ramp is a fine trip in its own right but make sure you have the whole day.

Carefully descend down and easily ford Ship Creek to get to the panhandle part of the Lake. This is the best place to set up your tent as the scrub is like a mattress. Make sure the opening of your tent faces down the valley so you can get a great view of the distant peaks as you drift off to sleep.

Then explore, explore, explore! After dinner, I like to take a hike around the lake. The rock slide shelters rock ptarmigan and at the upper part of the bowl can usually be found a herd of dall sheep as well as an incredible view of the entire valley. If it’s a wet season, you can camp up there and use the small creek (which usually dries out toward the end of the season). Look very carefully and you can get a glimpse of the last remnants of the glacier.

In the valley where the willow and shrub start, especially by the creek, can be found many small mammals including voles, martens, ermines and mink. Recently, beavers have moved in from Indian Valley and you may see them splashing around the main lake. Their dam and shelter are at the smaller tarn below.

The following was added July 29, 2007:

I just got back from an overnighter. The weather was incredible! I finally had a chance to camp on the knob at the top of the valley, above the lake. The view was amazing. The small creek was not flowing, but luckily, there were small pools that I was able to use to fill my canteens. There are plenty of flat places up there to set up your tent, so it is definitely worth your time to check it out as a possible site. However, if there’s no water, it would be quite a schlep to get it!

Important Information

Be aware that via Indian Valley you will encounter many sections that will require you to bushwhack. Try to stay on the upper sections of the mountain ridges till you get halfway up Ship Lake Valley where the terrain turns to scrub. Be warned: Indian Valley can be clogged with snow right up to mid June. I usually pack snowshoes just to be sure.

If you are with a group, an option is to leave a car at the Indian Valley Trailhead and start the hike at the Glen Alps Trailhead.

The huge boulder in the middle of the valley has a deep crevice that is perfect for putting your food away for the night.

If the prospect of climbing back up that mountain via Hidden Valley is daunting to you, break it down into small increments and only concentrate on the section you are climbing. You should give yourself an hour. Bottom line; it’s a bitch but pace yourself and you’ll succeed.

If you come in late August and/or September, have a big bowl or Ziploc bag when you descend the mountain as there are a messload of blueberries for the picking.


The Glen Alps Parking Lot requires a $5 parking fee (bring exact amount). The price for an annual parking pass 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.

Topo Map

Ship Lake Valley topo map

Comments on hiking Ship Lake Valley

  1. The following was submitted by Kris Scorup on July 9, 2008:

    In “Important information” you stated (in my hike for Hidden Lake and Valley), “At the start of the trailhead you will have to cross Campbell Creek using a line of medium size boulders. . .” There is now a bridge over the creek, although when I went (July 5 2008) the bridge was marked with “do not trespass” signs. Since the creek was high, we trespassed anyway. The bridge is fairly massive – probably 4 feet wide. Just FYI. Thanks for the great site! My wife and I hope to get out more this summer!

  2. The following was submitted by Ross Timm, who, as usual, fills in the gaps for the parts I’m too much of a wuss to do, namely the peak of The Ramp:

    Rating: 3 moose hooves
    Difficulty: Somewhat Difficult – Long approach, dangerous falls on the Ship Creek side.


    See Hike #30 in 50 Hikes in Alaska’s Chugach State Park for the full description. This hike has a very long approach, first down Powerline Pass and then up towards the Ship Lake Pass/ Hidden Lake. I recommend following the books advice and heading towards Hidden Lake, checking it out (and possibly camping out), then going up the ridge towards the saddle between Hidden Peak-and The Ramp.

    For a day hike, the approach is long down Powerline Pass– but you can bike to the ford across Campbell Creek to save a lot of time– especially if you are “jaded” towards the Powerline Trail due to overexposure. If you do bike you have to stash your bike at the ford, per regulations. Still, that would save 30 minutes each way, minimum.

    We walked it. We were able to boulder across the creek– you can also just walk through with your shoes off if it is late summer. Once you get to the trail decisions in the book, decide if you are going to approach The Ramp from Ship Lake Pass or from the Hidden Lake ridge. There are a lot of trails going up Ship Lake Pass– I recommend following the book so you get up the ridge and diagonally approach the Ramp. Once we got towards the saddle between Hidden Peak and the Ramp we side-tracked over the tundra to lessen the steepness, but it was still steep and tough.

    Once at the saddle it was AMAZING– below us were the true headwaters of the Middle Fork of Campbell Creek, 2000′ below us, below almost shear walls, formed from the last remnants of snow in this isolated valley.

    Then we hiked the ridge to the top of The Ramp– easy from the saddle to the upper base of the ramp, then a steep scrabble to the top. It is a “ramp”– relatively gently sloped coming up from the back of the Wedge & Ship Lake Pass, and almost vertical on the Middle Fork Valley side.

    Other positives: seeing how Ship Creek starts from an alpine lake was very cool. It was incredible to see the start of what winds way over by Muldoon and then turns into the lazy, muddy Ship Creek we all know downtown.

    The Ramp is deceptive from Anchorage– it looks like a perfect peak, and the top is small compared to Flattop, but there are a few “tops”, with very little footing. We stayed at what seemed the natural top– could have scurried down a little and then back up, but choose not to because of the fall potential to either side. Where we stopped had a register in a jar, so I assume it was the highpoint. Because this trail is back a ways, it looks less tall than some other front range peaks– but it is an impressive 5240′ above sea level….

    The trek back was long— when you see bikes whiz past you going 20 mph you are REAL REAL envious after this long day hike.


    As I always say when you are off the major trails: bring bear spray and/or a gun and make noise if the trail is not very populated when you go– however, there were a lot of people heading to Hidden Lake when we went in early August. I suspect that the route would have a lot of early summer post holing because the snow lingers long near Hidden Lake. Avalanche danger would be very high on the approach in winter, and some pretty scary slopes (the “gentle ones” on the Ship Lake Pass side) without crampons in winter and early spring.

  3. The following was submitted by Conrad:

    My hike on this trail this past week served as a reminder of two things.

    1) How much Alaska ROCKS!

    2) Not to discount the trails on/near Powerline Pass due to foot traffic. Monday, August 2, on my way to Ship Lake Pass via Powerline Pass, I walked right up on a BIG Grizz! After backing off and letting him saunter on his way, I continued on over Ship Lake Pass only to be standing eye to eye with 10 Dall Sheep; the closest not 10 yards away.

    I completely share your love for this hike. What a killer place so close to home.

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