While it is one of the more popular backpack trips for Anchorage residents, don’t let the fear of no solitude sway you. With over nine lakes, including 1 in its own cul-de-sac and 2 inside a mountain pass, there are plenty of spots to call your own. The scenery is incredible with abundant waterfalls, mountain peaks, and lakes everywhere, all connected by a cascading creek. Good chance of viewing dall sheep, coyotes, fox, and various waterfowl.
While this makes a fine day hike, plan an overnighter so you can really have the time to enjoy the sights. If you start from the Prospect Heights Parking Lot, you can create a great loop hike by coming back via Campbell Creek Canyon Trail and Near Point.
If you don’t do the loop hike, I definitely recommend coming via the Football Field for a total sensory overload. Coming into the valley passing by black lake is a mind blowing experience. Just be in shape and be careful coming down the scree slope.
See the photo above? This is Walrus Lake, one of the last lakes in the valley proper. The hill in front of this lake makes a great viewing platform to decide where to camp. The peak in the background is Mt. Williwaw. Head into the canyon there if you’re looking for some privacy. Better yet, head to the left up the hill where there are two tarns tucked away in the pass.
Wherever you decide to camp, plan on exploring the area. It feels weird that it is so close to Anchorage but I really think this is one of the nicest areas in the Chugach Mountains.
Getting to the trail from Prospect Heights can be a little confusing. There are a whole lot of criss-crossing trails before you get to the Williwaw Trail proper. You basically want to head down the valley over the bridge, then curve around and back up. You should see the sign on the right for Middle Fork Trail as you level off. You’ll take this trail toward the spine of a mountain; head left.
Going around Mt. O’Malley to get into the Williwaw Valley can get very, very muddy in the spring and summer.
Finding a string of rocks to cross the creeks can be hard. Find a shallow place and just brave it (barefoot optional); it’s not that big of a deal here.
Plan on high winds and bring a wind breaker. Make sure you can secure your tent. Williwaw means “very windy” in the Native language.
There are very few places to secure your food. You may want to consider a bear canister. I usually find a crevice in the rocks and cover it with big rocks far from my site.
If you do the loop with the Campbell Creek Canyon Trail and Near Point, I would recommend starting with Williwaw. The pass at the Long Lake side is very steep and rocky and you need to be careful. I would rather come down it then go up it. Also, be sure you understand how to read a topo map for finding the way up Near Point to the trail. I wasn’t paying attention and had to do a lot of bushwhacking before I got back on track.
The pass to get to Long Lake and the Long Lake area itself is on military land. You will need to get a permit to hike there and let them know. Go here for more information.
The Glen Alps Parking Lot and the Prospect Heights Parking Lot both require 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.