Williwaw Lakes

Chugach State Park
This hike was rated 4 stars.
Easy; very little elevation gain. Moderate if by way of Football Field - a steep mountain to go over and a somewhat scary scree slope to go down.
Miles One Way
Miles from Anchorage
In town; about a 20 minute drive from downtown
All year (must use cross country skis or snowshoes in winter - do not use Football Field route due to avalanche danger!).


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.

Important Information

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.

Topo Map

Williwaw Lakes topo map

Comments on hiking Williwaw Lakes

  1. Mike — September 23, 2018

    We just did the hike up and over from Williwaw Lakes to Long Lake. We discovered to our relief descending the pass down to Long Lake was not scary, and in fact much easier than the scree run down from the ballfield to Williwaw. You just have to pick the right route. From Walrus Lake, after walking along the left side, there are two routes up the pass leading to two notches. The left route is a path up to a higher notch, the right route looks like a path climbing a scree gully to a slightly lower notch. We went up the pass on the left-hand side, sidehilling higher up on the slope until we realized there was a trail. The trail led to the left-hand, higher notch in the pass. Looking down the trail switchbacking from there to Long Lake, along a steep loose slope where we couldn’t see what lay ahead, looked pretty, well, dangerous. So from the top of that notch, we instead we turned right and sidehilled thru the mossy slope over to the right-hand lower notch. The trail down from the lower notch to Long Lake was in fact not very steep and became a very pleasant tundra walk down to the lake. You’ll see the other, steep trail come in from the left and decide for yourself whether to give it a try on a later trip.

  2. Corey Ercolani — June 9, 2018

    I just got done doing the loop, and my body is destroyed, i parked at Basher, went up to Near Point, then down the valley to Long Lake on Campbell Creek trail, up and over the pass into Williwaw, and hiked down the valley back to Basher. Does anyone know the exact distance from basher all the way around the loop and back to basher? i think it was about 20 miles? but every websitesais something different. I originally planned to camp at Long Lake, but it was early in the day so i continued on. Really didnt need to bring the Barneys pack with everything to camp.

  3. Elizabeth M — March 25, 2018

    I took the river side in, and out we went to the black lake, a scramble, across a marsh, and down O’Malley Gully. For about a 16 ish mile hike mid July last year. The scramble is killer and not good for a new hiker. Other then that it was mostly just mushy. I didn’t have issues with bugs, which was a very nice surprise. If you don’t have problems with distance but can’t do ‘ups’ very well like myself. (Messed up my knees pretty back in High school) I would suggest in and out by the river side. it’s easy, but long. If you want more of a challenge, follow the path to the right after you get to the lakes. it goes up levels off for a bit, then Straight up. after that there’s a few downs but it’s mostly easy. That hardest part after the ups is going down O’Malley’s gully. This was a very fun day hike, but it took up about 8 hours of time. So make sure you have enough daylight and water! or a way to clean what you find along the way.

  4. Teri Penn — June 10, 2016

    I went on the hike with some friends. The description I read was “easy”, appropriate even for young kids and dogs. We felt it was a moderate hike and not appropriate for young kids.. The total hike in and out was about 7 hours and a total of 12.4 miles.

  5. […] always see the sign for Williwaw lakes trail. Any hike involving a lake excites me. I did some research and found that I could connect to williwaw lakes via O’malley gulley and loop back via middle […]

  6. ShaneD — March 9, 2015

    I believe you no longer need a jber permit around Long Lake. The military ceded some of it back to the BLM in 2013 per the maps on jber.isportsman.net

    Also, for a nicer route down to Long Lake from the pass, follow the ridge up and along to your right as you look down, past the two small tarns – much gentler way down.

  7. William Mohn — February 21, 2013

    Rating: 4 moose hooves
    Difficulty: Somewhat Difficult; we had a hard time finding the trail at some crucial points and that made the entire trek slightly harder


    We hiked this route late July in 2006.

    My friends and I started at Glen Alps and ventured ahead to the Football Field at the base of O’Malley Peak. The Football Field was nice, but what we found to be the most amazing were Deep and Black Lakes, which you stumble upon at the end of the Football Field (see pictures). Right before Black Lake you will have to scramble down a large and very loose scree. Even though this was daunting at first, we had a good time. About half way down the scree we hung a left and made our way across to this little grassy cliff that over looks Black Lake. This was surely a high point of the trip. Once you reach the cliff you can get some amazing pictures of Williwaw Lakes and the surrounding scenery. (IF YOU DECIDE TO DO THIS BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL. AT THIS POINT YOU ARE VERY HIGH UP).

    Once down past Black Lake and into Williwaw Valley we filtered some water and made a late camp (exhausted) and while cooking we watched a local marmot watch us.

    The next morning we received some revitalization with a quick dip in a nearby crystal clear and cold glacial lake. The sun was beaming that morning however, and we quickly warmed up and felt very very refreshed. Then we started day two’s hiking. We hiked out of Williwaw Valley to connect with the Campbell Creek Trail. This was a nice and long up hill battle. It is step like and every few hundred feet you come to a flat area that has a glacial lake, which is nice for resting. Once you get to the higher elevations, where there are still snow patches (some other hikers and us had a sledding competition on large downhill patch) it becomes steeper and zaps your energy. However, once you reach the top you are rewarded with a stunning view of Long Lake Valley. Then you look at the descent… This part of the hike was possibly the most testing. We spent a good 30 minutes discussing the best possible route to take down into Long Lake Valley, we even threw a few stones down to see what may happen to us if we fell (that didn’t help our nerves), I swear they rolled clear to the lake. We eventually decided to take what seemed to be a small trail towards the left side of the ridge. Once we began, it was clear that this was not the best route. However, it would have been worse to go back up and start over. So we cautiously continued on, at this point my fingerless biking gloves that I wear while hiking came in handy, because for most of this descent we were using our hands to stable ourselves in the rocky steep scree.

    Once in Long Lake Valley the hike calms down considerably. The lake is beautiful, and there were hardly any bugs on the first half of Campbell creek.

    It may be that we were not paying much attention to the trail, but we found it very, very hard to find the trail up to Near Point. Eventually we ended up along the river in waist high brush that was marshy, stinky, boggy, buggy and all around hellish. We realized we had to head up towards Near Point (trail less), but needed water first. So we had to double back and filter some water back where the water was accessible (not all tangled in crazy buggy hell brush). Once we were watered up and almost completely demoralized we started the trudge up towards Near Point. At this point the mosquitoes were the worst I had ever seen…Ever. I would highly recommend a head net to preserve sanity. Once at the top we made camp at haste and dove into our tents. Once killing the 20 mosquitoes that followed us we watched as the “quito fog” encompassed us. This was the worst point of our trip. I am not sure how to avoid this other then packing a bundle of bug netting so you can enjoy the evening and cook dinner (instead of eating Cliff Bars for dinner because you can’t leave your tent). Then we went to sleep with a nice view of Anchorage at night and hopes for a mosquito-less morning. That, however, was not the case upon waking. The bugs were just as bad. We packed everything in the tent, covered as much of our bodies with our clothing as we could and doused ourselves in repellant (we looked absurd). After we scampered out of the tent and rolled it up in record time we headed towards the peak of Near Point. We, due to the hot sun, had to shed some clothing and luckily the bugs calmed down and we found the trail. We came upon a couple of day hikers and they pointed the way to the trail that was supposed to lead us in the direction of Prospect Heights Trail head (where we hoped to hitch back to Glen Alps). Here is where we had our biggest problem with the trail. We followed the only possible trail down Near Point that would head in the direction of Prospect Heights, then we ran into a fence and some bodies back yard…

    We enjoyed this hike despite our difficulties in the end. The glacial lakes, thrilling screes, amazing scenery were worth every misfortune. In fact when we look back we laugh at the ridiculous mosquito onslaught. I would say that this route is the most rewarding, we had hiked the Williwaw Lakes Trail earlier in the year from Middle Fork and it was not nearly as exciting. Go by Football Field to Campbell Creek for a truly exciting sensory overload (which is always nice), and an adventure. Just watch it when you get to the end of Campbell Creek, maybe you can figure it out. Enjoy!

  8. William Mohn — February 21, 2013

    After trying three separate times to hike Long Lake Loop I successfully managed to complete the hike in late July. The hike took 2 days and was well worth the wait. I set up camp just south of Upper Williwaw Lake and had an excellent view of the glacier valley toward Anchorage. As I relaxed in my tent I heard the sound of cloven hooves scampering by. They were too fast and small to be moose and when I crawled out of my tent I found that a dozen or so mountain goats surrounded my tent, with the kids playing around my tent. That one event would have made the hike worthwhile, but you add the clear cold lakes, colorful flowers, glacier scratches on the rocks along with the variety of wildlife and the trip remains in ones memory forever.

    I have since moved to South Lake Tahoe, but I will return to hike the trails that I missed.

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