Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park

Flattop is a 3,510-foot mountain, located in the Chugach State Park just east of Anchorage, Alaska. Since it's so accessible, it's the most frequently climbed mountain in the state. The Flattop Mountain Trail is a moderately challenging trail to hike. It's steep, 3 miles round trip, and the scenery changes drastically along the way so you definitely won't get bored. ~Audrey
What: 3 mile, moderately challenging, steep hike
Where: Chugach State Park, Alaska
How to Get There: A 20-30 minute drive from downtown 
Anchorage to the Glen Alps trailhead, which gives you access 
to a vast trail system - including the Flattop Mountain Trail.  See driving directions at the end of this blog post.
What to Wear: Good tennis shoes or hiking boots, layers, hat
What to Bring: Water, light snack, mosquito spray, camera
Cost: Parking at the entrance is $5
Pet Friendly: Yes 

You don't necessarily have to be in stellar shape to do this hike, but it is steep and you have to navigate through large rocks and boulders on all fours to reach the summit. Even though I'm fairly fit, I found myself winded almost immediately and I definitely had to pace myself - my kind of hike! 

The trail is well maintained and there are wooden steps for about the first half mile or so. It's a beautiful hike with lots of switchbacks and takes anywhere from 2-3 hours. I went with my good friend Margaret on a sunny July day and it took us about three hours. We had fun visiting, stopped frequently to enjoy the ever changing views, and took lots of photos.  

And it's important to note, this trail is extremely dog friendly - so if you're a dog lover like me, you'll make frequent stops to pet the four legged hikers along the way. If you decide to take your own dog on this hike, a leash is required at the trailhead parking lot and must be under control on trails and in the backcountry. We went on a Sunday afternoon and I noticed a lot of people had their dogs on leashes the entire way. Probably a good idea with so much weekend traffic.  

Make sure you take plenty of water to drink and I would suggest a light snack.  It was pretty windy the day we went so the mosquitoes weren't bothering us at all, but it's always a good idea to take mosquito spray on any hike just in case.  

The trail ends once you near the summit.  As I said, you have to navigate through large rocks and boulders on all fours to make it all the way to the top. Take your time and be aware of other hikers around you.  If you're terrified of heights, this may be the point where you want to turn around. No worries though, you'll still get some great views.

Once you're at the top, you'll want to relax and enjoy the extraordinary views of Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm, the Alaska Range as well as the city of Anchorage.  It is windy, so take a long sleeved pullover or a jacket - it gets a little chilly up there.  You are in the clouds, after all. 

If you have extra energy, you might enjoy a nice jog along the ridgeline.  But be careful, it takes just as much energy going back down the mountain as it did climbing up. You'll need your quad strength for sure.

Rain clouds move in and out frequently so take a light rain jacket.  We were lucky enough to see a rainbow.

Directions to Glen Alps Trailhead

Head towards South Anchorage on the New Seward Highway. Take the O'Malley Road exit and head towards the mountains. Follow O'Malley for about 4 miles and turn right onto Hillside Drive. Turn onto Upper Huffman on your left shortly afterwards. This road T's-off; turn right onto Toilsome Hill Drive. This eventually becomes Glen Alps Road, which winds it's way up to the Glen Alps parking lot (about 2 miles), where the trail begins.  If the parking lot is full, DO NOT park on the road because you will get a parking ticket.  You can wait for a parking space to open up or you can park 1/2 mile down the road below the curve where there is a wide shoulder. 

The Flattop Mountain Shuttle provides van transportation from downtown Anchorage to the Glen Alps trailhead and back for only $22:
(907) 279-3334