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Thread: Crow Pass

  1. #1
    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Question Crow Pass

    Heading to Alaska to do some hiking. We are planning on doing Crow Pass - Eagle River to Girdwood. Hiking on or around the 23rd-27th of June. Is there usually snow during that time? And do most hike from Gridwood to Eagle River? Is there a problem with going the opposite direction? Any other input would be great.

    Also, what are some other nice hiking options (3 to 4 days) in the area? Kenai? Chugach?

    Thanks in advance,
    NJ

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    NJ- Ah, one of my all-time favorite hikes! I used to lead a group of 20-30 teenagers over Crow Pass every summer. While some like to power-hike that trail in one day, and most others do it in two, we always took 4 days. We always hiked Girdwood to Eagle River for a couple of reasons - first, we all lived in Eagle River, so it was nice to end at home, and second because that is the easier route. Starting from Girdwood the first 3 miles are fairly steep uphill, but from there is it 24 miles of gently sloping downhill or flat hiking. Also, I would rather spend the first day or two up above treeline when my legs are fresh for running up and down the mountains and save the heavy timber for the last 2 days when I'm in more of an ambling mood. Going from Eagle River is fine, it's just not my preference.
    The way we would do it is camp up near Raven Gorge on night #1, hike down to Eagle River and cross on day #2, ending up at Thunder Gorge for nights #2 & 3. We then would have a 12 mile hike out on day #4, but it's mostly flat and easy going from there. As for snow, there will be 3-5 snow slides (old avalanche runout) to cross up near the top of the pass. If you take solid steps you'll be fine, but people who like to step lightly and carefully can have some problems there and end up sliding down 100' or so into the rock piles below. Hmmmm, what else? I've seen up to 27 bears in one trip out there, so be alert. I've only ran into a few that were a little too curious for comfort, but still...hang your food in trees and take other common sense bear precautions and you should be fine. The river crossing is co-o-old, but fine if you bring along some footwear for the purpose. Do not try to do it barefoot! At the very least bring along some strap-on sandals. I wear a hard-soled neoprene bootie, but as long as you have something on the bottom of your foot you'll be fine. Oh, and there is a wonderful little pool for swimming/bathing about 1/2 mile on the Eagle River side of the river crossing. If you camp at Thunder Gorge it's not a far walk to this swimming hole. Although that water never really warms up, it sure is refreshing in the middle of a multi-day trek. Let me think for a couple more days and I'll give you some more input as it comes to mind.

    As for other hikes, there are lots of options. Some good ones are Resurrection Pass, Devils Pass-Resurrection-Summit Pass loop, Johnson Pass, Lost Lake, Russian Lakes, etc.

    Enjoy!

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Fantastic advice, Brian. I am eagerly awaiting more. I am coming to Alaska from Michigan with 17 other adults and 42 students - 8th - 12th graders. We will be hiking in groups of 3 adults and 7 kids. I have a fairly experienced group coming along so it should be a great hike. Again, I am thankful for your time in filling me in on the do's and dont's. It is much appreciated. Oh yeah, and we are doing a night out on a boat that leaves Seward for a wildlife/glacier cruise and an all-you-can eat prime rib and salmon dinner. Thanks much.

    Nate

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    I guess we have decided to leave from Eagle River and hike to Girdwood. We have two other groups going the opposite direction so we do not want to crowd that direction. Brian, I was wondering what you would suggest for camp sites when heading from Eagle River? I see the elevation is 1000 feet more than hiking in the other direction. We will be spending 4 days and 3 nights on the hike. Is it possible to do the spots you mentioned above but in the opposite direction? Thanks again for your information and help.

    NJ

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    NJ, do you want to camp at a different site every night, or do you want to spend a couple of nights at a single site? We always spent two nights at Thunder Gorge, as that allowed time for rest and exploration, but there is also something nice about having a new playground every night. Here are some options:

    Icicle Creek - 6 miles in, good campsite, good firewood availability

    Twin Falls - 9 miles in, same as above

    Thunder Gorge - 12 miles in, same as above, spectacular waterfall that crashes down right behind camp, though you have to climb up the left side of the river about 300 feet to get a good view. Good access to riverbed to get into the breeze if mosquitos or black flies are bad.

    After that you cross the river and start climbing soon thereafter. From this point on the best campsite is probably at Raven Gorge. Here you'll be right about at tree line. It is almost always windy here and there isn't a lot of firewood. A couple miles further is where we usually camp the first night when coming the other direction, but it is not an improved site, nor could I really tell you exactly where it's at....just a spot that we've used for a while.

    The trip is still great in the opposite direction, but understand that the last day will be one of the hardest as you climb towards the top of the pass. It's not overly tough, but for a group of teenagers doing their first backcountry camping trip, be ready for some blisters and some slow going. But hey, that's part of the fun.

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    You rock! Again, thanks for your info. We are not sure on staying in the same palce for a night or moving on. Are there some short day hikes near Thunder Gorge if we did stay? Also, some of the kids were wondering about the possiblity of Grizzly sightings. I understand the area has many blackies. Do you have any links that you could post of some neat photographs of the area - I have done some searching on google and have found some but not many. Again, thanks. By the way, I see you are a teacher. What and where do you teach? I am teaching at Coldwater High School in Michigan (Earth Science/Math but landed a job teaching special education and love it - although I do miss teaching the earth science content)

    Do you know much about the camping at Emendorf Airforce Base? We will be staying there the night before we leave and I think the night we arrive in Anchorage. We plan on doing some community service work there the day we fly home.

    NJ

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Nevermind the Airforce Base - not going to camp there anymore. One more thing... Is the parking failry safe at the ERNC? We need to leave some things in the van during the hike. I know that at some trail heads in the past we have had problems with people breaking into vehicles.

    Thanks,
    NJ

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    We've had Scout groups park at the nature center with no trouble for a night or two.

    If you're in Seward, make a side trip to Exit Glacier for part of a day. It's an easy walk up to the glacier. Also, the trail up to the Harding Icefield makes for a short, steep path to some great views of the valley and glacier. No need to go all the way to the top (3.5m), there are good lunch stops partway up.

    I'd endorse Brian's mention of Devil's Pass trail into Resurrection Pass as a quick and pretty way into the alpine, and often gets less traffic than the RP trail. It's about 10 miles into the pass, and after that you can either head to Hope or Cooper Landing, or just wander the valleys and head back the same way.

    And good for you getting the kids out and hiking! I've taken groups of 5-10 Scouts on several hikes and canoe trips. The experiences, both good and bad, will be the stuff of stories for years. Enjoy!

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Toofew,

    We plan on doing Exit Glacier for part of the day in Seward, as well as the evening boat trip. We are so looking forward to it. 26 days and counting until we leave. Can't wait!!

    NJ

  10. #10
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    There are some great little day hikes from Thunder Gorge. My favorite is to climb up the left side of the Gorge (left when looking at the mountain) about 500-1000' to get a great view of the waterfall and of Eagle River valley. There are often goats low on the cliffs right there, and typically sheep on the opposite hillside a little farther up. For more of a mellow walk, you can continue following the main trail up the valley. About 3/4 mile from camp there is a great little pond that is perfect for a little swim or for washing off the dirt from the trail. It is cold, but if the sun is out it's pretty dang fun. You can also continue up to the river crossing to get a preview of the following day's activity (~1 mile) or even continue around Eagle Lake and make a push towards the base of the glacier, though that would take most of the day. Be warned, though, that going around the lake requires a lot of brush breaking. Last time I did it we came really close to 4 bears, and there is nothing for visibility in there. Be careful.

    I've personally only seen three grizzlies on Crow Pass. There are more there, but there are far more black bears. Two of the grizzlies I've seen were up above treeline at our first night's campsite, and one chased a black bear across the mountainside for a couple of hours back and forth right above camp. Pretty cool experience, actually. In my experience, the black bears are far more curious and thus more dangerous. I don't intend to worry you, but just be aware that they very well might walk right into your camp. Most years we would have at least one semi-close encounter with a black bear, some years more than one and a little too close for comfort. I never have felt truly threatened, but we have had some pretty scared kids a time or two. But hey, that's what makes campfire stories on the next trip so good.

    Most of my pictures from Crow Pass are from my pre-digital days, but I'll try to scan some over the next few days and post them. It really is spectacular, particularly out on the riverbed at Thunder Gorge when the sun is setting down at the end of Eagle River Valley. We usually build a big bonfire from deadfall trees out on the gravel, which is at least 150 yards from the edge of the forest. Good times, but only if there is no wind at all.

    I teach high school Biology and 9th grade science at East High School in Anchorage. On a side note, if you have stuff that you need to leave in the van that you're worried about (though it is pretty safe there), send me a PM right before you come and we'll see if I can hold onto some of it for you. I live 10 miles from the trailhead, so if I'm in town it really wouldn't be a problem.

    -Brian

  11. #11
    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Default picture near crow pass

    One of our ABHA members sent in this pic below of Raven Glacier, not sure where Crow Pass is in relation to this as I'm not familiar with the area, but Brian probably knows. Sounds like a fun hike and great to see you guys getting the kids out in the field.


  12. #12
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    That picture is of the Crow Pass trail right after it starts dropping out of the highest point of the pass. You'll cross about 3 snow slides like that, one of which is considerably more steep. Watch your step - the landing at the bottom is not soft. This will be on the final day of your hike after a considerable elevation gain.

    -Brian

    PS - Thanks for sharing the pic, Mark.

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Awesome picture. Thanks for sharing.

    NJ

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    Default Excellent picture!!

    That's a GREAT picture! It makes me want to come and hike it while I am in Anchorage in July! Thanks for posting it!

  15. #15
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    COtoAK - If you don't have time to do the entire 27 miles, start from the Girdwood side and you can be to the location in that picture within 2-3 hours. It's a specatular location, and if you want you can get right out on that glacier or head up the ridge to the right of it. Also some great summer skiing in that area.

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    Member COtoAK's Avatar
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    Default Time...

    I might actually have time to do it.
    I don't want to be in a hotel room the whole time the husband is doing some coastal guide exam.

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    Here's a couple pics from when I was at Crow Pass in mid-oct, last year...

    020.jpg

    028.jpg

  18. #18
    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Default Snow?

    Wow, great pics. Will there be as much snow cover mid June? I am planning on bringing your basic summer hiking gear - nylon pant/shorts - should I include some long underwear, wool hat?

    nj

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    Member n_johnson_20's Avatar
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    Does anyone have any pics of the trail closer to Eagle River, maybe Thunder Gorge, Raven Gorge, timber?

    nj

  20. #20
    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by n_johnson_20 View Post
    Wow, great pics. Will there be as much snow cover mid June? I am planning on bringing your basic summer hiking gear - nylon pant/shorts - should I include some long underwear, wool hat?

    nj
    Can't comment on the Eagle River end, but I would expect there to still be latent snow at the pass in mid-june, at least in the parts that don't get as much direct sunlight. I would wear good boots and bring along gators. It may be t-shirt weather but it's good to be prepared, at least have a spring jacket and a tuque or bellaclava in case the wind kicks up.

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