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Thread: Crow's Pass Advice

  1. #1
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    Default Crow's Pass Advice

    I was hoping someone could shed some light on the condition of Crow's Pass. It looks like I am going to have 2 weeks of vacation the last week of May and first week of June and wonder if this trail will be passable.

    I am new to Alaska, the military brought me up last November. The son and I knocked out Caines Head last weekend down in Seward. We hiked out along the beach and spent the night on North Beach. Spent the next morning checking out the view from the old fort. It was an amazing trip and a long way from the weekend trips I used to take with my Dad in south Texas as a kid.

    Can I make Crow's Pass with a 13 year old kid or is it going to be too tough for him?

    I am also looking for a shorter less challenging overnight trip for my daughter. Everything I can find looks like the Echo Bend campsite out from the Eagle River Nature Center might be the answer. Anyone have any insights or suggestions?

    Thanks in advance!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Yes, it will be passable, and yes, it is doable for a 13 year old. I've taken kids as young as 7 or 8 over Crow Pass, so it is doable. There are some caveats, though. First of all, it will be solid snow from just short of the pass for the next two miles or so. The snow hiking at the top will be easy, but you will have to sidehill some big snow slides and eventually descend one of them. If your kid has experience hiking on snow, you should be fine. If not, take a day on a weekend and go do some hiking up in Turnagain Pass. Make sure he is able to kick steps into packed snow. Second, make sure you take time. Doing this hike in two days with only one night will not be fun for a 13 year old. I used to do this hike with 20-30 teenagers every summer, and we would usually take 4 days/3 nights, with two of those nights spent at Thunder Gorge. That allowed a rest day for those who needed it and an exploration days for those with energy to spare. If you're taking you kid, you need to let his abilities dictate the pace. Err on the side of too slow.

    With regards to your daughter, Echo Bend would be a fine hike. You might also consider doing some hiking on the other side of Kachemak Bay and renting a yurt over there.

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    Brian.

    Thanks for the reply. I must admit my snow terminology is quite small so I was hoping you could explain a couple of the thing you were talking about in more detail. I have not heard or read anything about Kachemak Bay so I will have to do some research about that area.

    I have no idea what you mean when you say kick step into packed snow or sidehill a snow side.

    I was definitely thinking about making the trip in three days and two nights. Since you mentioned you have taken some younger kiddos across I might even extend that an additional night and take the daughter along too.

    Thanks again for your reply.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    The snow slides I'm referring to are mostly avalanche runout later in summer, but right now there will be more snow than just isolated sections where avalanches came down. What I mean by sidehilling is that you'll be going across a hillside while walking on a relatively steep slope. You can just go to the bottom as soon as you hit the snow, but the most direct route is to sidehill a fair portion of the snow before decending.

    When I refer to kicking steps in, the idea is that you want to create a foothold in the snow - basically a little step that is flat instead of sloped. A lot of folks new to hiking on snow tend to step softly, thinking that careful steps will be safer. The reality is that you want to kick your foot sideways into the snow and step down hard in order to mold the softened surface snow to your foot. Once the first person goes it becomes easier for those behind, but still, being firm with your steps makes it safer than walking gingerly.

    It's not overly dangerous, but it can be nerve-wracking for new hikers. The area that you'll encounter these conditions will be in the mile or so after the summit of the pass, which is about a mile past the cabin near the top. Nothing to stress over, but it is good to be prepared.

    I'm assuming you are aware that there is a relatively wide river crossing, yes? Again, nothing to stress over, but it is something to be aware of.

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    Make sure you have gaitors. In some sections of the pass the snow will be a little soft. The gaitors will help keep snow out of your boots thus keeping your feet dry. Me and my wife hiked it last memorial day and there was still alot of snow in the pass. Be very vigilant, there are alot of bears back there so make lots of noise. Once you get through the pass and below snow line the trail is very moderate. Also make sure you bring a set of wading shoes for when you ford Eagle river. Do not do what we did and ford it barefoot. Very painful and very dangerous. Bring a camera, the scenery back there is gorgeous.

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    Thanks for the extra explanation, it makes more sense now.

    I am tracking the river crossing. We actually had to cross some water while making our way out to Caines Head last weekend, so we just tossed on some Crocs and made our way across. Nothing like the crossing of Eagle River, but it was nice to get our feet wet. No pun intended.

    Is the trail easily followed when moving through the snow covered areas? I assume it will at least be well travelled so I won't have a hard time keeping track of where I need to be going.

    Thanks guys for your input and suggestions. I really appreciate it.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by armybackpacker View Post

    Is the trail easily followed when moving through the snow covered areas? I assume it will at least be well travelled so I won't have a hard time keeping track of where I need to be going.
    Shouldn't be a problem. As you mentioned, there should be a noticeable footpath in the snow by time you go. Otherwise you'll see where the trail leaves the rocky area and hits dirt/tundra again after you finish crossing the snow/sidehill area.

    One word of advice on the river crossing: Be sure to walk upstream to the designated crossing site. Do not attempt crossing the river at the first place you meet it. Folks have died trying to do that.

    On the subject of your daughter hiking the trail, I don't want to suggest that it is easier for the younger hikers. The majority of kids I led over that trail were in the 14-18 range. The younger ones had parents come along that were very patient and willing to carry the load. You know your daughter, obviously. If she can handle some sore feet and is the adventurous sort, give it a shot. It will be challenging at points, though.

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    Crow Pass is a gorgeous hike, but as the folks have said, there are some areas to be cautious about.

    Trekking poles might be helpful. There's a steep ascent from the Girdwood side, and a longer descent on the Eagle River side. As they stated, earlier in the season there will be snow up there.

    The crossing of the river can be scary. We always crossed first thing in the morning, when the water levels were lowest, meaning we camped our first night on the Girdwood side of the river. Make sure you release the straps on your packs, so that if one of you falls in, you can escape your pack. Sometimes the crossing has a rope to hang onto- if not, you might use a pole or a branch that both of you hold onto, with you being upriver to block some of the current for your kid, and your kid uses the branch to stabilize their walk. Definitely bring a spare pair of sneakers or wading shoes, don't cross barefoot and don't cross in the shoes you plan to hike in. You'll get blisters hiking in wet shoes.

    Provided the beavers haven't dammed up the trail on the other side, you should be good to go after the river crossing. Otherwise you might have to find a route around it but shouldn't be a big deal.

    Like others have said, Crow Pass is more enjoyable if you take at least two nights and 3 days to hike it. I've done it in two days but the second day is rough unless you're really used to hiking 20 miles with a 40lb pack. It's a beautiful area, so taking some extra time to rest and explore shouldn't be a hardship.
    "If snowmachiners would adopt the habits of riding one at a time and not parking at the base of avalanche prone slopes, the number of fatalities would likely be whittled by at least a third, if not by half." ~ Jill Fredston, in the book Snowstruck, In The Grip Of Avalanches.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Another good Eagle River hike, especially with younger kids is the South Fork of Eagle River. You can hike the 6 miles out to the lake, or camp anywhere along the way. The one river crossiing has a bridge, so no challenges or hazards. It's a great hike in the fall, the blueberries are ripe, and the fall colours are outstanding.


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    Good advice from Paul, especially for the younger hikers. You can also fish for grayling up at Symphony Lake, so that sweetens the South Fork hike.

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    You might want to check the regs on Symphony. I do belive that it is closed to fishing till June 15 but don't quote me on that.

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    Symphony lakes is closed to July 1st. It is sad, but I guess since it is getting more popular it will protect the grayling fishing. You can catch little char in Eagle Lake. I caught a few last year when ice was still on Symphony Lakes.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Thanks for the clarification, fellas. You're right about the popularity of the lake. I never saw anyone carrying a rod back there prior to the past few years. Suddenly every third camper had a rod tube in his pack.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post

    It's not overly dangerous, but it can be nerve-wracking for new hikers.
    Traversing those slides certainly wrecked my nerves last summer. After a year in the snow I'm guessing I won't really even notice them this year. Also, I picked up some poles so there's that.

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    Member Rob B's Avatar
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    Default Symphony Lake

    Hiked back to Symphony 2 days ago. First time doing this hike. Sure was beautiful back there. The trail was a little muddy and had to cross several snow slides. Saw a massive Griz about 100 yards off the trail digging in the rocks. Both lakes were still froze over. But I'd bet they won't stay that way for too much longer.

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    Paul.

    Are there decent campsites around the lake? The one guide book I have suggests to the southern side of the lake.

    Honestly one thing I am still working on is selecting good places to set up camp. I am used to the Lower 48 and having areas that are designated for camping and just picking the best spot in the designated area.

    I am trying to decide between this trip and another visit to Caines Head with my daughter as a trial before we attempt Crow's Pass later next week. Any thoughts?

    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    Another good Eagle River hike, especially with younger kids is the South Fork of Eagle River. You can hike the 6 miles out to the lake, or camp anywhere along the way. The one river crossiing has a bridge, so no challenges or hazards. It's a great hike in the fall, the blueberries are ripe, and the fall colours are outstanding.

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    Default Crow Pass Snow Slide Crossing

    Quote Originally Posted by michigan_mike View Post
    Traversing those slides certainly wrecked my nerves last summer. After a year in the snow I'm guessing I won't really even notice them this year. Also, I picked up some poles so there's that.
    Yep, we did a snow slide crossing last summer on Crow Pass and it was VERY sketchy... trekking poles were very handy to get through it safer since it was very steep and slippery... here's a pic....
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    So I took the daughter out to Eagle Lake on Sunday night and we had a great time. She handled the hike well and loved the scenery. It is a beautiful place out there. Both the lakes were still frozen over and the water was not as accessible as I thought it might be, but other than that and some wet socks it was a successful trip.

    I am packing up for our adventure through Crow's Pass and am wondering if anyone can help me out a bit. I am taking both my son and daughter and I don't really have a three person tent. I'm planning on packing two tents.

    Will there be space at most of these campsites for me to set up two tents close together? There wasn't a flat spot at Eagle Lake to set up one so it got me thinking I might not have space for two along Crow's Pass.

    Any insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

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    You shouldn't have any problems, depending on how you are planning your trip. Some people spend their first night up at the cabin on top, but we always hiked to the river the first night and spent the night there. There is plenty of relatively flat space near the river on both sides, and then plenty of places to stop and camp between the river and the Nature Center. Do you know how many nights you plan to spend and roughly where you'll be stopping each night?
    "If snowmachiners would adopt the habits of riding one at a time and not parking at the base of avalanche prone slopes, the number of fatalities would likely be whittled by at least a third, if not by half." ~ Jill Fredston, in the book Snowstruck, In The Grip Of Avalanches.

  20. #20
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    You shouldn't have a hard time finding good tent sites. I've taken groups with close to 20 tents, and we made it work.

    I would not hike any further than Raven Gorge the first day if you're taking little ones. On day two I wouldn't go further than Thunder Gorge. It's only a mile after the river crossing, which will be a welcome break after they get a bit worn down.

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