Hiking Trips and Backcountry Tours – Easier Trips
A listing of entry level hiking trips more suited to less experienced backpackers
A hiking trip in backcountry Alaska is probably going to be more difficult than what you’re used to. The terrain, more than mileage and elevation gain, makes the world of difference for hiking. That being the case, “trip ratings” are even more subjective than ever. What one person finds challenging hiking another might have no problem with at all. Walking over glacial moraine, for example, or talus, is something some people find easy and have no problem with, while other people really, really struggle with that.
Backpacking Trips For the less experienced hikers
The Hanagita Hills are a great place to explore for a an entry level hiking trip. We travel to McCarthy, spend the night there, then fly in to the remote landing strip called “Steamboat”. We have 2 options.
1. Basecamp in the area, near some of the pristine alpine lakes in the area, and spend the days hiking the ridges lines, admiring the views, and watching for Dall sheep on the cliffs below.
2. Backpack from our end of the ridge to the far end, where we meet the bush pilot and fly back to McCarthy. The hike itself is generally easy walking, open tundra, not steep. 20 -25 miles.
Highlights – very rarely visited. Easy hiking, expansive views of the surrounding mountains. Perfect family camping, basecamping, wildlife viewing.
Access – Anchorage-McCarthy, backcountry fly in/out
Distance – basecamp, or 15-20 mile backpack.
Difficulty – entry level
Wildlife? Abundant Dall sheep, bears, arctic ground squirrels, foxes, golden eagles, ptarmigan.
Options – basecamp amongst incredible fields of wildflowers and dayhike along the ridge, hiking to the north and south, with endless views in every direction, down the Chitina river, up the River valley, east to the University Range, north to the Wrangell Mountains.
A 2nd option is to backpack from one strip to another, hiking approx 15 miles. We follow the ridge southward, with long gentle climbs, open tundra to hike over, and steep cliffs to the west, home to abundant trophy Dall sheep and Mountain Goats.
Highlights – Endless views, wildflowers, wildlife, solitude. very few visitors.
Access – Anchorage-McCarthy, backcountry fly in/out.
Distance – basecamp, or 15-20 mile hiking trip.
Difficulty – entry level.
Wildlife? Yes, dall sheep, mountain goats, ground squirrel, golden eagles, ravens, coyotes, bears.
Options – Johnson Pass Trail, a 4 day hiking trip in the Chugach National Forest. Good trail, easy walking, camping or reservable public use cabins. Or backpack the longer Resurrection Pass Trail.
Highlights – Lush forest, short & easy backpack, mountain views.
Access – Drive to/from Anchorage.
Distance – 20 miles (Johnson Pass) or 40 miles (Resurrection Pass).
Difficulty – Entry level.
Wildlife? possible mountain goats and moose, though not likely, Black and brown bears are possible, smaller mammals like marmots, etc, are likely, with bald eagles, golden eagles, and myriad different birds.
Options – best done as a basecamp and day hiking trips exploring incredible Icy Bay. 3 different fjords we can paddle, mountain and beach hiking. Can be done as a loop, moving camp around the bay. Also can be combined with beach hike near Malaspina Glacier, or Samovar Hills.
Highlights – Mount Saint Elias, Glaciers, icebergs, icy bay.
Access – Fly in/out from Yakutat.
Distance – varies.
Difficulty – Entry level – intermediate level hiking trip (depending on options)
Wildlife – Yes. Likely see marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, dolphin, as well as brown bears. Countless birds species.
Options – this trip is a great 7-14 day float trip. 12 days is a good choice, but it can easily be shortened by either (a) longer days on the river paddling more miles per day or (b) shorten the overall mileage; don’t go all the way to the coast, or move the start a little closer toward the finish.
Highlights – I try my best to schedule this trip to coincide with the caribou migration across the tundra of the coastal plain. That’s always a highlight, and we have a pretty decent success rate on that. Also, seeing muskox is always a thrill. Endless arctic summer days and magnificent wilderness.
Access – travel from Fairbanks to Coldfoot and then fly in to the Refuge. Fly back to Coldfoot and return to Fairbanks.
Distance – approx 140 miles on the river, depending where we start/finish. Can fluctuate a little with water levels. Day hikes are rarely more than a few miles.
Difficulty – entry level – intermediate level (depending on conditions) rafting and hiking trip.
Wildlife? Very much depends on the schedule. Early summer is great for migratory birds and migrating caribou herds, but also for mosquitos. Muskox are generally spotted, as are Dall sheep. We’ve also seen moose, wolves, red and arctic foxes, beaver, river otter, and an amazing array of birdlife.