What was once a part of the famed and historic Iditarod Trail is now the 23-mile thru-hike called Crows Pass. A short 50 miles from Anchorage, this one is choice for an adventurous but not-too-strenuous weekend backpacking trip. It’s a bit crowded, especially on peak weekends, but it’s worth it over and over again. The sweeping views of the glacial Raven and Crow valleys peppered with cascades and ethereal blue glaciers are downright spectacular.
Most choose to drop a car at the Eagle River Nature Center and begin at the Crow Creek Trailhead, though the trek before Crow Creek Pass arguably features the most saturated natural beauty, and many choose to end in its splendor (but let’s be real, every step of every last mile is stunningly beautiful). Plan to gain over 3,000 feet in elevation over the duration of the hike. When spread over 23 miles, this isn’t too serious, though the first 2 miles from the Crow Creek Trailhead are quite strenuous. Plan for some frigid and mandatory creek crossings. Even on the hottest day in the summer, crossing Eagle River can set in a mighty chill. Prepare either with smart waterproofing or queue up a quick change into dry clothes. ALWAYS unbuckle waist and chest buckles on your backpack. The best fording locations are denoted with white sticks. Choose your timing wisely—the water level can rise due to glacial melting under the summer sun as well as after a heavy rain. Typically, the ideal crossing time is in the early morning.
Other mandatory preparations include bear spray and bear-proof food storage capabilities. One hiker reported a total of 13 bear sightings along the trail, and although they typically won’t molest a human unprovoked, it’s imperative to be prepared.
The local residents are typically quite busy in the Chugach Mountain backcountry during the summertime—keep an eye out for moose, caribou, sheep, wolf, coyote, beaver, fox, hare, squirrels, marmots and lynx, and hordes of birds. Likewise, in the summer months wildflowers proliferate throughout the region and paint the hills in purples, reds, yellows, and whites. Ask any local, or anyone that's ever set foot in this incredible terrain, and they'll tell you it's absolutely a must-do.