Flattop Mountain is the most climbed peak in Alaska, and depending on your perspective, that can either either be positive or negative. On one hand, it's almost always crowded in the summertime. The best time to go is early morning (before 11 a.m. generally) or late at night, which is completely possible and often the locals' preferred time due to the luxuriously long daylight hours. On the other hand, being the most popular peak in Alaska is quite the honor, and it is well deserving of the title. Aside from the stunning views the peak offers and the generally fun and challenging terrain, there are three main reasons why Flattop is so popular.
The hike begins at the Glen Alps Trailhead, the gateway to the Chugach. The cost to park is $5, which you can pay using the credit card kiosk or with cash, or you can get a Chugach State Park annual pass sticker. Various trails all take off from this trailhead, but the hike to Flattop begins right at the pay kiosk. You can't miss the mountain...It's the giant one with the flat top looming over the lot.
Please note: Even despite this hike's popularity, bears are frequent visitors to Chugach State Park, and sightings happen almost daily in the summer months. Bring bear spray and be bear aware at all times.
The trail begins with a moderate incline, which is a good opportunity to get ahead of the crowds if you like. Unfortunately, it's popularity leads many unfamiliar with the mountain to underestimate its difficulty. Flattop is very short in terms of distance, only just over 1.5 miles from the trailhead to the summit, but that also means it's incredibly steep and gains over 1,000 feet of elevation in that short distance. A short way into the trail, the climb begins to climb steadily up a wide, maintained path. Some sections are actually inlaid with log stairs to aid in making the angle of inline a little more manageable. The trail splits at the end of this section, and you'll keep going forward toward the mountain itself.
At this point, the trail becomes less of an actual trail and more of a scramble to the top, by whatever way makes it easiest for you. Though it comes nowhere close to Class V climbing, it is a little exposed and tricky, especially in bad weather if the rock is wet and slippery. Non-climbers or inexperienced hikers may feel some trepidation at parts. Take it slow and find whatever path works for you. There is no wrong route as long as it's not leading you over the edge.
The summit is marked with a large cairn and American flag. Take some time to explore the flat peak and gaze off into the mountains spanning behind it, particularly the gorgeously technical Ptarmigan Peak immediately beyond Flattop. On windy days (which can be frequent in the Chugach!), seek shelter in one of the several windbreak walls constructed of stacked stones. They can be great places to eat lunch and just take it all in.
On the way down, retrace your route down off the scree scramble. At the split in the trail, you can either go back the way you came (left) or turn right and turn the hike into a loop via the Blueberry Knoll Trail. While getting onto this trail can be a little steep on the decline, the Blueberry Knoll Trail overall is much flatter and easier going, which makes for a nice relaxing stroll back to the trailhead. Just be sure to be extra careful of bears on this section, as the lack of exposure and numerous berry bushes makes for prime bear habitat.