The Williwaw Lakes area is an expansive wonderland of glacial valleys, craggy peaks, and alpine lakes that are all stitched together by the same bubbling creek. It’s doable as a day hike, but once you alight on this expansive playground, you want to peek into every nook and scramble up every hill. The kicker: the trailhead is just 25 minutes from downtown Anchorage.
The Chugach Mountains are the northernmost of the Pacfic Coast ranges, and, thanks to their position along the Gulf of Alaska, they average more snow than anywhere else in the world (600 white, fluffy inches). Though the accessibility of the Williwaw Lakes by foot are confined to the height of summer, it’s hard to beat this trip when it comes to jaw-dropping, eye-popping beauty.
The Williwaw Lakes mark the headwaters of the Middle Fork of Campbell Creek and are nestled beneath towering peaks like Mount Williwaw, West and East Tanaina Peak, and Koktoya Peak where mountain goats abound. From the Glen Alps trailhead, the trail descends about 1,000 feet over the duration of the first mile. From there, the next hour’s worth of work earns climbers the summit of Wolverine and sweeping 360-degree views. Some moderately tricky route finding and several easy-to-navigate scree fields later you'll see the summit of Mount Elliot. Be aware that there isn’t a defined trail up to the summit of this one, though that shouldn’t necessarily deter anyone. In the summer months, this area is very well traveled, and it is more than likely that there has been a footpath worn into the tundra and cairns to mark the way through scree fields.
From the summit of Elliot, loose scree makes careening back down to the Ball Field great fun. Once the topography flattens back out, an easy beginner trail network leads back to the parking lot. Looking for an ideal place to camp? Lake Williwaw is a great bet.
Be aware that, though it’s well traveled and within close proximity to a major city, bears abound. Be prepared with bear spray and if you plan to stay overnight, it’s imperative that you bring along bear-proof food storage containers. Always make noise while traveling so as to avoid sneaking up. Other neighborhood residents include caribou, black and brown bear, lynx, fox, moose, dall sheep, mountain goats, and an impressive variety of wildflowers.