Hiking the Crow Pass Trail
Connnecting Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center, this 23-mile (37 km) trail offers an exquisite thru-hiking experience, but also presents a number of challenges. Most importantly, all hikers must know how to Leave No Trace and be prepared to cross Eagle River safely.
Leave No Trace
Plan Ahead and Prepare
The alpine areas around Crow Pass are often wet, foggy, and windy. No matter how the weather looks, bring warm, waterproof gear. Unprepared hikers are especially vulnerable to hypothermia, even in the middle of summer. Know the regulations of the Chugach State Park and Chugach National Forest segments of the trail. Hikers should bring bear-resistant containers to store food.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Stick to the existing trail. Walking or riding single file in the middle of the trail helps reduce impacts to the trail and the surrounding environment. Plan your hike to camp in designated areas as shown on the map.
Large groups should disperse campsites to minimize impact, and try to camp where hikers will not see you. Set up your tent at least 200 feet away from any water source, on a durable surface like rock, bare ground, sand, or gravel -- this avoids damaging any fragile landscape.
Tip: On the Eagle River side of the trail, users should prioritize camping on the open gravel along the river. This has a significantly lower impact than camping in the forest. Also, these tend to be the most scenic campsites!
Dispose of Waste Properly
If you pack it in, pack it out! Uneaten food and personal hygiene products should never be left on the trail or at a campsite, so bring the proper supplies to carry these items back to your car. Take all the gear you brought in, back out! This includes shoes, tents, and toilet paper. Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
Leave What You Find
You can look at, but do not touch or take any cultural or historic structures and artifacts you might encounter on the trail. The removal of artifacts or destruction of historic sites on public lands is prohibited by law.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Open fires are prohibited in Chugach State Park unless in a metal fire ring provided at a designated campsite or on the gravel bars of Eagle River. Backcountry chefs should bring a portable camp stove. In the summer, keep an eye on fire restrictions and wildfire threats. If stopping at cabin sites, make sure to clean out the woodstoves of any extra ash or trash. Never cut live trees -- use down, dead wood in the forest for your campfire.
The Eagle River and Raven Creek valleys are major habitats for moose and bears. Stay alert and make sure to announce your presence when hiking the trail, keep your distance and never feed any wildlife. When camping, know the safe way to cook and store your food to avoid attracting bears.
What is the river height at the ford site?
Crossing is anywhere from 150-200 feet across, and the river depth can range from just below the knees to over waist high. There may be times the river is too high to cross safely. When you first reach Eagle River from the Girdwood side, do not cross at this spot! Follow the arrow sign taking you upstream to the crossing kiosk, which marks the safest spot to cross. Start your crossing at the kiosk and aim for at the white posts until you reach the other side. Bring trekking poles and do not attempt to cross barefoot.
What are the current trail conditions?
For current trail conditions, follow the Crow Pass Trail on Facebook or call the Eagle River Nature Center front desk, (907) 694-2108.
What are the snow conditions up in the pass?
Snow conditions vary dramatically year to year. You can make sure the conditions are safe by checking the Crow Pass Trail Facebook feed, calling the Eagle River Nature Center at (907) 694-2108, or calling Chugach National Forest at (907) 783-3242.
In the winter, there is a high avalanche risk at Crow Pass and the Girdwood side of the trail. Early season backpackers (May – mid-June) should be prepared to encounter snow through Crow Pass. This can include hip-deep snow for up to a mile. If you are hiking and start to feel uncomfortable with the snow conditions, turn around while you are still close to the trailhead.
How do you get from one trailhead to the other? Is there any public transportation?
There is no public transportation provided between trailheads. Thru-hikers should plan to leave a car at either end, or have a ride waiting on the other side. The Eagle River Nature Center offers a $10 three-day parking pass, which you can pick up during business hours or by using the after-hours fee box located near the front door. There is no fee at the Forest Service trailhead out of Girdwood.
What time of year is a good time to hike the trail?
Generally, you can hike Crow Pass Trail between Memorial Day to the first snowfall. After the first snowfall, the trail becomes more dangerous and difficult to traverse, and the avalanche risk rises to extreme, especially on the Girdwood side.
Is there cell phone service along the trail?
There is no cell phone service along the trail. Plan to download maps beforehand, carry a GPS navigational device, and carry a satellite phone or communication device such as InReach or Spot.
How long should I take to hike the trail?
Most people take two to three days to finish the 23-mile trail. Consider your fitness level and backpacking experience when planning how much time it will take to hike the entire trail.
Dogs are allowed on leashes less than 9 feet long in the State Park and a leash is only required at the trailhead on the US Forest Service side. You must have good command of your animal and keep them close, as dogs can surprise wild animals or lead aggravated animals back to you. Think ahead about how your dog will cross Eagle River. Your dog should be used to hiking long distances in tough terrain and be able to ford rivers. Keep in mind that if your dog gets injured, you may have to carry them out.
Open fires are allowed only in a metal fire ring provided at a designated campsite, or on the gravel bars of Eagle River below tree line of the Crow Pass Trail in the State Park. Do not build your own fire ring. Backcountry chefs should plan to bring a portable camp stove.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail, which runs from Seward to Nome, was formerly used as a transportation and mail route for early Alaskan settlers. The Crow Pass Trail travels along a small section of this historic trail. A roadhouse for the weary travelers once existed just below the current ford site after Raven Gorge. This section of the trail was abandoned when the railway was completed in 1918. It was reopened for hiking in 1975 after Girl Scout Troop 83 rebuilt the trail. Presently, Crow Pass Trail is widely considered to be one of the best hikes in the Anchorage area.
For More Information
Different agencies manage parts of the Crow Pass Trail and host their own websites with trail information and maps.