Key Gear: Softshell Pants
For Alaska’s unholy combo of rough terrain and harsh elements, you need something Carhartt-tough yet light and quick-drying. Enter Patagonia’s Simple Guide Pants ($99; patagonia.com). The double-weave poly-spandex stands up to lashings by waist-high thickets and light rain, while shedding wind and drying quickly after thigh-deep creek crossings. A gusseted crotch and articulated knees allows for high-stepping over rocky passes without yanking cuffs out of your ankle gaiters. For added protection, pair them with Outdoor Research’s Flex-Tex Gaiters ($35; outdoorresearch.com).
See This: Raven and Eagle Glaciers
Glaciers cover 70 square miles of Chugach State Park, and you’ll have front-row views of two of them—Raven and Eagle—at miles 3.6 and 9.9, respectively. “If you detour about half a mile off-trail for closer views of Raven Glacier, you’ll see colors ranging from black to royal blue to pure white,” says Forest Service Program Manager Carl Skustad. “Look for an ashy gray layer—it formed after the 2009 eruption of Mt. Redoubt.” No glacier experience? Stay off the ice.
“The terrain is not always the trickiest part of hiking in Alaska,” says Laura Kruger, operations manager for the Eagle River Nature Center. Many of the trails that crisscross the state’s backcountry are point-to-point hikes, which require a shuttle car to complete—and the Crow Pass Trail is no exception. Hikers must drive 70 miles (roughly three hours) from the shuttle drop-off at the Eagle River Nature Center to reach the Crow Creek trailhead. If you can’t rally two cars to complete the shuttle, there’s no need to bag your plans. Leave a car in Girdwood proper, seven miles from the trailhead, and call a cab from the nature center’s pay phone for a pick-up. Expect to pay at least $160. Or, if your schedule is flexible, simply turn back and cover that heavenly terrain again. (907) 222-2222; akyellowcab.com