Arctic Valley an autumn hot spot for hikers, berry pickers

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 10:04
  • The South Fork Eagle River Valley and Hiland Road, left, as seen from atop Rendezvous Peak. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chair 2 at Arctic Valley takes skiers up to near the top of Rendezvous Peak in winter. In summer, the trails in the area are popular with hikers, mountain runners and berry pickers. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The abandoned Site Summit Nike missile facility can be seen at right, with the Anchorage Bowl and Knik Arm in the distance in this view from near the top of Rendezvous Peak. The trip to the top from the Arctic Valley parking area is about 1.8 miles and climbs about 1,400 feet in elevation. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • In winter, the Arctic Valley Ski Area is popular with skiers in search of backcountry access that’s close to Anchorage and Eagle River. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Berries have been bringing bunches of pickers to Arctic Valley, where the fall hiking and gathering season is well underway.

On a recent weekday, more than a dozen people scoured the mountainsides in search of blueberries, which can be readily found in the area. The trails leading into the Chugach Mountains also hosted a few hikers and mountain runners, who flock to the wide-open ridgelines offered high above the valley.

To reach the area, take the Arctic Valley exit off the Glenn Highway and follow Arctic Valley Road to its end. The area is part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which means the road can be closed periodically due to training.

There’s a $5 parking fee at the parking lot at the base of the valley. From there, hikers have several trails to pick from in the wide-open alpine terrain. The main hiking trail takes travelers up Toklat Creek about a mile to a saddle overlooking the South Fork Eagle River Valley. From there, hikers can either turn left to head up Mount Gordon Lyon (4,134 feet) or right to get to the top of Rendezvous Peak (4,101 feet). The total distance to either peak is a little less than two miles with an elevation gain of about 1,400 to 1,500 feet. The trail is considered moderate and is suitable for children.

[Photos: Arctic Valley draws berry pickers and hikers, even in the rain]

From the peaks, hikers can see into the South Fork Valley area all the way to Echo and Symphony Lakes, and the ridgeline offers the opportunity to travel all the way to Triangle Peak 10 miles from the trailhead.

For less ambitious hikers, the parking lot is also the access point for the Marston Trail, a short interpretive loop that gives a brief description of the area’s military history. The 0.4-mile gravel trail actually drops in elevation, making it a good option for casual hikers.

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