Happy Trails: Post-Ski Alyeska, AK is a Hike, Bike Mecca

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[sponsored by Alyeska Resort]

Jumpin’ for joy at Alyeska spring.
Ralph Kristopher photo

The interlacing trail networks of picturesque Alyeska Resort and surrounding Girdwood Valley are rife with four season hiking, biking opportunities.

The Chugach National Forest, of which Alyeska and Girdwood are a portion, offers downhill tracks overlooking hundreds of trail miles to showcase flora, fauna, glaciers, gorges, rainforest, rivers, sea views, summits and abundant wildlife for a perennial, familial audience arriving from around the world.

Responsible measures such as bear spray, bells or bike helmets are suggested as is educational literature provided by Alyeska Resort and U.S. Forest Service. Said documentation provides the inbound with an array of details, including trail ratings to clearly identify route options appropriate to even the youngest, first time hiker or biker.

Dad and tot enjoy the trails around Girdwood Valley.

Starting Out:

To trek:  At two/tenths mile distance, Upper Virgin Creek Trail is a prime option for little ones ready to cut their trekking teeth.

Winding away from the Girdwood residential fringe; Virgin Creek Falls trailhead begins where Timberline Drive ends. The short, sheltered walk enters lush, rainforest foliage beneath a towering canopy of moss-trunked trees to access views of a fifteen feet waterfall tumbling to fill a gravel pool which feeds a running stream below.

The under-canopy atmosphere is often cool. The moist earth underfoot makes for good tracking conditions, and early morning trekkers might come upon fresh moose prints.

Here, the ready hiker also keeps a watchful eye for unearthed root structures as the gnarled, under foot limbs make for tricky terrain to the untested trekker.

This speedy lady loves the single track encircling Alyeska Resort.
Ralph Kristopher photo

To ride:  Beginners couldn’t ask for better pedal-powered starting grounds than the Girdwood Valley within which Alyeska Resort roosts.

Fat-tire and traditional bike set-ups are available for hire direct from the resort, and there are options a plenty for testing them out.

A wide, smoothly paved pathway runs alongside valley main vein, Alyeska Hwy while Girdwood’s network of unsealed neighborhood lanes make for short, light rides through charming scenery. Photogenic area Moose Meadows, particularly, accesses playful wilderness forays that allow riders to experience off-road riding while remaining relatively near resort property.

Trail of Blue Ice in Portage Valley offers varied terrain for all age trekkers.

Setting Pace:

To trek Portage Valley’s heavily traffic-ed, Trail of Blue Ice is an easy, segment-able hike through scenic surrounds on a wide, well maintained trail.

At a one-way length of five miles, Blue Ice can either be enjoyed as a day-long excursion or partaken in much shortened portions–depending on weather or hiker comfort. Mountain views, twisting plank sections, waterside strolling and lush vegetation set an immersive backdrop for families toting children of any age.

The paved to gravel footpath offered by Trail of Blue Ice makes for friendly stroller, bicycle, ski or kid-tote transit, though the passage’s length does lend the unprotected to both sun and wind exposure. So the prepared parental hiker packs in (and out) ample fluids, snacks and all-weather wear.

A rider in flow with this Alyeska area trail.
Ralph Kristopher photo

To ride: A veritable menu of tasty tracks snake the floor at Girdwood Valley. At its head is famous in one particularly famous example, 5-kilometer circuit, Nordic Loop. The all-season course is a favorite of bikers and skiers both.

Alternate trails link to, and extend from the 5K Nordic Loop lending a tailored aspect to a day spent upon its winding way. And the Loop additionally holds special place in plans of rising, bike-centric NPO, Girdwood Mountain Bike Alliance [MTB].  Founded September 2016, MTB’s primary goal of enabling valley trail projects is exciting news for local and visiting riders as group efforts would translate to regular trail maintenance increased support overall.

Feel free to run for the hills at, and around Alyeska.
Ralph Kristopher photo

Stepping Up:

To trek:  Once again the avid hiker is spoiled for choice at Girdwood. The Valley’s ecosystem and topography sprout as a pick-you-pleasure menu of alpine to deep forest running options. Winner Creek Trail, according to United States Forest Service personnel, ranks high among state hikes and is often reported as one of Alaska’s top ten trails.

Winner’s popular three and one half mile trail accessed direct from the Hotel at Alyeska or Girdwood Valley’s Crow Creek Road is regularly serviced by bus service Glacier Valley Transit and assured to experience heavy summer visitor-ship. 

During peak summer periods, Winner Creek’s hand tram alone can see approximately fifteen hundred persons per day, according to United State Forest Service estimates.

Tiny tots come trail ready at Girdwood.

Spring’s arrival heralds that increased likelihood of a shared trail experience, but also that the pine-shadowed, earthen paths will prove all the easier to travel in the company of small children. Warming air temperature too enhances the regions sun-warmed meadows, and the opportunity to bird watch offers ready educational, entertainment for hiking, biking tikes.

Even passage aboard Winner Creek’s iconic Hand Tram is child manage-able.

Utilizing spotters at both end stations, the panoramic Hand Tram crossing is made both easy and baby-friendly to create an invigorating experience that sets the stage for child and parent’s future expansion to enhanced trail routes.

Take to two-wheeled flight at Alyeska’s bike park.
Ralph Kristopher photo

To ride: The area’s top tier in amped-up biking can be found on the very slopes that skiing just left.

Alyeska Resort sets the bar high for downhill bike thrill.
Ralph Kristopher photo

Ski-famous, Mount Alyeska is also home to the Last Frontier’s sole lift-serviced downhill bike park. Since 2011 Alyeska Resort Bike Park has worked with summer mountain enthusiasts to create a continuously upgraded trail system offering a mixed bag of terrain, features and single track for riders of all levels.

Operating weekends, plus holiday Monday’s, Summer 2018 expects downhill action to span June 8 til September 9.

Three lifts service twenty-four trails spanning nearly 2400 vertical feet.

A rider pauses mid-flight to reflect above the Alyeska bike park.
Ralph Kristopher photo

Of the total bike park trail count, more than half are rated Intermediate with Advanced terrain accounting third of the remaining and Beginner trails rounding out the rest of the field. Riders modestly describe the bike park on Mount Alyeska as a thrilling plunge amongst bare rocks, thick vegetation and stunning views. That said, safety and responsible riding are indispensible portions to each bike park season.  International Mountain Bicycling Association claims Alyeska Resort among its corporate member manifest and the resort ensures that tours, lesson plans and all instructors are Professional Mountain Biking Instructor certified.

Trail fun for all ages in Girdwood Valley.

Yes indeed, spring’s approach, and the (hopefully) dry, sunny summer to follow, will soon hold sway over Girdwood, AK trail options. And the journeys shared upon the hike, bike trails of Alyeska Resort and the surrounding Girdwood Valley are sure to whet the trek-or-ride appetites of all ages and experience levels.

Alyeska Resort’s got the vibes and views, all year long.
Ralph Kristopher photo

So make plans and pack a bag; it’s a whole new season for foot and pedal-powered adventure at Alyeska, AK.

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