Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


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"The trail passes the jewel-like Williwaw Lakes that dot the basin of a beautiful alpine valley."  
~ from a Chugach State Park brochure describing the Hillside trails

We ran errands in the morning when it was cloudy. By early afternoon it was so pretty -- sunny and 70 F. -- that I decided it was too nice to stay inside. 

I chose a long solo hike I haven't done before -- Williwaw Lakes, a six-mile destination from the Glen Alps parking lot in Chugach State Park. It's described as passing through a beautiful alpine valley and doesn't have a lot of elevation gain and loss.

Williwaw Lakes is part of a great network of trails on the "Hillside" of Anchorage. This is a portion of the map for the trails to Williwaw Lakes and Little O'Malley Peak from the state park website:

I marked today's route in orange. This page from the website has links to all the trails in the park.  

I began the hike about 2:30 PM, much later than usual, especially for a twelve-mile hike. The one equipment mistake I made was not taking a flashlight in case something went wrong and it took me 'way longer than I predicted.

As it was, I did take longer than I predicted because much of the trail was rocky, rooty, and/or wet, but I got done a little after 8 PM when the sun was still well above the horizon.

Hooray for Alaska's long hours of daylight in the summer!

Sneak peek at one of the lakes below Mount Wiliwaw; the clouds look like smoke from a volcano!

I parked in the lower lot at Glen Alps, the closest possible access to the Williwaw Lakes Trail.

I walked downhill a little over half a mile to the Powerline and the trailhead for the Middle Fork Loop, crossed the south fork of Campbell Creek, passed the intersection for the Little O'Malley Peak Trail, and reached the Williwaw Lakes Trail at 2+ miles. 

View NE from the parking lot; arrow marks the valley the Williwaw Lakes Trail passes through. 
Little O'Malley Peak is on the right and you can see a couple electric poles on Powerline.

On the way down the Middle Fork Loop I saw a young man and woman with a tripod and asked what they were photographing -- scenery and bull moose, which are starting to rut. That raised my hopes that I might see some moose on this hike.

I also asked if I could see the Williwaw lakes from Little O'Malley Peak, because that's a shorter (but steeper) hike -- no, they said, because another mountain separates Little O'Malley from the valley with the lakes. I later discovered you can see and/or get down to the lakes from the Little O'Malley Trail but it's not any easier to get there than the way I went today.

I saw a group of four middle-aged Europeans on the trail, going the other direction, then no one else until I was about half a mile from the lakes.

View of the valley from Powerline; arrows generally show where I hiked on the Middle Fork Loop.

Wooden bridge on Middle Fork Loop across Campbell Creek;
Little O'Malley Peak in on the left and O'Malley Peak in the distance, right.

Looking back down a long boardwalk to the creek; Flattop and other
"hillside" Chugach Mountains are in the background.

Arrow marks plastic erosion-control system on part of the Middle Fork Loop.


I saw my first bull moose, apparently a young one, about a quarter mile before the Williwaw Lakes Trail intersection.

He was a good distance away and didn't want to stand still for a photo like all the other moose I saw today but I got a few decent photos of him :



There were excellent views outbound of Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, and the southern part of the city as I approached the Williwaw Lakes trailhead:


I was high enough in that area that I could call Jim from there on the way back so I could let him know I'd be home later than predicted.

I took my time outbound so I wouldn't fall again and re-injure my arm. I also took more pictures that direction. I think it's more scenic outbound, especially heading up the valley toward Mount Williwaw and surrounding mountains, than on the return.

Trailhead for the Williwaw Lakes Trail

Narrow trail near the creek coming down from the lakes

Early view of pointed Mount Williwaw's peak in the distance

The narrow trail undulates through this valley toward the lakes.

I made better time the first and last 2 miles on the  Middle Fork Loop and Powerline than the 3 miles on the Williwaw Lakes Trail each direction. The Williwaw Lakes Trail is mostly above the creek that flows through the valley but there are muddy areas even after a mild winter and relatively dry summer.

There are also a lot of rocks and roots. The trail is often narrow and overgrown with grasses, shrubs, or trees (the Middle Fork Loop is overgrown in some places, too):

Yes, that's the trail.


I was carrying bear spray and, since I was hiking solo, I called out "Hey, bear!" frequently. There were lots of places where I was in dense willows or spruce well above my head, not good places to meet a bear on the trail.

Very little is in bloom now and the leaves are begging to turn red and orange. There were a lot of little red berries and some scrumptious blueberries near the lakes.





Lots more photos continued on the next page (lakes, moose, bear, hang glider, etc.)

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil