Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


Runtrails' Web Journal
Previous       2015 Journal Topics       Home       Next

   FLATTOP HIKE, p. 2  


Continued from the previous page.


I was one happy hiker when I reached the summit -- yay!!!! The views and sense of accomplishment were worth the effort and minor angst of getting up there.


Above and below:  looking east toward more mountains in the Chugach Range


Above and below:  looking south toward Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Peninsula


Above and below:  more views toward Turnagain Arm


View west across Anchorage, Cook Inlet, and the volcanic peaks in the southern Alaska Range

Looking east across Flattop's summit to other mountains in the Chugach Range

View NE toward the Powerline Trail in the valley

I spent about an hour on top of the mountain, just slowly walking around admiring the views in every direction.

I sat near the high point out of the wind and ate my sandwich and a Clif bar, then asked a young man to take my picture with Mts. Foraker (L) Denali (R) in the background:


I don't have a selfie stick and rarely take photos of myself on trails but this is one I wanted.

I wandered over to the southeast side of the summit and was surprised to see another parking area down below -- and what looked like a much easier trail coming up from it:

Rats! Wish I'd known about that!!  

I watched a young couple (next photo) descend that way from Flattop. I wondered how far that would be from the Glen Alps trailhead . . .

I later found out that it's a LONG way via dirt and paved roads, so it's a good thing I didn't take that trail down. Because there is so little parking on that side I'm convinced locals don't advertise it to visitors. The directions I later found on the internet to reach this parking area (Rabbit Creek) are confusing but I'll attempt to find it when we return to Anchorage later this summer.

As I continued walking CCW around the wide summit I wondered if a trail continued down the eastern side of the mountain to the wide Powerline Trail in the valley. I could see a pass between Flattop and the adjacent mountain but from the summit I couldn't see the trail going down that way.


Three years ago Jim and I didn't notice these trails and I haven't read of any other ways to get to the summit. I was very happy to find a couple alternatives.

By that time I was determined to find a different way down the mountain than the trail I'd just come up. It was more gnarly than I had remembered, and my knees and balance are worse than they were three years ago.


As I was pondering my options for a more pleasant descent, a group of three 40-somethings and a black Lab came hiking down the trail toward me (next photo).

I asked them about the trailhead I saw to the south and they said they were parked down there. Yes, it's an easier trail than the more popular one from Glen Alps but it's a very long way to get back to my truck from there and they didn't have room to give me a ride unless I wanted to ride in the back of their pickup with the dog. No, thanks.

So that option was definitely out for today.

I also asked them if there was a trail going down the east side of the mountain to the powerline. Yes, one woman said. It's her friend's favorite way to descend to loop back to Glen Alps. (Her friend must be part mountain goat!) 

I followed the hikers down to the intersection with the trail that goes down to Rabbit Creek and the woman pointed the way for me to go over the saddle.

They went thataway to Rabbit Creek and I went this way to the powerline.

Sure enough, there was a trail and there were no boulders to negotiate like the trail I'd come up.

Instead, there was a steep descent on loose dirt and rocks all the way down to the Powerline Trail. Oh, my! For me, that's like walking on ball bearings.

The only way I could safely descend the first couple hundred feet of steep trail was to walk very carefully sideways in the tundra and do some deliberate sliding on my butt when I was on the trail itself. That was as rough on my hands as my knees.

The descent to the Powerline Trail was a little over 1,200 feet from the summit
and 1,035 from the saddle where I parted from the three hikers.

You can see that this slope (on the R) is steep; this view looks SE down the power line valley.

Part way down I tried to traverse the side of the mountain northbound (left side of next photo) while descending more gradually than the trail going mostly straight down, but I couldn't tell if it was going to connect to the Blueberry Trail.

After about a quarter mile I turned back toward the narrow trail, descending through low sub-alpine plants, and got back to to it shortly before it connected to the wide Powerline Trail down in the valley.

View north from part way down the steep trail

Almost there; the slope is more gentle as the narrow descent trail approaches the Powerline Trail.

Looking at my GPS track later, I don't think I could have connected to the Blueberry Trail like I wanted by traversing the mountainside. It was farther than I thought and there was too much thick brush in that direction.


I was glad to get down to the Powerline Trail without falling. Like the main trail up from Glen Alps, it would be easier for me to ascend the steep, narrow trail to the saddle on the eastern side of Flattop than it was to descend it.

I had to hike northwest on the Powerline Trail for a little over a mile before a trail to Glen Alps veered off to the west.

Made it down! This view looks south. If you follow the Powerline Trail a bunch
more miles SE, you'll end up in Indian Valley on Turnagain Arm. I went the other way.

Heading north and back uphill a couple hundred feet


Looking south again; there really is a power line down here.
Note the fluffy cotton grass above and below.

There were more people and dogs on this wide trail, hiking, running, and cycling. It is used to access several other trails going to Williwaw Lakes, Wolverine Peak, and other popular locations in the Chugach Mountains.

After about a mile I turned left (west) on one of the access trails leading back to the two parking areas at Glen Alps. By that time of afternoon, both large lots were filled to capacity.

I did mention that Flattop is the most popular hike in Alaska, didn't I? And there are several other great hikes you can do from here, too. Get to Glen Alps by 8 or 9 AM in the summer and you should be OK.

I ended up doing a total of 3,412 feet elevation gain and loss in 5.22 miles. If you go up and down the main trail it's about 3.4 miles roundtrip. That doesn't include wandering around the large, relatively "flat" top.

I wanted more distance than that, which is why I did the overlook trail first. Between that and descending a different way, I did get more distance.

Scenic view of Turnagain Arm on the road going back down to Anchorage

Despite my grumbling, I did mostly enjoy this hike on Flattop. However, if I ever go up this mountain again I want to do it from the small Rabbit Creek trailhead parking lot on the south side of the mountain so the descent will be easier on my knees and I'll have less chance of falling. 

This was the last of my major hikes while we were in Anchorage. We'll be back one or two more times this summer and I'll try some other trails I haven't hiked before. Stay tuned.

Next entriescamping and hiking at Grand View RV Park on the Glenn Hwy., Jim's Fireweed 400 bike race, and photos of the Matanuska Glacier

Happy trails,

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

Previous       Next

2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil