Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Girdwood Trail Map

I've been working on a new official Girdwood Trail Map for summer and winter, and am finally done! I did this map as part of my volunteer work with the Girdwood Trails Committee, which is part of Muni Parks and Rec. Below are the summer and winter maps. For a printable version of these maps with trail descriptions as well, see http://www.muni.org/Departments/parks/Documents/GWSummerTrlMap.pdf and http://www.muni.org/Departments/parks/Documents/GWWinterTrlMap.pdf

I did the map design and creation, although if it were only me, there are certain trails I would've added to the maps and certain ones I would've left off. It was certainly a team effort. Several of the more secret trails behind my house, for example, are not on this map. This is hopefully meant to be a map that a tourist could print (or pick up at a local store) and know where to hike (or cross country ski). The map also does not have all the Alyeska hiking/biking trails...only the major ones. Alyeska has a special map for the resort itself. BTW, note the new 5k nordic loop just north of the resort. This will open for the first time next winter, and is open for hiking this summer!

If you're in Girdwood and looking for a good hike, ask me for suggestions! My favorites for summer hiking (see summer map):

  • Virgin Creek Falls/Upper Virgin Creek Trail: Very short hike to one of the most beautiful little falls you'll ever see, especially in early summer when the snowmelt is still feeding it, or after a heavy late summer rain. Be sure to also go just past the falls and off to the right to see a pretty little gorge...just don't fall in! Also, check out my geocache "Alaskan Treasure" if you're into that.
  • Lower Virgin Creek Trail: Nice rainforest hike. Less crowded than the popular Winner Creek Trail. Heck, I've only seen someone else one it once! Can make a ~1.5 mile loop out of it by using a trail not on the map...ask me! Basically, take the Lower Virgin Creek Trail to where it Ts with another trail, and take this trail back, being sure to take the two right forks you'll see.
  • Winner Creek Trail to Hand Tram: This hike gets tons of people, but for good reason. Not for those seeking solitude.
  • Upper Winner Creek Trail: Long ~8 one way/16 mile out and back on a well maintained trail (heading off this map) to a remote pass above treeline. Very gradual elevation gain, thus the moderate and not strenuous rating. Lush area, and be prepared for snow on the trail into early August. Great salmonberries in late summer/fall. Don't eat too much or you'll have too much of a tummy-ache on the way back! Probably don't want to do this hike if it's been really wet, as there are some stream crossings which I could see being difficult.
  • Iditarod NHT to the Hand Tram: About a mile down from a new parking lot on Crow Creek Rd to the Hand Tram. Some elevation change, but it's a good trail and a lot shorter to get to the hand tram than from the hotel, along with fewer people.
  • Max's Mountain: One of the best hikes in Alaska that nobody knows about (and not on this map). Start on the Upper Virgin Creek Trail, head left up the steep hill just after the falls, and then basically follow the ridgeline to treeline and to the top of Max's. Spectacular views all around and great blueberries in late summer at treeline. Trail is steep and somewhat indistinct, but it's hard to get lost and there are no exposed sections.
  • North Face Trail: Fantastic (now that it's actually done) trail up the North Face of Alyeska Resort. Only somewhat strenuous (about 2,000' elevation change over two miles). In a few years, once this gains attention and gets in the guidebooks, this will be one of Alaska's premier hikes, probably rivaling Bird Ridge and possibly Flattop. Ride the tram down for free, or take an alternate route down, making a loop.


  1. Great job Todd! I'm jealous that I'm not there to try your maps our or the new fun strenuous trails. Guess I'll have to tackle them on my next visit!

  2. This map was instrumental in assisting us to find these trails. The Vrigin Creek waterfalls was breathtaking. Winner Creek is highly recommended - loads of beautiful scenery with unusual mushrooms along the way, wild berries, squirrel chattering in the trees and friendly trail hikers make this a top notch journey. Just watch the agressive mountain bike riders and have either an air horn or bear spray as a form of protection. A black bear was sighted on our recent journey 8-25-13. Oh yea, don't forget to take your camera.

  3. Iditarod Trail was a bust. We attempted several times to locate the trail head by the library and were unsuccessful. As we exited the street the library was on (Elgoff Street I believe) we saw the Iditarod Trail marker. We followed this under the bridge and again it led to nowhere. As of 8-27-13, I do not advise trying to find this trail.

    A more enjoyable trail turned out to be the California Trail which leads to a beautiful brook. Just bear right at the first fork. The trail is fairly short and easy to navigate. Single track and heavily laden with leaves. As you head back to the fork, bear right and head up the slight hill onto the Beaver Pond Trail. Again a single track yet beautiful and tranquil in everywhere. Almost eerie to a point. It traverses through the forest, across creeks and streams. You are likely to hear the Black-capped Chickadee bird in various places as well as a Townsend's Warbler. These fellows are somewhat easy to spot as they are black, yellow, white and gray. Sort of a striped pattern and about the size of a sparrow. This trail is easy and highly recommended.