Thursday, April 21, 2011

McHugh Creek Hike--Anchorage

Every time I drive from Anchorage to Homer, I gaze longingly at all the hiking trails along the Turnagain Arm. Last week I had some time on a beautiful, warm sunny morning since one of my meetings in Anchorage was canceled. I chose McHugh Creek for the hike because the parking area was well developed (4 restrooms on 3 different levels of paved parking!) and it is often packed when I drive by.

Apparently this is one trailhead of a trail system that extends the length of the Turnagin Arm. After a short climb above the parking area, the trail leveled out into a muddy morass. It was a cool morning so the mud was mostly frozen so it wasn't too bad. After 10 or 15 minutes of walking the trail turned into hard packed dirt for most of the rest of the way. I headed back towards Anchorage, in the direction of Potter's Marsh, which was 3 miles away. It was a pleasant hike, with poplar and aspen trees rising above the trail. Glimpses of Turnagain Arm were visible in places, including one rocky overlook about halfway to Potter's Marsh, but in the summer when the trees are all leafy I doubt there would be much view.

On this particular morning it must have been uber athlete morning. Two groups of amazingly fit women dashed by, first in one direction, then back. It is a great quick hike, since it is only a few miles south of where the Seward Highway freeway ends in Anchorage. Point-to-point hikes would be easy, parking in different lots and hiking (running!) from one end to the other. It costs $5 each time to park in one of these areas, or a year-long pass can be purchased for about $40. There are undeveloped pulloffs nearby so if someone were cheap they could park at one of these and walk up the road. I was surprised to see signs to lock up your car and hide valuables posted throughout the parking area; apparently these areas are a target.

I look forward to exploring more of this trail system when I'm up in the Anchorage area!

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