Falls Creek Trail

This is a difficult hike but well worth the effort.  I just love hiking in alpine meadows with the tall grasses and a dozen or more varieties of wildflower.  Mountain goats graze on these grasses in the late summer, and families of them can be seen high up away from predators.  In late summer the berry selection is fabulous.  Dine from bottom to top on high bush cranberries, raspberries, salmon berries (my personal favorite) blueberries, and crowberries.  At the trailhead parking lot, Susan and her friends Edd and Ashley visiting from Indian Orchard, Massachusetts were just getting started up the trail.   Leading the team was their trusty trailbreaker and bear baiter, Ben. 

To find the trailhead, go south on the Seward Highway out of Anchorage.   Just past milepost 106 there is a small parking lot on the left side of the road with a waterfall in front of it.  Blue signs along the right side of the highway help indicate the location of the trailhead parking lot.  The waterfall is not visible from the highway when one is southbound, so keep a sharp eye out for the mileposts and blue signs.

There are no facilities anywhere along this trail.  There is also no fee to park or use the trail.  Parking is limited to about ten vehicles.

I rate this hike as difficult due to steepness.  Almost the entire hike is a steady and strenuous ascent.  The trail follows along the side of Falls Creek, aptly named because the water flows down a staircase of bedrock.  It is along this staircase that hikers must climb.  The trail does fall away from the creek, and becomes a narrow winding path through the forest canopy before meeting up again with the creek just above tree line.  Through this lower portion of the trail be careful to watch for devils club and stinging nettles that grow right along side the trail.  From there the taller trees are sparse, and then disappear altogether. 

At this point the tall grasses and bushes comprise the majority of flora.  The trail becomes muddy and wet, so hiking boots are definitely recommended.  The creek forks up into two separate valleys, but the trail crosses the smaller right fork and climbs up to a saddle  between the two creek valleys.  The top of this saddle is a terrific place to picnic, and even camp if you are tough enough to pack your tent and sleeping bag.  I estimate that I covered two to two and a half miles to make it to this point.  It took us two hours to climb this high.  From the saddle the view down through the valleys is a sight to behold.

Above the saddle the trail continues onto Stegosaurus Ridge.  I named it Stegosaurus because it is very narrow and huge rocks stick up from the top of the spine.  This portion of the climb is dangerous, and not recommended for small children.  There are portions where one must use both hands and feet to scale the rock.  The trail also becomes quite narrow on the top, with steep drop-offs on either side.  To make the heart race a little faster, this ptarmigan started raising a heck of a fuss when I came too close.  These birds are so well camoflaged that I did not realize I was right next to it until it squawked.  The descent is even more hair raising since it is difficult to see where to put toes trying to scale back down.  From the parking lot to the top of Falls Creek Trail on Stegosaraus Ridge is 3.6 miles.

During this potion of the climb I had the pleasure of meeting Paul and Sherry.  These two are avid climbers who have spend a lot of time exploring the Chugach Mountains.  They explained that it was possible to descend from Stegosaurus down the back side and around the lake that feeds Falls Creek.  I climbed with them to the top, but turned around to return the direction I had come.  Claimjumper had turned back at the saddle and if she was waiting for me along the trail there was the chance that if I took a different route, I would miss her.  Paul and Sherry ended up reaching the parking lot just minutes after I did.  They are much faster hikers than I am, and had even stopped to gather some incredible blueberries along the way.  They were even kind enough to share them with Claimjumper and me!

 

Last Visited: August 2002


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