Williwaw Lakes Hiking Trail
The Chugach mountains consist of spines of craggy peaks with U shaped valleys between them, carved out by glaciers that have long since disappeared. The Williwaw Lakes trail provides a very similar type of hike to Symphony and Eagle lakes, but the trail is a bit shorter and there are more lakes and streams to camp near. Buzzkill joined me for an overnight excursion. The altitude climb is much more than Eagle and Symphony, too, but this also provides some amazing vistas. Although we met several people along the path, there were not nearly as many as we typically meet on the Symphony & Eagle Lake trail. This surprised us, since Williwaw Lakes lies in Anchorage's back yard. If you like to eat blueberries when you go hiking, definitely do this one in late August.
Williwaw lakes can be reached from two different trailheads: The Glen Alps Trailhead and the Prospect Heights Trailhead. The described path we took begins at Glen Alps. Whichever trailhead adventurers choose, parking costs $5 per day. State passes can be displayed on vehicles to avoid the charge.
Explorers can camp anywhere inside the park. However, the most desirable places are located in flat areas above and near water sources. We point out several that looked good to us as we were exploring. There are toilets at the trailheads, but no other amenities. Water can be drawn out of the lakes, but be sure to filter/treat the water before consumption.
Click here to jump to the Williwaw Lakes Topo Map. From the Glen Alps Trailheads parking lot: Find the beginning of the trail just to the left of the wooden stairs. The trail begins with a descent into the valley to the north.
At mile .48 hikers will come to Powerline Pass. This is a popular bicycling route. Turn right and head up the pass.
At mile .61 turn left on Middle Fork Loop Trail.
The trail drops down to its lowest point at mile .91 where a bridge crosses Campbell Creek's south fork. A wooden walkway keeps feet dry for the marshy area of the valley floor.
At mile 1.13 there stands a post with no sign. Take the trail to the right and head up the slope. This is the only tough climb of the hike and it is less than a mile.
At mile 1.94 we reached the top of the steep climb and so we stopped for lunch. The cool breeze on our sweaty clothes cooled us off fast. I quickly donned my polar fleece top, hat and mittens. We had fun watching the ground squirrels popping up and chattering at us.
At mile 3.29 we reached the first small lake. The area was rocky but there appeared to be a couple good places to camp.
At mile 3.49 we reached an overlook of 3 lakes. I could have stayed here for hours just admiring the view in all directions. Looking down ahead of us was a bird's eye view of the strange and wonderful landscape below, as well as the rocky peaks surrounding us. Cell phone service ends here. From here we dropped down the steep slope to the first small lake below. Right at the bottom of the steep slope just before the lake we found bountiful patches of blueberry bushes. We met up with Debbie and Layne and the four of us spent some time consulting maps and eating blueberries. Layne and Debbie are local Anchorage residents out for a day hike. They spoiled us with some carrots and peas they had brought fresh from their garden.
At mile 4.19 we found a good place to camp next to a lake.
We named mile 4.43 "Wishful thinking spur" as it led to a dead end. Turn left and head down into the ravine. When you arrive at the bottom near the lakes you can turn right to go to the Williwaw Lakes or left to loop back around the mountain to the trailheads.
At mile 4.77 we found good camp spots right next to the trail on both sides. In this section of the route we saw ptarmigan on our way out just before the first lake.
At mile 4.91 we crossed a boulder field.
At mile 5.23 a waterfall view appeared on the right just as we arrived at the first Williwaw Lake on the left.
After you pass the first lake, if you want to continue to the lakes at the higher altitudes, cross the creek before going up the hill. Continue on the trail on the other side.
We continued to follow the trail keeping the creek
to our left. The trail
became sketchy through a marshy section and then abruptly ended.
We should have crossed the creek after passing the first Williwaw
lake. We crossed the creek
and blazed our own trail back to the second Williwaw lake. We camped up on the bluff overlooking the lake. N 61° 6'
26.802" by W 149° 33.28277' at elev. 2,766 ft. There is
plenty of real estate in this area to pitch a tent. We parked
ourselves right next to bushes of delicious blueberries that went on and
on and on. I must have eaten more blueberries than food I brought
In going back, we decided that we did not want to climb up and over the mountain, but walk around it by heading out the valley. We walked back the way we came, but instead of turning left to go up out of the ravine near Wishful Thinking Spur, we took the trail straight ahead.
In this route, the trail was mostly down hill. However, this is how water travels, too. So as we came closer and closer to the loop back to Powerline Pass, the trail became more and more muddy. And this was not just the type of mud that makes the solid surface of the ground slick. This is the mud that sucks tennis shoes off a person. In fact, there was one portion where the trail nearly disappeared because people and animals were not taking the same route. It was during this part of the trail that I blew out my knee. With a 40 pound pack on my back, balancing in the mud became difficult. I put tremendous strain on my knees trying to keep balance.
As the trail hooked around the end of the hill, we came to a post with arrows indicating the Williwaw Lakes Trail, Middle Fork Loop Trail, Powerline Trail, and Wolverine Bowl Trail. I believe that if we had come up from Prospect Heights Trailhead, we would have come to this post and continued on up through the muddy trail to Williwaw Lakes.
In the final portion of the trail headed back to
the cut-across to Powerline Pass, we spotted several moose. The
moose appeared to be quite used to humans, and barely paid any attention
to us as we passed by admiring them. One young moose and its
mother went running into the forest upon our approach.
Last Visited: August 2005