Are you looking to challenge yourself mentally and physically? If so, Crow Pass trail is perfect for you! This 24-mile hike with 3,290 ft in elevation gain stretches from Girdwood all the way to the Eagle River Nature Center. It is the most popular from June till October. When preparing for the hike, you have a few different options. You can travel it all in one day or camp out. We decided to complete the hike all in one day so we didn’t have to carry extra weight in camping gear and food. This allowed us to cruise at a steady pace, with a few breaks to take pictures and eat.
One of the most frequently asked questions is: What do I need to bring? The list will be different for a day trip versus staying overnight. I would recommend a first aid kit, wipes, rain gear, extra pair of socks, lightweight waders, water shoes, snacks, water bottle and pump, firestarter/matches/lighter, gun/bear spray, and trekking poles for the day trip. If you are staying overnight, also bring a tent, sleeping bag, blow-up sleeping pad, and extra food. Lastly, I would recommend buying the Alltrails app or bringing along some kind of GPS.
You can choose to start in Girdwood or Eagle River. Starting in Girdwood, you can get the mountain hike out of the way and the rest will be mostly downhill. You can get dropped off or park your car and get a ride back. To start in Girdwood, you will get on the Alyeska highway and turn onto Crow Creek Road. Follow the road until you see a trailhead. You’ll have to follow the Eagle River Road to get to the Nature Center. We reached the trailhead at 7 am, making sure we allowed ourselves extra time, in case we got lost.
The journey in Girdwood began with a mountain hike that reached 3,500 feet in elevation at the top of Crow Pass. Do not be discouraged. There are many switchbacks with gradual incline to the top. Along the way, there were a couple small snow patches to walk through and a small river to cross. We were able to walk along the rocks of the river most of the way to avoid getting our feet wet.
Nearing the top, was a public use cabin that could be rented out as well as a stunning glacier-blue lake nearby. As we climbed a bit further into the pass, we found a stream to take a water and snack break at. It was a perfect place to cool off in the wind and sightsee mountain goats in the distance. Just a little bit further we hit the snow and then BOOM.. we made it to the top of Crow Pass! We were in awe of the views of the massive glacier, but didn’t spend too much time up there, knowing we still had a long journey to go.
We started our descent, crossing a slippery snow field (totally doable without spikes, just be careful!) As we went down further, we encountered a bigger river crossing compared to the one crossed earlier. We tried to find one of the most shallow/slow moving spots to cross. We did not want to put our waders on. Instead, we went barefoot in the freezing cold river and made sure to dry our feet thoroughly afterwards. After crossing the river, we followed a trail through a pass that was pretty overgrown for a few miles. Partway through the overgrown path, we stopped at a gorgeous waterfall with deep crevices. To our luck, there was a long bridge.. no river crossing required this time! Though we come across more overgrowth, we could still see a trail the whole way through it.
Eagle River was the next main river crossing. The water depth can range from ankle deep to chest-deep. When we came to the river crossing spot, we strapped up our waders and the 5 of us linked hands as we went through the thigh-deep water. (Note: if you don’t bring waders, make sure to include an extra pair of clothes. Just remember that this is glacial fed ice-cold water, so be prepared! Typically the earlier in the day that the river is crossed, the lower the water will be. To help us cross, we aimed for two white posts that helped guide us through the more shallow and safer parts of the water. We had to be extra cautious, taking small steps due to rocks that were huge, slippery, and invisible in the cloudy water.
After crossing the river we hiked for about a half-mile to find a freshwater stream to pump water from. We decided to enjoy a much-needed lunch break around 1:00 PM. (Mountain House are a great option).
At this time, we took our shoes and socks off, giving our feet a chance to breathe before changing into a new pair. This helped prevent moisture buildup and blisters. Even if you have the best hiking shoes, it doesn’t hurt to take extra care! Once our much-needed lunch break was over, we crossed yet another stream. This one was fast-moving, and about knee to thigh deep. There was a rope to help us cross which we held onto tightly to make it to the other side.
After walking a few miles, we were spoiled with scenic views of the mountains and Eagle River. We encountered a steep section where we had some fun climbing up a ladder and then holding onto the rope next to the rock to make sure we didn’t slip. Next, was Yakedeyak Creek, Icicle Creek, and one last creek where pumped water from.
One of the last breaks we took was at Echo Bend. Here we sat on a big rock, enjoyed some snacks, and aired our feet out once again. The last few miles were challenging because we were mentally and physically exhausted. We were so close! Keeping a positive mindset was key! At last.. we reached the end!! It took us 12 hours to hike the 24 miles and reached the Nature center around 7 pm. We did it! Next question is: what other challenging hikes can we do?