I hike Flattop Mountain 30-40 times per year. We are old friends. I remember being excited when the trail was improved and the stairs were built. Sadly, the stairs have eroded so badly the past few years that portions are now an obstacle rather than a way up. The middle stairs are actually dangerous. Some sections are just railroad ties suspended in the air on their spindley rebar anchors. They are broken ankles waiting to happen. The stairs themselves are perfect examples of what works and doesn’t work. The lower section has risers bolted on each side of the steps, and they are still viable. Those sections with cross-members along each side have mostly remained usable. Only the sections where the steps are not interlocked are completely failing.
In the past 10 years, I have never seen a park employee along the trail, nor have I seen trail upkeep taking place. Only once have I met an employee in the parking lot. I asked him why the trail was allowed to fall into such disrepair. He laughed and said they had a real predicament. He said the trail was so busy they couldn’t find time to work on it. Sheesh. I pointed out that Lake Otis Parkway and Tudor Road could never have been upgraded if that logic were true. I can think of about six methods to work around trail traffic.
I am just astonished that the busiest hiking trail in Alaska gets so little attention. If the state park service needs money, all they have to do is start collecting it. I have never seen a ticket on a windshield in the parking lot, yet few people buy the parking pass. You can walk by entire rows of parked cars without seeing a single pay stub on their dash. Those parking lots should be bringing in thousands of dollars a day. It is common for them to be overflowing with cars.
When you search the internet for things to do in Anchorage, the number one suggestion is to climb Flattop. I meet people from all over the world up there. Yes, the view is wonderful, but the journey up could be wonderful, too. We could have a showpiece of a trail, something that visitors rave about. How ‘bout we do that with the busiest trail in Alaska, rather than nothing?
— Hank Brinker
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