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Anchorage’s new hiking and biking trails should be complete before snow falls

  • Author: Aubrey Wieber
  • Updated: August 28, 2020
  • Published August 24, 2020

An eroding trail leading up a gully to Little O'Malley Peak in Chugach State Park on Aug. 22, 2020. This portion of the trail will be rerouted and replaced with switchbacks for a gentler grade to make the hike more accessible. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Four new Anchorage trails, two for hikers and two for cyclists, are being created as part as an economy-boosting jobs program and are expected to be completed by winter.

Work on the hiking trails is underway, and work on the mountain biking trails is expected to start soon, Anchorage Economic and Community Development Director Chris Schutte said. They are being funded through the federal CARES Act, a program to help the nation rebound from a pandemic-induced recession.

In June, the Anchorage Assembly approved $3 million in CARES Act funds to go toward a public lands jobs program. In addition to the trails, the money will fund wildfire mitigation work.

The projects are being administrated by local nonprofits — Alaska Trails for the hiking trails and Singletrack Advocates for the biking trails. The city is funding projects the nonprofits had ready to go, with labor being offered up to residents laid off due to the pandemic.

“That was the key thing in this employment project: Any of these approved projects need to be shovel-ready,” Schutte said.

The trails will add re-routes to two popular hiking trails in Chugach State Park, fill a gap in a trail system that connects the Chugach range to Cook Inlet, and connect the Glen Alps and Prospect Heights parking lots.

Far North Bicentennial Park connector

A connector trail between Prospect Heights and existing STA trails on the Hillside will be built this fall. (Map provided by Municipality of Anchorage)

Work will soon begin on a project for mountain bikers that would connect trails in Far North Bicentennial Park to trails in Chugach State Park. The trail will run in a zigzag along the Gas Line Trail.

The connector trail will cost $16,500.

Hemlock Burn

The second project set to begin construction is a singletrack trail connecting the Glen Alps and Prospect Heights parking lots.

The five-mile trail will be signed for downhill riding, and in the vein of the nearby South Fork Rim trail and Kincaid Park’s Bolling Alley trail.

The South Fork Rim trail will be marked for uphill riding.

“This will create a clockwise direction of bike traffic on these two trails, which will help alleviate potential user conflicts and make it more enjoyable,” Schutte wrote in a document detailing the work.

The construction will be overseen by Happy Trails, a Fairbanks-based trail builder. It’s slated to start in September and take eight weeks to build.

The project will cost $236,500.

Middle Fork

The turnoff for Middle Fork, left, and Little O'Malley, right, trails in Chugach State Park on Aug. 22, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Alaska Trails' Middle Fork trail crew members being their hike to the trailhead from the Glen Alps Trailhead lower parking lot in Chugach State Park on Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy Kristen Mrozowski)

The Middle Fork trail project will reroute a half-mile on the Middle Fork hiking trail in Chugach State Park. The rebuild of the trail is aimed at creating a longer-lasting section of trail that will need less maintenance, according to Schutte.

This work would finish a reroute effort by Alaska Trails in 2019. The popular trail has been updated several times over the past 10 years, and this half-mile stretch is the only remaining “unsustainable” portion, Schutte said.

The project will cost $132,986.

Little O’Malley

People hike down a gully, from Little O'Malley Peak, in Chugach State Park on Aug. 22, 2020. Due to the eroding trail up the gully, social trails on the remaining tundra are visible from the peak. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

The second hiking project creates a new portion of the trail to the top of Little O’Malley peak. It will replace a steep section with a gentler grade to make the hike more accessible.

“The toll on the landscape from use of the existing trail is more evident each year, as users struggle with an eroding fall line pathway,” Schutte explained in the document detailing the projects. “This project will rectify that situation.”

Crews will re-route .38 miles and the work will cost $140,745 in CARES Act funds. The overall re-route project will be over 1.5 miles and finish next year.

Trail materials rest on the side of the trail to Little O'Malley Peak in Chugach State Park on Aug. 22, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Alaska Trails crew members Andrew Barbosa, left, and Ginger Pajak, right, get ready to work on the Little O'Malley Peak trail project in Chugach State Park on Aug. 24, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Clarification: The jobs program will work on .38 miles of an overall 1.5-mile reroute on the trail to Little O’Malley peak.

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