Three projects funded by legislative grants will repair popular but damaged trails in Chugach State Park, as well as attempt to restore public access to a majestic but currently hard-to-reach valley above Eagle River.
Alaska Trails, an Anchorage nonprofit that works with statewide land management agencies including Chugach State Park, announced the funding this week.
All three of the projects — in Ram Valley, Indian Valley and along Eklutna Lake — are linked to the Alaska Traverse, the new name for the planned Alaska Long Trail, said Mariyam Medovaya, a project coordinator with the group. The Long Trail was the working name of a planned 500-mile system of trails connecting Seward and Fairbanks.
“All three of them are connections and part of the trail system,” Medovaya said.
With Chugach State Park under increasing pressure from users, the improvements should make trails more stable and less prone to damage as well as providing more access, which is a park priority, said Ben Corwin, the park’s superintendent.
The projects include:
•$100,000 for a feasibility study for restoring “legal and feasible” access to Ram Valley, an alpine area in Chugach State Park. In the past hikers, hunters and others got to the valley through private property with permission from the landowner, but that permission was revoked in 2020 after problems with parking and trespassers. The feasibility study will attempt to find a route to the valley that takes into account community concerns, Alaska Trails said. Community meetings are expected to start this winter.
Whatever happens, getting to Ram Valley will still involve a challenging hike, Corwin said. “No matter what kind of trail you put in there, it’s going to be quite a feat,” he said. “But it’s a really high quality aesthetic area for people to visit that does not have good legal access, and that’s what we’re hoping to achieve by this.”
•$1.1 million to reroute the Indian Valley Trail, a historic route popular in winter for skiers making the Arctic Valley to Indian traverse but “pretty terrible” in the summer due to its location along creek beds, making it brushy, wet and full of crossings, according to Corwin. The new trail will be moved higher, rising 2,000 feet in seven miles from the parking lot at Boretide Road to Indian Pass, and including several bridges.
Corwin hopes the improvements will drive more hikers to Indian Valley, one of the park’s less-used trailheads. Work on the trail will happen next summer, Medovaya said.
•$234,000 for the Eklutna Lakeside Trail. The heavily used lakeside trail at Eklutna sustained damage from high water and storms a decade ago and has eroded in places, making it unsafe, Corwin said.
The grant will pay for repairs to six miles of single track trail used by bikers and hikers and 12 miles of a multiuse trail for ATVs, snowmachines and others. The Eklutna Lakeside trail improvement work will start at 10 a.m. Aug. 29 with a short formal ceremony with guests including local politicians, state parks officials, and Aaron Leggett of the Native Village of Eklutna.