Alaskan Urban Mountaineering

Alaska is not known for its urban adventures. It is definitely an outdoors lover’s paradise. So what if I told you that a few days after our fishing adventure with our Alaskan son, he took us on a hike up to a truly pristine lake nestled in the bowl of a glacial cirque and we never left the official boundaries of the state’s largest city?

It’s true, we did that!

The fact that you can fish, climb mountains, see wildlife, and even climb up to an alpine lake without ever leaving the city limits is just one of the great things about Anchorage.

Part of the reason this is possible is the fact that the city has incorporated many miles of land surrounding the actual developed area. But that is not to discount how close some very cool stuff is to town.

A big chunk of that area is to the south of the city and includes Chugach State Park. This is also where we climbed Flattop Mountain a few years ago. In fact, one of the trails up Flattop starts right by the trail head for our trek up to Rabbit Lake, and all of this is only a little more than five miles from Anchorage.

Lucky for us, most of the people around took the left turn up to Flattop. We continued straight ahead along the four-and-a-half-mile trail up to the lake. Along the way we were warned about moose ahead by three different groups of hikers heading back.

We never saw a single moose. It was enough to make us start wondering if maybe there might be some truth to Veronica’s moose doubting phase a few years ago. But we did see a herd of Dall sheep.

As we topped a little ridge, there they were spread out before us. About twenty of the white highland dwellers that look like a cross between a bighorn Sheep and a mountain goat were standing between us and the lake.

We stayed back so as not to frighten them off, and they were definitely wary of us. We stood very still and took some photos, then after a little bit of looking at each other they headed down the valley to Rabbit Creek for a drink and some fresh grazing.

Once they moved on, we made our way to the Rabbit Lake and stood transfixed by the scene for a few moments. It is quite a sight. A gorgeous crystal-clear lake resting right at the foot of twin jagged pinnacles known as the North and South Suicide Peaks.

The lake sits about three thousand feet above sea level, which means we had climbed about thirteen hundred feet from the trailhead, and the Suicide summits rise another two thousand feet above the water.

From what we could learn, the odd and slightly disturbing name of the mountains goes back to early railroad workers. They called several of the nearby peaks Suicide, but for some reason only these twin peaks kept the name.

We also learned that Rabbit Lake is stocked with rainbow trout, but we didn’t have any way of removing any of them.

The lake looked so inviting that what we really wanted to do was jump right in. After hiking several miles our feet were burning in our shoes so we shucked our footwear and tested the water. We instantly knew we were going no further in than below the knees.

Wow! That’s cold! Seriously, our feet were numb in no time but it felt so good.

Right about the time we thought we might lose a toe or two a couple other hikers came along, so we asked them to snap a picture and quickly got out to warm up the little piggies.

As always, the hike back down was much easier and took way less time than the way up, but it did give us a chance to contemplate, while looking down the valley at the city below, just how cool it is that we could have a day like this without ever leaving a major metropolitan area.

David & Veronica,

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