Last Sunday night we hiked the Portage Pass Trail to Portage Glacier and Portage Lake, where we spent a wonderful night listening to the calving glacier while watching the changing light illuminate fields of fireweed. It had been 9 years since I last hiked this trail. Back then, getting to the lake required a lot of route finding and difficult bushwhacking in thick alders well over head high. Today, the Chugach National Forest has improved the trail all the way to the lake – it now has to been one of the best hikes in South-central Alaska! Maybe second only to the Harding Icefield Trail.
The trail begins just to the right (South) after you emerge from the tunnel into the town of Whittier. Follow the signs to the limited parking area. The entire distance from the trail head to the lake is about 2 miles, maybe a little more. You do climb up and down about 800 vertical feet as you cross over the pass, but all and all, it is a easy trail with spectacular views of not only the lake and glacier, but also looking back at Prince William Sound.
Nine years ago when I hiked to the lake, not only was I the only person there, but it appeared I was the first person in weeks to visit this beautiful location. Today? Well the trail improvements have also brought a lot more visitors – Sunday evening I think there were a couple dozen hikers, often with kids visiting the same place. So if you are looking for an easy trail with big benefits, look not further then Portage Pass Trail!