Hike the Pioneer Ridge-Austin Helmers Trail
Alaska › Pioneer Ridge-Austin Helmers Trail
Added by Dwayne Parton
The Pioneer Ridge-Austin Helmers Trail offers fantastic views of the Knik Glacier from the trail. There are berry picking opportunities and the view is a well earned reward.
Starting at less than 200ft above sea level, the trail starts off steep and never lets up. It climbs through forest until you are at about 2000ft. The trail gets muddy as the ground thaws and becomes very slick. The vegetation thins out as the elevation increases and the trail begins to cut back and forth through shrubs and berry bushes. There are several picnic tables along the way to stop and rest at, as well as many views of the Knik Glacier.
At 3200ft the trail reaches the ridge crest and is not quite as steep. This is my favorite part, and really puts into perspective the climb you've already made. It follows the ridge all the way up and ends at 5330ft. Advanced climbers can continue on to scale the 6398ft Pioneer Peak.
The climate changes drastically as you climb. I started the trail burning up and once we got to the ridge crest had to put on extra clothes. This was just after the first dusting of snow, and in some spots it was well over a foot deep.
- Trekking Poles
- Wind Breaker
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Love this trail. It starts off steep as could be but the alpine ridge is absolutely stunning. The final push to the South Summit is 4th class terrain and a fall could end up in disaster. Remember to take your time and turn back if it's past your ability. The true summit is 5th class climbing and should not be attempted unless an experienced climber and roping up would be wise. There isn't much opportunity for water after the first 1.5miles so make sure to pack enough.
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