Headlamp Chugach

Chugach Fields.

Over the last five years, Far North Bicentennial Park and the Campbell Tract have become a fat biking mecca. On any given winter weekend, dozens if not hundreds of fat bikers zip through the woods and meadows near Campbell Creek and the airstrip. Most of the fat bike traffic is in the area south of Campbell Airstrip Road and north of Abbott. For reasons that I don’t understand, the extensive trail network north of Campbell Airstrip gets fewer visitors, though the views and terrain are equal to if not better than the more popular trails that encircle the airstrip.

Less signage and a bevy of confusing trail intersections could be one reason that the far side of Far North is less popular. There are a few helpful signs for Moose Ridge, 4.5 km, and 2.5 km trails. Other than that, the majority of trails--including permutations of and connectors to these primary trails--are not signed or mapped. That is partly a function of summer versus winter terrain. In summer, much of this trail network is marshy, or blocked with small ponds. Partly it is a function of climate change: The dogsled trails north of Campbell Airstrip can be great fat biking until they receive enough snow to be reserved for sled teams only. Unfortunately, we rarely get enough snow for that to happen anymore, so the dog sled trails have become low-snow fat bike routes.

Figuring out this maze of trails takes a little time. The terrain is flat and wooded enough that neither topography nor sight lines to the mountains will typically help snow bikers navigate. For a first visit, I recommend heading out the Tank Trail from North Bivouac trailhead. Within just a few minutes, you’ll pass three trail intersections on the left, all of which feed into the 4.5 km trail that generally parallels Campbell Airstrip Road. Keep going, to the trail intersection with Moose Ridge Trail. It is no more than five minutes out from the North Bivouac trailhead.

Hang a left on Moose Ridge, and prepare to be confused. Almost immediately, the trail will begin forking as previous riders have taken multiple options through or around the frozen ponds and marshland to the northwest of the Tank Trail. In general, tend toward your right (or northeast), staying on the main stem of Moose Ridge trail. It descends into the low country, then regains slightly higher ground and winds through lovely woodlands of mature birch. This section of trail is fantastic riding, in my opinion the most fun singletrack in Far North. It has the flow of a machine-cut trail without engineered trails’ artificiality. After what seems like a surprisingly long time (particularly on your first ride), Moose Ridge reaches a trail marker with more confusing trails heading in multiple directions. Look for 4.5 km trail, which should be fairly well-used. In general, uphill on this trail will take you back up to North Bivouac, while downhill will take you to the large parking lot on Campbell Airstrip Road, which provides convenient access to the Tour of Anchorage, Rover’s Run, and other popular trails.

If you aren’t simply looking to return, however, it’s worth riding back away from Campbell Airstrip Road. Most likely, one of two things will happen: You may find yourself on dog sled trails that take you to the Chugach Foothills neighborhood off Muldoon, or you may weave around on moraine and marsh in the network of Moose Ridge connectors. Either option is great riding. The best views are from the dog sled trails, and provide unobstructed panoramas of the East Side’s backyard mountains.

For folks who live off Muldoon, this trail network is great to discover because it is faster to fat bike from Chugach Foothills to the Hilltop area than it is to drive down to Abbott Road trailhead and unload your bike. The multiple land managers may make this challenging, but perhaps in the not-too-distant future the BLM, Municipality, and partner organizations such as Single Track Advocates could compile a unified trail map of the Hillside, Far North, Campbell Tract, and Chugach State Park frontcountry trails. There is more than enough mileage in this network to ride all weekend and rarely cross your own tracks.

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