The complete absence of a parking lot or trailhead sign is a good way to keep traffic down on a local trail. Although there is a clear trail up to Mount POW/MIA from the Eklutna Road, hardly anyone visits this elevator into the alpine. With lovely glades, meadows, tundra rambling, and panoramic views of three mountain ranges, this short but steep hike is worth a visit.
The U.S. Board of Geographic Names assigned Mount POW/MIA its name in 1999 following a decades-long campaign for veterans. Considering that the peak is in Alaska, which has the nation’s highest per capita population of veterans, and overlooks JBER, the name fits. I appreciate visiting a summit that humans have recognized as a unique place to honor veterans who were prisoners of war or missing in action.
Service member or not, the hike is a worthy destination, but is about as steep as you’ll find any trail. It climbs 3,000 feet from the Eklutna road up to the 4,314 foot summit. The first few hundred feet of climbing are in lush birch forest, which gives way to open meadows. The brush mostly ends near a small bench where the trail bends right and ascends a small bowl to Mount POW/MIA’s south ridgeline. From the ridgeline, simply go up, continuing a couple hundred yards past (and to the right/northeast of) the false summit that is visible for the duration of the climb. The ridgeline near Mount POW/MIA’s summit has numerous crenellations and sub-ridges that harbor snow into summer. There could be surprisingly sheltered campsites just below the summit, with snow as a water source, for Anchorage-area hikers looking for a quick overnighter in the alpine.
Mountain runners will dash up and down Mount POW/MIA in less than a couple hours, while most hikers will want to take half a day to explore the area and appreciate the summit views.
Mount POW/MIA has sweeping views of the Talkeetnas, Knik Arm, Alaska Range, and the Chugach. It also has imposing, close-up views of West Twin Peak. With some planning or spur-of-the-moment hitchhiking, one could traverse east across the south face of Twin Peaks and link up Mount POW/MIA with the well-used network of trails that accesses Pepper and Twin Peaks. If you’ve hiked all the well known trails around Anchorage and are looking for something new, Mount POW/MIA is a great choice. Although it’d also be a fine option for one’s first alpine hike in the region. There aren’t many trails in the region that ascend to the alpine so quickly, and none that offer a trail’s convenience with backcountry solitude.