A lifetime of exploration would be insufficient to explore all the exquisite cirques, tarns, ridge walks, and alpine valleys in Chugach State Park. One massif that receives few visitors is the Kinglets, a ridgeline with several distinct peaks and numerous high points that borders the south side of upper Ship Creek Valley.
East and West Kinglets are the named peaks along the Kinglets’ five-plus mile ridgeline, and Peak 4515 also meets the technical definition of rising more than 500 feet from the nearest saddle. Yet at altitudes ranging from 5190 feet and below, the Kinglets are worthy of pilgrimage not for their loftiness but for the sinuous, spectacular ridgeline that ties them together.
The Kinglets ridge starts just west of Archangel Pass, which is one of the best places to cross from upper North Fork of Ship Creek to the upper Bird Creek watershed. From Archangel, it is a fast, safe, and easy walk up to East Kinglet, which is the highest on the ridgeline. Continuing west, the ridge is nearly as easy to traverse as a sidewalk as it cruises over Point 5175, which provides your first views into a seductive valley with a pearl of five or so tarns that drop down toward Ship Creek. Don’t be deceived by the speed of this walking yet: Your pace slows down by an order of magnitude to the west of West Kinglet, as the ridgeline remains walkable but at a much slower pace.
For the two and a half miles west of West Kinglet, it is always possible to avoid dangerous exposure but rarely possible to walk fast, as you weave along and near the ridgeline, following sheep trails where possible. When in doubt, tend to the Bird Creek side of the ridge, which is far mellower than the vertical and recently glaciated cirques facing Ship Creek. The end of the Kinglets ridgeline is a delightful tundra ramp that descends to a point just east of Bird Creek Pass.
Since the Kinglets are many miles and at least one pass from the road system, few people will hike them as a day trip, though it is certainly possible in a long and tiring one-way trip from Crow Pass to Bird Creek. Instead, base camping at Archangel Lakes or perhaps the Bird Creek Pass area provides convenient access to traverse the ridgeline with minimal weight, completing a day hike loop through upper Ship Creek valley.
Unfortunately, climate change is choking Ship Creek valley with brush. I hiked from Crow Pass to Glen Alps in 2017, and there was zero brush from Grizzly Bear Lake to Bird Creek Pass. In just two years, brush is filling the valley, and with more hot summers I’d expect the entirety of Ship Creek valley will be a miserable bushwhack. When that happens, it could be advisable to hike out via the brushy Bird Creek Trail rather than loop back in the previously-alpine Ship Creek Valley.
Take a moment to examine the Kinglets on a topographic map: There are at least ten tarns stippling the north-facing valleys below the ridgeline.Visiting the Kinglets will confirm what a glance at the map suggests: This is a spectacular alpine region of the Chugach, with easier ridge walking than you’ll find between most mountaintops. If there’s a more enchanting place for a ridge walk in Chugach State Park, I haven’t found it.