OverviewLittle-known Harp Mountain is the easiest 5000-footer in the Chugach, a place where a person with only a couple of hours to spare can get up and amongst the bigger peaks. Sun and wind patterns keep most of the regular route snow free most of the year, so this is an excellent choice for a spring warmup or a last hurrah in the fall. The top gives a grandstand view of some of the most exciting crags of Chugach State Park.
Getting ThereThe most direct route up Harp Mountain uses a small trailhead on the east side of the South Fork Eagle River Valley. To reach it, take the Eagle River Loop Road exit from the Glenn Highway and then turn right onto Hiland Road. Follow Hiland Road several miles to its very end, where there is a turnaround. The trail begins from the turnaround circle, just to the left of 252 Hiland Road. In the last couple of years there has been a little sign by the trail indicating "State Park Access." Do not park in the circle; a proliferation of no parking signs will require you to park a short distance up the road.
(For the more circuitous Hanging Valley/southeast ridge access to the peak, use the South Fork Valley Trail trailhead. It's on the west side of the valley. The right turn to this trailhead from Hiland Road is signposted.)
West Ridge Trail: From the trailhead in the turnaround circle described above, follow a trail of use onto the nearest butress, being careful to avoid posted private land. Continue up the ridge crest to the top, crossing one small intermediate summit along the way. The total elevation gain is 2650 feet (800 meters) over a distance of about 1.8 miles (3 kilometers). There's an intermittent path all the way to the top and the footing is pretty solid; in good conditions, one or two hours will get you all the way to the summit. This route is mapped at the bottom of the page.
Other Routes: Harp Mountain can be hiked from any angle. A nice variant is to start on the South Fork Valley Trail and make your way into Hanging Valley, where the camping is magnificent; from there, you can gain the toe of the southeast ridge and follow it (trail at first, then class 2 scrambling) to the top. The south slopes directly above Hanging Valley are also class 2, but less pleasant. Finally, ski and glissade descents of the western bowl are pretty popular.
CampingHarp Mountain can be part of a worthwhile camping trip when it is accessed by Hanging Valley, mentioned in "other routes" above. When hiking in by this route, it's about four miles from the South Fork Valley Trail trailhead to the best campsites. Campfires are not permitted and very large groups will need a permit.
Red TapeThe west ridge trail begins a little short of the park boundary, and uses a right of way. It's important to stay on the trail and in the right of way for the first couple of hundred yards. Adjacent landowners have helped you out with this by posting "Keep Out" signs.
Chugach State Park has few restrictions on hiking, camping, and climbing. As of early 2013 there are no parking fees in this area of the park.
WeatherWeather in the South Fork Valley can be quite different from nearby Anchorage or Eagle River. In fall and winter, temperature inversions are common so that Harp Mountain may offer much warmer conditions than lower elevation hikes. In summer, it often protrudes above the low level marine cloud layer. For current South Fork Valley conditions, check here. For conditions on a nearby summit (at about 4000 feet), check here.
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