OverviewPioneer Peak is an extemely picturesque and massive mountain. It rises up over 6000 feet from its base near the Knik River flats. It also boasts one of the easiest approaches of any mountain in Alaska. To summit this behemoth, expect to climb over 6000 vertical feet.
Getting ThereDrive north of Anchorage about 30 miles on the Glenn Highway. Take the Old Glenn Highway exit and go east on the Old Glenn Highway till it hits the Knik River Bridge. Don't cross the bridge, instead take a right onto Knik River Road and follow this about 5 miles till you see the Pioneer Ridge Trailhead on the right. Note that this trailhead is difficult to see. Take the trail up into the clouds.
If the North Face is your objective. Take the same route as above, but park in one of the pulloffs on the north (river) side of the Old Glenn just before you reach the bridge. Walk across the road aiming for a long scree/snow slope which leads up into Pioneer's upper ramparts.
Red TapeTo park at the Pioneer Ridge Trailhead, you must pay $5/day.
No fees are required for the pulloffs but beware that thefts have occurred in the past.
CampingYou could camp along the Knik River. Perhaps one of the most favorite spots for fishermen in the area is just across the Knik River Bridge, on the north side of the Knik River. Otherwise, Pioneer Peak is best done as a day trip.
However, you could bivy on the ridge trail at a few spots. To me, the best spot would be at the top of the trail, at 5300 feet.
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This is a very long route and involves close to 7500-8000 vertical feet in a day. Follow the Pioneer Ridge Trail up to its end at 5300 feet. This is where the trail runs into Pioneer Peak's SE Ridge. Turn right and follow this ridge up to S. Pioneer Peak, which is a great climb in its own right. The ridge offers some fantastic Class 3 scrambling. Once on S. Pioneer's summit, downclimb into a deep col. Traverse some exposed Class 3/4 sections below the ridgecrest. Then, find a way back onto the ridgecrest via a low 5th class section of rock. We climbed a 40 foot section of 5.4 climbing. Then follow the 3rd class ridge up to the summit. Remember that you must turn around and repeat that descent from S. Pioneer as an additional climb to get back to the Pioneer Ridge Trail.
This is an in your face, direct route to Pioneer's true summit. There are a few variations. Cross the Old Glenn and find an open scree slope or snow slope to go up the initial slopes. After about 1000 feet of climbing, you reach one of the technical cruxes: one 150 foot section of WI2. Climb the waterfall directly or bushwack around it to gain another gully. Go up the gully another 1500 feet to where it opens up a bit. Continue going up to an area where a rock buttress splits two small gullies. You could take any path although the little rock buttress is probably the easiest. Exit left from the rock buttress (snow 40 degrees or Class 3 rock) to access the upper slopes. (If you take the left slope, you'll run into a short WI 3 waterfall or some tough mixed terrain. Or you could climb some easier, but unprotectable mixed terrain on the rock up and left. Likewise there are a couple vertical section up the right gully.) Go up the gully that goes straight upwards (perhaps slightly up and right).
This is where two different routes diverge. According to Wood and Coombs' purple climbing guide, you should take the left hand gully up to the ridge. This appears that it will go but never seems to have as much snow as the line to the right. Either way, work your way up ever steepening snow (to 55-60 degrees) up to the ridgeline. Then scramble along a Class 4 ridgeline up to the summit. Reverse the ascent route.
Note that there are other routes up both the North Face and up to Pioneer Peak's summit. However, I do not include the routes here because I do not know much about these routes.