Max’s Mountain is the large dome that forms the righthand (southern) rim of the Alyeska ski resort. It is connected to Mt. Alyeska
itself by a high ridge.
Max’s offers a beautiful hike through moist forest and spectacular alpine meadows to a fine grandstand among rugged peaks and glaciers. Similar in difficulty to the more popular Bird Ridge hike a few miles up Turnagain
Looking back down the route of travel from the upper part of Max's Mountain Trail
Arm, it gives a great payoff for a couple of hours’ investment. Max’s is an especially good choice on days when the wind is screaming down Turnagain Arm—the trail goes up the lee slope, and even the summit is somewhat sheltered by the configuration of the surrounding ridges. A 40 mph gale atop Bird Ridge or Penguin Peak is likely to be a gentle breeze on Max’s.
Just about everybody knows this mountain as Max’s Mountain—everybody except the USGS, which has labeled it Baumann Bump on the Seward D-6 Quad. The popular name comes from Max Marolt, a former US Ski Team member who died of a heart attack in 2003, at 67, as he took one last run at a ski resort in Argentina. The name "Max's Mountain" appeared in a Sports Illustrated article on April 15, 1963. According to Max's son, the mountain got its name like this, when Max was a young, hot skier and worked briefly at the fledgeling Mt. Alyeska ski area:
“Some locals in a bar told him nobody could ski the imposing peak looming above town. They didn't know Max. The first pitch was so steep that he more dropped from it than skied it. He lit at the bottom and bent both skis into reverse camber. He descended the rest of the way on those bent skis only to discover that the locals that made the bet didn't have the money to pay up. He exacted a bigger price: that mountain still bears his name.”
The source of the name “Baumann Bump” is another worthy person, Ernie Baumann. Baumann was one of the skiing enthusiasts who emerged from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division after World War II. He scouted many peaks in Alaska and was probably the first to identify Mt. Alyeska as a good candidate for a ski area. He unsuccessfully tried to be the developer of the mountain, but was outbid. If he had prevailed, it Mt. Alyeska would be known as “Mt. Solar.”
To reach the main trailhead from Anchorage, drive south on the Seward Highway (Alaska Highway 1) about 30 miles and take the well-marked turnoff for Girdwood. After a couple of miles this road crosses Glacier Creek. Continue three tenths of a mile beyond the bridge and turn right on Timberline Drive. Follow this road all the way to the turnaround circle at its end. The trail leaves from the back of the circle.
Max’s Mountain Trail
This is a steep trail, climbing from 300 feet to 3302 feet in about a mile and a half of travel. It can be muddy and slick, and you may end up wearing some of it.
In summer, take the trail at the back of the circle signposted “Virgin Creek Falls Trail.” In a couple of minutes you will reach Virgin Creek Falls, a lovely spot. From there, the climb begins in earnest, always following the ridge to the left (north) of Virgin Creek. The first thousand vertical feet takes you through rain forest reminiscent of Southeast Alaska. The trail forks a few times but the forks generally merge back together--you'll be ok as long as you take the uphill choice at every opportunity. The next thousand feet runs through more stunted woods that will make New England hikers feel right at home.
Virgin Creek Falls (by brettws1)
The last third of the hike takes you into magnificent meadows that will be covered with flowers if your timing is right. Keep following the ridge to the summit. There is a tiny automated weather station at the top.
I have not done this mountain in winter conditions. Following the trail route, it would be an easy snow climb, but one would need to be well versed in avalanche assessment.
Max's Mtn (dome at center) as seen from Mt. Alyeska
The east ridge of the mountain leads to Mt. Alyeska
. The first part of this traverse is a pretty stroll on a grassy crest, but the going becomes more challenging as you climb Alyeska itself, becoming a class 4 knife-edge at one point.
It is possible to descend from the Max’s/Alyeska col into the main ski bowl by wending your way down sloping vegetated ledges (class 2+ when dry). This route is to be avoided when wet due to the slick nature of the vegetation. It’s also not a good place to take neophytes. If you see undetonated avalanche control explosives, don’t step on them or touch them; flag the location and make a report to the ski area office.
The northeastward view toward Mt. Alyeska in October Looking northwest to Raggedtop Mountain near Crow Pass
Essentially none. Camping and biking are not practical here. The trail traverses Anchorage municipal lands at the beginning, crossing into the Chugach National Forest shortly after treeline.
The ridge from Max’s to Mt. Alyeska marks the boundary of the ski area’s permit from the Forest Service. If going within the permit area, you must observe any closures the ski area posts.
Parking in the Timberline Drive circle is limited, so be prepared to park well down the road if necessary to avoid congestion around people’s driveways.
Looking eastward from the summit along the ridge to Mt. Alyeska (mid-August, average year)
Public transportation to Girdwood
Bed and Breakfast at the trailhead
Chugach National Forest