Observation Peak

Page Type
Mountain/Rock
Location:
Alaska, United States, North America
Activities:
Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
Season:
Spring, Summer, Fall
Elevation:
4935 ft / 1504 m
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Observation Peak
Created On: Oct 31, 2017
Last Edited On: Apr 4, 2018

Overview

At a touch under 5,000 feet, its one of the taller easily accessible peaks from Juneau. Observation Peak's slopes are steep and bare, and heavy avalanche danger can persist on the mountain well into Spring. Though not technical, climbing Observation Peak is a full day to multi-day ordeal and if coming from Camp 17, crampons and ice axe are needed to cross Lemon Glacier.

Observation Peak provides a stunning view of the Juneau Icefield a dramatic transition into the glaciated alpine environment from the coastal forests of lower elevation. If you are lucky, you may even find yourself on the summit of Observation Peak on a clear day, which will provide excellent views of Split Thumb, Nugget, The Juneau Icefield, and to the North-West the Fairweather Range. 

Observation Seen from Camp 17
Observation Seen from Camp 17

Getting There

To access the standard route up to Observation, you must first find the Blackerby Ridge Trail. From downtown Juneau take Egan Drive south to Salmon Creek (turnoff for the hospital). Turn right. Make another right on Wire Street, then left on Greenwood Avenue. Trailhead is on right side of the road.

Another more challenging route is taking the well known Perseverance Trail. To get there, take Gold Street to Basin Road and follow it to the end.

Route

The Blackerby Ridge Route trail is 3.5 miles long. It begins at Greenwood Ave. before the hospital and ends at Cairn Peak. This is a sparsely marked, undeveloped route, and not recommended for beginners. It begins with a moderate grade but soon becomes extremely steep and wet as it climbs to the top of the ridge. After attaining the ridge, the trail heads mostly east to Cairn Peak and then descends North to Camp 17. 

The Juneau Ridge Route and the Granite Creek Route both start from the well known Perseverance Trail. One way turns on the Mt Juneau trail and climbs to the summit of Mt. Juneau, then continues along the Juneau Ridge to the south end of Salmon Ridge. The other way stays low on the Perseverance Trail and then turns on the Granite Basin trail climbing to the south end of Salmon Ridge. From there both trails go North on Salmon Ridge to the South face of Observation Peak.

See the route page for more details and for the map  and Garmin .gpx files.

Observation Peak Route Overview
Observation Peak Route Overview

Red Tape

There is no red tape here, so please use LNT principles. 

Trail along Juneau Ridge.
Trail along Juneau Ridge.

When to Climb

Mid-June through mid-September is the normal hiking season. With easy access, winter ascents would be reasonable as well, though there will be avalanche danger on the highest slopes.

June can be a really nice time to climb since it’s the sunniest summer month, though there tends to be more snow around. July is excellent too while August and September are wetter and cloudier. Fall and winter tend to be quite wet. 

Winters are much milder here than in interior Alaska

Panoramic view from the summit looking to the West
Panoramic view from the summit looking to the West

Camping

Backcountry Camping

Permits are not needed to camp in the Tongass National Forest. Camping Spots can be found on the ridges in the alpine areas.

Camp 17

Camp 17 has one building that can be used while not otherwise occupied by the JIRP program. Early and late season climbs should have no problem getting a place to stay, while mid-summer climbs might be forces to camp. 

Camp 17 overlooking the Lemon Glacier
Camp 17 overlooking the Lemon Glacier

External Links

Tongass National Forest