Triangle Peak is the easiest--and one of the prettiest--of the "musical group" of peaks at the head of Chugach State Park's South Fork Eagle River. The peak was named in the 1980s for that least-heard of instruments in the symphony. By either of the routes described on this page, the 17-mile round-trip to Triangle is a magnificent ramble through country that would improve many a national park. Once you arrive, you have a seat in a lofty orchestra, with Concerto and Cantata Peaks, Calliope and Hurdygurdy Mountains looming just above.
The South Fork Valley
Triangle Peak is approached from the South Fork Valley trailhead in Chugach State Park, reached from central Anchorage in 30-40 minutes' drive. From the northbound Glenn Highway, take the Eagle River Loop Road exit and then turn right at the traffic light onto Hiland Road. Follow this several miles into the South Fork Valley
. After crossing a bridge over the South Fork, look for South Creek Road on your right. This is the turnoff for the trailhead, marked with a small brown sign. The trailhead has a gravel parking area which, though spacious, often overflows on summer weekends. There are two good outhouses to get your ready for your trek.
Symphony Tarns route in purple, Rendezvous Ridge route in yellow. Click to enlarge. Underlying map by Imus Geographics (out of print).Symphony Tarns Route:
The great majority of people who set out to bag Triangle use this route. From the trailhead, follow the South Fork Eagle River Trail 4.5 miles to the bridge at Eagle Lake. This is fast, easy walking through lovely tundra; with the ups and downs along the way, you’ll do about a thousand feet of climbing on your way to the bridge, but it won’t take much out of you.
Now your goal is to get to the inlet stream of Symphony Lake, but you want to wind up on the west side of that inlet. This is most easily accomplished by starting along the cairned route up onto the moraine between Eagle and Symphony Lakes, and then veering right across the boulders to the outlet
of Symphony Lake. You'll have to make your own way among the boulders to do this, and it won't be quick, especially if you're doing it in the rain or struggling with a pack. But the outlet is easy to cross dry-shod, and from there a rough trail of use takes you along the west side of the lake to the inlet. Watch for beavers along here. From the inlet, stay on the west side of the stream, scrambling about 100 vertical feet up onto a tundra bench above it. You may see a cairn on this bench, which marks the beginning of an excellent trail that takes you up a draw to the northerly of the two Symphony Tarns, elevation 3400 feet.
From the outlet of the northerly tarn, continue onto the pretty little ridge that splits the two tarns. Ascend this (steep grass) until, at about 4300 feet, it looks feasible to sidehill over to your left onto the big plateau above the more southerly tarn. There's good perennial water here.
Now Triangle Peak is dead ahead and a thousand feet above. The plateau will funnel you onto its southwest ridge, where a trail of use appears again, carrying you to Triangle's west summit. The slightly higher east summit is but a short stroll away.
The whole route never exceeds class 2 in difficulty. A little routefinding savvy is helpful, since several stretches beyond Eagle Lake lack any discernible path. The vertical rise from the trailhead is about 3500 feet, but undulations along the route of march will augment this to well past 4000 feet of climbing. When you factor in the slow going around Symphony Lake, you should probably budget at least five hours one way.
Rendezvous Ridge Route:
If the weather is good, there is an even more spectacular way to reach Triangle Peak. Start on the South Fork Eagle River Trail as above, ascending gradually for about a mile and a half. Just before the trail plunges 200 feet to its first crossing of the river, take a smaller trail heading to the right into a big grassy bowl. Climb the bowl onto Rendezvous Ridge, the eight-mile chain of nameless peaks that links Rendezvous Peak with Triangle Peak.
Wandering along this ridge makes a delightful day, with jaw-dropping views over every rise. But there are quite a few rises--by the time you get to Triangle, you'll have climbed more than 5600 feet in total. It's almost all fast walking on good footing
, except for a short rugged crest (class 3) above Symphony Lake, which can be bypassed on the right. Apart from the initial mile or two before climbing onto the ridge, there's no reliable water along the route until the plateau just west of Triangle itself.
There are good sites on the moraine between Eagle and Symphony Lakes; at the Symphony Tarns; and on the plateau just west of Triangle Peak.
Of these, the tarns might be my first choice for scenic camping with relative solitude.
Eagle and Symphony Lakes as seen along the Rendezvous Ridge approach
South Fork of the Eagle River, about two miles into the Symphony Tarns approach
Looking west across Rendezvous Ridge to Temptation Peak
Southward past Concerto Peak to the summits near Girdwood
Chugach State Park has few restrictions on hiking, camping, and climbing. Campfires are not permitted and very large groups will need a permit.
As of 2016 there is no parking fee for the South Fork trailhead.
External LinksChugach State Park
Listing on Lists of John
Pages 4-6 of this issue of "Scree"
tell how the musical group got their names
Triangle in early winter conditions
Triangle Peak from the plateau above the Symphony Tarns