Lower Winner Creek – Mountain biking Girdwood

Mountain biking Lower Winner Creek is perhaps my favorite ride in Girdwood when the hand tram is open (closed in 2020 due to fatality/accidents in 2019), and is still tons of fun as an out-and-back combined with GMBA trails when it’s closed. Both versions are easily started from anywhere in Girdwood, and I’ve chosen the Girdwood Brewery as the common start point for this write-up.

Riding as a loop:

Ride down through town to Crow Creek Road and turn right. Pedal up Crow Creek Rd. for about 3 miles and pass the Iditarod Hand Tram Parking lot (alternatively, start the trail from here by turning left at the first junction to head to the hand tram – I thin it’s more fun to start higher and avoids the pedestrian corridor). At the entrance to Crow Creek Mine look for a singletrack to the right, kind of hidden in the forest.

The trail is wide open forest riding with fun water bars and root features to air off of, and then narrows a bit with some tight turns and switchbacks before spitting riders out at the Hand Tram about a mile in. This section of forest is so cool – big thick trees all around, ferns and moss lining the forest floor.

The Hand Tram is easy – there’s hooks to hang bikes off of, and 2 bikes are easily accommodated per crossing. From the other side, the trail climbs steeply (and at the high point there’s a cool side trail for an overview of the Winner Creek Canyon) and then descends to the bridge over Winner Creek canyon. This is one of my favorite places in the world – I love watching the power of water!

The completion of the loop winds through the forest on wide trail with some steep climbing sections, though all rideable and fun! Pass the junction to Upper Winner Creek by turning right toward the Alyeska hotel and it’s essentially all downhill from here (micro-climbs). Shortly after the boardwalk section, keep your eye out for the Nordic Loop trail and exit the main Winner Creek trail to finish with Small House (or add on an Earnagain/2cents loop if you want to extend the ride)! This finish is both more fun, and avoids riding the pedestrian-heavy section with downhill speed.

Riding as an out-n-back:

If the hand tram is closed, Lower Winner Creek is only possible as an out-n-back, though still a super worthy and fun ride, especially when combined with the GMBA trails for a flowy finish (and a quasi loop ride in the end)!

From the Girdwood Brewing Company, ride uphill to the Winner Creek Extension trail and follow it over to the Nordic Loop trailhead near the Alyeska Hotel. Ride up the Nordic trail as if you’re headed to Small House and right near the exit of Small House you’ll see an access trail to connect with the Winner Creek Trail (prior to this point, it’s closed to bikes). A short steep climb, and then you’re meandering through the forest and it’s so cool.

Continue up and turn left at the junction with Upper Winner Creek for a playful little downhill that evolves into an up/down combo that rides pretty fast and playfully. It’s a proper high intensity interval training workout if you’re up for it with all the changes in the trail – an easy and fun way to get a quick hit workout!

About 2 miles in, you’ll cross the Winner Creek Gorge and shortly thereafter arrive at the Hand Tram. This is your cue to turn around and head back!

The return has a bit more climbing, though rides efficiently and is a quick ride as the trail winds through the forest. Pass the junction to Upper Winner Creek by turning right toward the Alyeska hotel and it’s essentially all downhill from here (micro-climbs). Shortly after the boardwalk section, keep your eye out for the Nordic Loop trail and exit the main Winner Creek trail to finish with Small House (or add on an Earnagain/2cents loop if you want to extend the ride)! This finish is both more fun, and avoids riding the pedestrian-heavy section with downhill speed.

Girdwood epic rides with Winner Creek (if the hand tram is open!)

  • Use Lower Winner Creek as a counter-clockwise loop by starting at the Alyeska Hotel and riding up to the Iditarod Trails and descending these trails to Abe’s Trail and the Beaver Pond. Add in a few GMBA laps to start, and you’ve officially got an epic ride right in Girdwood!
  • Ride Crow Pass with a Winner Creek and GMBA finish (requires car shuttle or a long pedal up Crow Creek Rd to Crow Pass)
  • Start the Upper Winner Creek ride from Crow Creek Rd and finish with Lower Winner Creek and GMBA to the Alyeska Hotel.
  • Another fun add-on is to ride up the Chair 7 cat road and either descend Blueberry Pancake (accessed to the left from the initial high point) back to the Hotel, or one of the Bear Cub Quad trails to the base of the resort. Keep in mind that the Alyeska Bike Park will be open Friday-Sunday so you may have DH riders about as well.

For more ideas of riding around Alaska, check out the full guide at www.AlaskaMTB.com!


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