Powerline Pass – Glen Alps to Indian – mountain biking

Powerline Pass from Glen Alps to Indian is a totally worthy Southcentral Alaska ride, especially if you really like descents! With the car shuttle, you get 2000’ of descending for ‘free!’ Steep in places, and not for a novice biker, the trail is a doubletrack that rides a lot more like a singletrack with options! While a long car shuttle, it cuts off the drive to the Kenai and is a nice way to mix up riding style!

Logistics:

I think it’s easiest to leave a car at Turnagain Armpit because it’s an easy downhill pedal to there no matter the final trail option you choose, and you may as well finish with a beer and food with a view of the Arm! Now that they have local greens to augment their super carnivore menu, I really enjoy eating there . . . the crispy ribs appetizer was so satisfying after this ride!!!

The best start point is Glen Alps parking area as it’s the highest elevation access to Powerline Pass . . . any go-getter can start much lower if desired!

The climb:

The ride is approximately 7 miles from 2200’ Glen Alps to the high point at approximately 3800’ – it took us nearly 2 hours at a comfortable pace. The trail is a well-maintained road with gravel and good dirt and climbs gradually for the first 6 miles. Just after the creek crossing, it starts to get steeper/rockier/more alpine. When you see a fork to the left (up until this point they’re all illegal), take it to climb gradually to the pass. Otherwise, you can ride along the powerlines and hike-a-bike up steep terrain to the trail – not recommended! We did this ride June 19th 2020 and there was a decent patch of snow to the high point that required some bike mountaineering – I wouldn’t want much more snow than this – it was kind of sketchy!

Powerline pass trail from Glen Alps with the actual pass in the background.

 

As you near the pass, the trail character changes to steeper and rockier

 

Powerline Pass – trail to the upper left is the best route – even with this amount of snow, minor snow crossing needed.

 

Looking back the 7 miles traveled to this point . . . Glen Alps start is just at the end of the ridgeline on the left in this photo

 

A bit of bike mountaineering – thankfully only a short section, but still kind of sketchy!

From the pass, there’s a quick descent and traverse to a small climb to the top of the true descent. It’s really cool to see how much the Chugach range changes from the front range to the more lush Indian side, and the views out the Turnagain Arm and Kenai are great! I really like this spot! We had one more patch of snow with a sketchy traverse, and then we were ready to descend!

The Indian side of the pass, looking up to the high point.

 

Looking east from the Indian side of the pass

The descent:

The descent to Indian is not for the faint of heart, though very bikeable. While I appreciate it on my Pivot Mach 6 I ride today, I did it many times on a 2002 Stumpjumper with 3” of travel and also loved it.  My buddy was on a fully rigid fat bike and also enjoyed it.

The descent starts out fun and rideable with loose rock, water bars at stream crossings to watch for, and some corners to be ready for (you can see them coming). It’s definitely a section where you ride your brakes and they’ll definitely heat up . . . worth stopping to let them cool when it flattens a little!

From here, the trail goes into a long and sustained straight downhill section. It’s loose rock with a ‘trench’ where most riders have gone that’s worth staying in. The sheer extent of this section is a little intimidating, although it’s definitely rideable . . . and fun to get into the challenge! Postiviley, there’s no exposure and the sides of the trail are soft vegetation if you need to bail.

The steepest section at its midpoint (where I wiped out!) – looking down . . . it really is steep, even if this photo doesn’t seem that way!

From here, there’s a small climb to another section of descending . . . more vegetated now and ‘easier’ riding although still necessary to pay attention! More loose rock, a few more stream crossings, and less steep than the sections above.

Changing trail character as you descend . . .

Looking down, can see the next small climb – the doubletrack rides a lot more like singletrack! This section is super fun 🙂

One more short climb and it’s time for the final section of descent – at this point the dirt is good, trail fun, and the thing to watch for is 2 downed trees over the trail (that have clearly been there awhile given the bypass trail maturity!). This section is super fun and a good way to purge some adrenaline from above!

Looking back up at the route – it starts from the green ‘knoll’ just in front of the snowy peak. The steepest section is out of view, and this steep/straight section you can see rides super well!

Looking down the final descent

Watch for big trees across the trail!

At the bottom, you can stay on the powerline road or take a right to a less-developed trail . . . while wet, this right option is super fun. It drops you out at the Chugach State Park sign which is about 0.5 mi downhill from the parking lot.

Summary:
Overall, Powerline Pass is a super fun ride and totally worth doing! I laugh to think I used to push my bike up from Indian to ride the trail and am more than happy to do the car shuttle these days! My Trailforks ride log shows 2142’ climbing and 4052’ descending over 13.5 miles . . . a 3.5 hr adventure with our lovely lunch stop in the sun up top and comfortable pace. Super fun!

I’m surprised that Trailforks doesn’t list this ride and MTB project indicates “not recommended for most riders who don’t want to crash over the handlebars.” MTB project says “almost everybody who rides Powerline turns around at the highest elevation point, the saddle above the two lakes. Optionally the rider can continue to Indian, Alaska, but the downhill on that portion is steep enough to be considered not worth riding by even experienced riders.” DISAGREE!

 
For more mountain biking trail reports, check out the whole guide to Alaska biking!!!  Ride on and enjoy 🙂

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  1. Kyley says:

    I did this ride back in the late 90’s with Pete. His partner Chris picked us up at Indian. All I remember is how easy it was to the pass and then coming straight down so much so that my bike seat was in front of my crotch! Talk about exciting!
    I really enjoyed your write-up and the photos. Thanks Kellie 😉

  2. Eddie Parks says:

    Thinking I may want to try and time this one to catch the other half of the shuttle from Carolyn on her way home from work in town!

    • kokonek@gmail.com says:

      Haha, it’s totally worth optimizing the shuttle – get an Indian pickup as she comes home from work, and a ride back to your car the next morning – just need to manage leaving your car overnight at Glen Alps (should be fine since people backpack out of there commonly).

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