“Route to McHuch with the most gain through the 2016 wildfire area
— Abe H
Parking at the McHugh Creek Trailhead requires a $5 fee or an Alaska State Parks pass. Park in the lower lot outside the gate if you intend to be there past 9pm. They do close the gate every night.
McHugh Peak is #103 on the 120 State Park Peaks and the south flank route is the longest, most difficult route with 4,400' of gain. The peak is known for its finger-like rock formation at the summit that is very distinctive in photos but is somewhat difficult to discern from a distance.
The beginning of the trail switchbacks up through coastal forest before it traverses east along the south slopes that were ravaged by wildfires in 2016. While the normal route up to the southwest ridge is being redefined through the wildfire zone, you want to traverse east until you reach the opening of the first bowl. There, if you start heading directly upwards, you'll come across a well-defined singletrack that climbs steeply up the tundra to the rocky ridge. Once on the ridgeline, you are rewarded with views into the Anchorage bowl, as well as the Turnagain Arm view you had on the journey up.
Continue northeast along the ridge for nearly two miles until you see the finger rock formation. An easy scramble up the formation is required to reach the true summit.
This trail has a black diamond rating due to some route finding in the wildfire zone, steep grade and minor scrambling at the summit.
Other routes up to McHugh Peak include the north ridge from Bear Valley and east ridge from Rabbit Lake (requires logistics). The northwest ridge is not recommended due to access concerns.