“A challenging run through varying terrain for this classic 6,000' peak in the Chugach.
— Abe H
$5 Matanuska-Susitna Borough day-use fee.
At roughly 14 miles and 6,800' of gain round trip, South Pioneer Peak is one of the most challenging and rewarding peaks you can climb in the Chugach. With views of Mount Marcus Baker, Knik Glacier, the Talkeetnas, and western Chugach, obtaining the summit on a clear day will make you keep this run on your bucket list time and time again.
South Pioneer Peak is the sibling of the true summit North Pioneer Peak, however routes up the North Peak require extensive mountaineering experience and skill. Therefore, this description will only be for the South Peak.
The Pioneer Ridge Trail is a challenging trail that starts near sea level and gains roughly a vertical mile, bringing you to the top of Pioneer Ridge. The beginning of the Pioneer Ridge Trail switchbacks through the forest to treeline at about 2,000 feet, crossing several small streams along the way that can get quite muddy. Continuing above treeline, the trail straightens out, and you pass through a hillside prairie. Two trailside picnic tables provide good resting spots, where you can take in views of Matanuska Peak and Knik Glacier while you refuel.
The top of the ridge reveals a beautiful valley between Eklutna and Pioneer, and it provides options for those wanting to proceed further—head north on the ridge to Pioneer Peak or head south toward Yudikench Peak. Both are ambitious goals.
The route along the ridge from the end of the Pioneer Ridge Trail is easy to follow with an increasingly worn human trail sitting atop the ridgeline. The final approach offers a bit of a challenge as the rock formations almost push you to the left (west) as you climb upwards. However, the best route is to continue straight up, which often requires you to feel like you are staying right. Eventually, you'll see a human trail leading up on the east face that will take you to the summit.
This trail has a black diamond rating due to route finding, minor scrambling, length, and grade.