Party: Eric Troyer
Trip Location: Far Mountain Trail and Traverse, 1 mile up to 29 miles, total elevation gain for whole traverse about 9,300 feet.
Access: The trip starts and ends at Chena Hot Springs Resort. You can park in the resort parking lot if you’re going to do a short day hike and plan to use their facilities. Otherwise, park in the large open area on the east (left) side of the road just before the entrance. To access the trail, take the first road on the east side of the road before the Monument Creek bridge, then your first left after the cabin and your first right off that road/trail.
Trip Date: Saturday, June 13, 2015
Trail or route conditions, wildlife sightings and any highlights from the trip: Far Mountain can be done as anything from a short outing to a several-day backpacking trip. Short trips can be done anytime, year round. The complete traverse is best done earlier in the summer because of the few water sources are more reliable then.
Far Mountain Trail, an ATV trail, climbs steeply right away. A half-mile up the trail, a side trail to the right leads to an overlook with a view of the resort. At about eight-tenths of a mile, another overlook on the right gives you a view of Monument Creek Valley, behind the resort. After another mile or so, the trail reaches some granite tors, a great lunch spot. You can follow the trail for about another mile as it winds across a large bench.
Far Mountain Traverse starts where the trail ends and follows the ridgeline that encircles Monument Creek Valley. It includes Far Mountain, at the head of the valley, and offers tremendous views, some interesting tors, and miles of alpine ridge hiking.
At about mile 24 or 25 follow the ATV trail to the resort’s aurora viewing yurts. From there you can continue on the ridge until you reach the Angel Rocks-Chena Hot Springs Trail or head down the aurora viewing access trail. (That trail has borough signs saying it is closed for the season, but they are mainly concerned about vehicle traffic.) The entire loop is about 29 miles. I found water between miles 11 and 12, at mile 13 and in eroded bowls on a hoodoo at about mile 15. I saw songbirds, a couple of marmots and several shed caribou antlers.
Information on the trail is sparse on the Internet. Jay Cable has a blog post on it. Otherwise, the best information is in the book Outside in the Interior.
Tip: Bring a bathing suit and a towel if you want to soak in the hot springs after your outing. And while the Chena Burger at the resort is a bit spendy, it’s really tasty after a long hike!
A few other notes about the trail:
- You can skirt the first dome, but after that stay at or near the top of the domes because the sides are too steep and rocky.
- At the head of the valley, you can avoid the tops of a couple of domes because they are rocky but that is easy to see.
- Water, not reliable, between Mile 11 and 12 are at the head of the valley, also at Mile 13.
- Mile 13 far base of Far Mountain, that water source is pretty small compared to the other ones.
- Mile 23 or so is the real deep saddle with the forest.
- Between mile 24 and 25 is where you pick up a four-wheeler trail that will lead to the yurts and to the wide trail on down.