By Eric Troyer
Party: Eric Troyer
Trip Location: Granite Tors East Trail
Access: Trailhead at Mile 39.5 Chena Hot Springs Road
Trip Date: Thursday, August 24, 2017 (and Saturday, August 12)
Trail or route conditions and any highlights from the trip:
The weather forecast called for a night without rain (Thursday). I wanted to go for a quick overnight backpack close to town and had the flexibility to go on a weeknight. So I decided to head up the east fork of the Granite Tors Trail. I had run the trail during the Granite Tors Run a couple of weeks before and wanted to enjoy the area at a slower pace.
I camped at a popular site about 4 miles up the east leg, figuring it would probably be free on a weeknight. I was right, and was able to spend a wonderful night there away from all the distractions and noises of home.
The trail is in great shape for the most part (learned from both my backpack and the run). The swampy part on top is drier than usual, though recent rains will probably make a liar out of me! However, since I had a bit of time Friday morning after my backpack, I decided to check out the washed out lower bridge. If you haven’t been up the Granite Tors Trail recently, the lower part of the east leg is closed. A sign says the bridge is washed out. People can still access the east leg via the upper bridge of the connector trail, which is about a mile up the west leg.
The lower bridge is certainly washed out. I couldn’t find any sign of it. Crossing Rock Creek is pretty easy—a log has fallen across it and it’s narrow and shallow, anyway—but more than the bridge has washed out. About 100 to 200 feet of trail is just gone, claimed by the Chena River. It’s possible to bushwhack but not easy. That area is an old burn so there are large downed trees with many smaller ones growing up. Plus, another portion of the boardwalk is on a part of the bank that has slumped, so the boardwalk is at about a 30-degree cant.
I highly recommend a backpack or day trip on the Granite Tors Trail, but definitely follow the signs.
Alaska State Parks has a great PDF map of the Granite Tors Trail.