Monday, August 27, 2018

Shawn Lyons' three volume "A Walk-About Guide to Alaska" is perhaps the most popular and heavily-used hiking guide for South Central Alaska. This particular volume covers a selection of hikes on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage and along Turnagain Arm, through which runs the Seaward Highway on the way to the Kenai Peninsula.

First time hikers in Alaska will find that the heavily used and well-developed trail networks common in the lower 48 are not typically in evidence in Alaska. Even on the more popular routes, hikers may be challenged to identify and follow a trail; outside of a few trails near Anchorage, there will be little signage. Hikers must be prepared to find their own way, and Lyons' guide is an excellent source of the information necessary to plan a hike.

Lyons provides basic data about each hike, including how to get to the trailhead, descriptions of the length, elevation gain, grading of the trail, and other useful information. Each entry includes a sketch map of the route, which, when coupled with a regular map, is usually sufficient to follow the route. Interspersed with the trail descriptions are short essays by Lyons on the joys of hiking in different areas, along with some useful information on what to expect to see or experience. The selection of photographs help provide a sense of scale for rugged terrain.

Lyons is an usually fit and able hiker, and his grading of trail difficulty might be taken with a grain of salt by the less dedicated hiker. This volume is highly recommended as a planning resource for the rugged terrain of the Kenai Mountains and along Turnagain Arm. For early summer visitors to Anchorage, the south-facing slopes of Turnagain Arm are often the first areas to be free of snow.


Shawn Lyons three volume "A Walk-About Guide to Alaska" may be the most popular and heavily-used trail guide for South Central Alaska. This volume covers the spectacular Chugach Mountains immediately east of Anchorage, Alaska.

Few urban areas in the United States have such immediate access to such a huge outdoor resource as Chugach State Park. Many trailheads are located in neighborhoods along the east side of Anchorage, providing access to a variety of trails. On offer are opportunities for short afternoon strolls, extended rugged journeys, and other hikes inbetween. Much of the Chugach is above treeline in whole or part; hikers will be rewarded on clear days with superb vistas into the Anchorage area or deep into the valleys of the Chugach.

Lyons includes basic data on selected trails, with length, grading of the trail, elevation gain, and a sketch map of the route. Most trails are less well marked in Alaska than in commonly found in the lower 48; hikers are advised to read the guide closely to find their way. Similarly, some trails cross steep and rocky ridges or traverse snowfields early in the year; hikers should prepare accordingly. Lyons is an unusually fit hiker; those less dedicated may wish to take the trail grading scheme with a grain of salt.

This volume is highly recommended to visitors planning a stay in the Anchorage area, and to long-time residents looking for variety in their hikes.

Shawn Lyons' three volume "A Walk-About Guide to Alaska" may be the most popular and heavily-used hiking guide to South Central Alaska. This volume covers selected trails in the Talkeetna Mountains located roughly one hour's driving time North of Anchorage.

Lyons format is the same as his earlier volumes. Entries for each trail include basic data such as the location of the trailhead, the length, elevation gain, and grade of the trail, and a sketch map of the route.

Especially in the Talkeetnas, where snow pack is common into the month of June and many of the access roads are dirt or gravel, attention to directions is important. The spectacular Hatcher Pass is worth a journery by itself, and gives to a variety of trails deep into valleys and over ridges in the mountains. Some of the trails provide access to current or former gold-mining sites in the Talkeetnas. Independence Mine State Park, near the head of Hatcher Pass, provides an excellent base of of operations to reach many of the trails.

The trail selection ranges from easy strolls to multi-day backpacking trips. Lyons interpretive essays and a selection of photographs provide a sense of what to expect. This volume is highly recommended to the visitor or long-time resident looking for some excellent hiking opportunities.

Even though the guide is 10 years old, it is still a good source of information of hiking trails around the greater Anchorage area as the mountains will always be there as they have for thousands of years. Matter of fact, it shows trails that you won't find in newer books anymore, and the author's narratives and experiences and detailed descriptions and maps of trails, are easy to read and follow. I enjoy his books very much.

For anyone that will be heading to Alaska to do a little hiking in the areas covered in this series of books (I have all 3), these books are a must. For everyone else, these are a good read! :-)

Mr. Lyons' system for rating trails is thorough, and easy to understand.