A Not-So-Flat Hike to Flat Top

With sprawling views of the municipality of Anchorage, its muddy shores and the eastward mountains, the hike up Flat Top is well worth the crowded climb.

Flat Top from the start of the hike.

One of the most popular hikes in Alaska because of its close proximity to Anchorage, this 3-mile hike climbs 1250 feet to a flat lookout that gives the perch its name. A moderate trail with portions of gravel, wood stairs, switchbacks and a rocky climb to the final lookout, the Flat Top hike is an easy half-day trial for all ages. Carved by ancient glaciers, the top surface offers a great refuge for photographers on a clear day to savor in the sweet views of this mountainous state – just be prepared for lots of wind!

If you are not up for the hike – or don’t have the time- you can also get wonderful views of Anchorage, Flat Top and the valley from the lower parking lot. However, be warned that parking is limited for this trail head and the more sun, the more tourists and locals on the trail.

Trail up Flat Top

The lower portion of the trail

Gravel portion of the trail

Gravel portion of the trail

Looking out over Anchorage

Windy, Flat Top hike

I made it to the top – even with the wind!

Just beyond the clouds is the bay.

View east from the top of Flat Top

Climbing into the Canopy in the McKenzie River Valley

Surrounded by a rainbow of green and the scent of fresh spring forest, I hung out with my feet dangling and wide grin on my face. Nothing could ruin my spirits – especially at 100 feet off the ground! Gazing over the tree tops in the HA Andrews’ Experimental Forest while attached to an old growth, I breathed in the light and clean McKenzie River Valley air and took in the moment of my first successful tree climb.

I had the joy this past week of taking a tree top adventure with Pacific Tree Climbing Institute. Based out of Blue River, Pacific Tree Climbing Institute is a registered Oregon outfitter that takes visitors on an amazing experience to explore the lush and alive forests of the Pacific Northwest. Using ropes and harnesses, the duo who owns the company, assist, train and teach guests of all ages and abilities how to climb into the forest canopy.

Using my legs to boosted myself upward and then gliding my hands up the rope, I slowly but surely moved my way up the tree. The further up in the tree we progressed, the more the beautiful little details of nature popped out: the bark with its rough surface and color like rich, dark chocolate and sweet smell, the hanging gray-green beard-like moss, and the rush of the nearby the river. In the tree top, the forest fully came alive in an animated orchestra of textures, smells and sights.

Only for a brief moment at the beginning was I afraid – where the heart quickly skipped a beat – but amazingly the higher I went the more confident and exciting the trek became. The first one to the top and the last down, I was a kid again as I hung about the limbs in that evergreen park.

Beyond just leading quick day climbs, Pacific Tree Climbing Institute also offers overnight trips in the tree canopy and educational programs. Find out more about Pacific Tree Climbing Institute and book an adventure that you won’t ever, ever forget!

Check out more photos from my climb:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dueling Skies at Sun Peaks Resort

If you are skier you know that weather can make or break your day on the mountain. But the same is also true: any weather is good weather as long as it adds to the powder accumulation. On my recent trip into interior British Columbia to take on Sun Peaks Resorts varied slopes, I experienced the power of weather as it dueled for my love on the mountain.

Driving up Highway 1 from Washington State, the roads were bare – hardly any snow even clung to the road ditches. Worry started to sink in. Back in the Oregon, I couldn’t even fathom that Canada wasn’t getting dumped on. That week in the Cascade Mountains, the local ski resorts received inches of snow. Some of that must be falling in Canada then too? Well with blank roads – that’s right not blanketed roads – we quickly sailed into Kamloops without a flurry falling.

“Did we take a wrong turn somewhere back there?” My mom asked in jest. “It looks like we are in Montana [in summer].” With brown, dry and windblown rolling hills stretching as far as the eyes could see, it was hard to image that we were in fact in Canada, but we refused to give up hope. Finally climbing a little in elevation, whitish brown patches started to spring up between the pine trees and then bend after bend it transformed the brown valley floor into a white carpet of crunchy slush. In the short 30 minute drive from Kamloops north to Sun Peaks Resort my excitement increased like the snow-pack. Two days of awesome downhill skiing glimmering in white piles.

Day 1: The Snow

One the first day of skiing we woke up to snow flurries lightly falling to ground and low clouds hugging the mountainous terrain. As the soft stuff padded the spring slopes, my skies sailed through the runs with delightful ease – making even my spastic turns feel picture perfect.

My family at Sun Peaks Resort

Starting the day off in the snow. Here I am with my parents at the base of the mountain.

Looking up the Sunburst Chairlift

Looking up the Sunburst Chairlift

With 3,678 acres of skiable terrain at Sun Peaks Resort, we skied down the runs in silent solitude. The peaceful slopes and cozy tree-filled runs made the socked-in day about me and the mountain, nothing else. It was a wonderful, rejuvenating experience – breaking away from technology, my iPhone and work – and focusing on nature and simple the ground and snow before me.

Empty slopes at Sun Peaks Resort

Empty slopes at Sun Peaks Resort

Day 2: The Sun

With blue skies bouncing from tree top to tree top, the mountain came alive on day two. Showcasing the terrain’s variety and Canada’s beautiful, vast wilderness, the sunshine warmed up the slopes for soft skiing but in a different way than the day before. The fresh powder melted but the runs still remained fun and fast to carve through – plus the views from the top were spectacular!

Skiing down one of the forested run on Morrisey Mountain.

View from the "Top of the World" - aka the highest chairlift point 2,080m (6,824')

With seven chairlifts, multiple trails and glades and a fantastic variety of runs (10% novice, 58% intermediate, 32% expert), Sun Peaks Resorts’ mountains makes it hard to even repeat a single run in two days.

My mom stopped on the ski run with the blue skies and white topped trees behind her.

Thanks to the kind folks at Outdoors Northwest Magazine for the awesome ski package! I won two nights’ accommodation to Nancy Greene’s Cahility Lodge in Sun Peaks Resort plus 2, two-day lift tickets for this end-of-winter vacation from a twitter contest. A ski in, ski out hotel right at the base of the lifts on British Columbia’s second largest ski mountain, the Cahility Lodge made the ski weekend feel simple, relaxed and 100% about the slopes – as any ski trip should be! Follow @OutdoorsNWMag on twitter for fantastic articles about the outdoor recreation, hiking, running, fun contests and more!

Discover the winter wonders and summer surprises at Sun Peaks Resort.

Read my wine blog post about the delicious Après Ski options at Sun Peaks Resort.

What is your favorite place to ski? Comment below!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: