We couldn't decide where to hike this weekend. Or if we should do an overnight trip or not. So we made a list of about 10 different hiking trips we want to do. Lindsay decided to pick the first one on the list-- Mt. Magnificent.
The trail head is the same as the trail for the Iron Nipple-- Mile Hi in Eagle River. The landscape has taken on a whole new look with the advent of fall. Rich reds, yellows, and oranges now adorn the mountains and valley. We left Anchorage at around 1 pm and hit the trail about 45 minutes later.
We again circumnavigated the many-locked gate and headed toward the radio tower where we veered left up the trail. Trees were starting to lose their leaves on the 3/4 mile hike up to the saddle. You could see the colorful mountain sides through the holes left by the falling leaves. When we reached the saddle, we turned to the right and continued up the obvious trail. There were still abundant patches of blueberries around, some in striking red fall colors. We stopped to pick a few berries... until Lindsay stumbled upon a bush covered in shit from some animal. That was enough berries for us for the day.
The trail was steep in spots, but well defined. We followed the trail about 2 miles up and down over and around several high points until we reached Mt. Tucker. Several online guides mention that people will often mistake Mt. Tucker for Mt. Magnificent since it is clearly marked with a flag pole and from the peak, there is no obvious trail onward. There is a survey mark that clearly defines Mt. Tucker on its summit.
We took a quick break on Mt. Tucker. It had started to rain and Lindsay's camera died. Time to put on some coats and put the camera in the pack. I checked my new Peakbagger app to see how far to Mt. Magnificent. Only 0.6 miles to go! Now where is the trail down?
We decided to cut straight toward the next ridge. It was a fairly steep descent over loose ground into a low spot before continuing upwards. It turns out if we had back tracked some, there is a (very poorly defined at the turn off point) trail that makes this a more pleasant descent. We took this trail on the way back. It was very well defined until about 100 feet from where it meets up with the trail back to the saddle. We actually lost it at this point. So good luck finding it on your way out!
We hit the low spot and found some semblance of a trail that we followed for a short time before losing it again. We picked our way across the spongy slopes covered in fall colors. There is a trail that leads to the peak of Mt. Magnificent. We ended up (kind of) following it back. It is easy to lose in places.
As we neared the high point that we assumed was the summit and set a path more upwards than lateral, we found a trail again. After about 20 feet we lost it. Lindsay pushed forward across more lightly-brushed slopes. I turned upward and went over the rocks. About 15 feet up, I found a trail that I followed to the summit. Lindsay (and Shiro) met me at the top shortly thereafter.
The views were, well, magnificent. The actual summit was less than impressive. Unlike most peaks in the Chugach that are rocky, or the super cool tarn that is the summit of McHugh, the summit of Mt. Magnificent is a small grassy lump. The grass was brown. And had several large splotches of bird shit on it.
But, back to the view. From the summit, we could see the south for of Eagle River and surrounding mountains, Mt. Baldy, Roundtop, Vista Peak, and Blacktail Rocks in all of their fall glory. Totally worth the 3.6 mile trip out! We spent a few minutes to take it all in before turning back. The clouds were starting to roll in and it was still raining. We were not expecting persistent rain when we left the trail head; we both had wet feet at this point.
We tried to follow the ridge trail to Mt. Tucker. We lost it a handful of times. By the time we reached the low spot under Mt. Tucker, clouds were rolling up the valley and through the dip. We took the bypass trail under Mt. Tucker and met up with the obvious trail back to the saddle and trail head.
We made it back to the car. Shiro jumped in and was out. I think he ran at least twice, if not three times as far as we hiked. Good, maybe he will stay out of trouble for the next 24 hours!