Keystone Canyon Pack Trail

Partly due the extreme hardships experienced on the Valdez Glacier Route to the interior, a military pack trail was proposed to extend from Valdez to Eagle City (Fort Egbert) located on the Yukon River. The southern portion of the trail was ready for packhorses on June 17, 1899. Starting from the gravel flat of Lowe River Valley, it ascends the mountain with many switchbacks and turns in order to maintain a suitable grade for horses and dogs.

At various points along the lower track, the rock formations used to elevate the trail above the swampy base may be seen. At approximately 7/10 of a mile a stream is reached which exhibits the original crossing technique used at that time: retaining walls (logs) and the space thus enclosed filled up with loose rock through which the stream could pass.

Occasionally glimpses of the original telegraph wire (#9, galvanized) may be seen. This was installed during July 1900 and connected with Fort Egbert in 1902. Due to heavy snowslides in Keystone Canyon, a submarine cable was installed in 1903. This part of the original pack trail was in use from 1899 to just past the turn of the century, at which time the northern section was widened for wagons.

For some 90 years the trail lay abandoned until it was relocated and cleared during 1997 and 1998. The clearing was done with hand tools in order to retain something of the original spirit of 1899.

From the Old Richardson Highway Loop (blacktop) at approximately 12.5 mile the trail head can be found. Ascending through spruce and hemlock the tract reaches a set of switchbacks at about 1/2 mile. Good views of the Lowe River valley can be observed from this location.

Continuing through forest, the trail opens to the right with a spectacular view across Keystone canyon. Another short ascent and one drops into the Horsetail Falls valley where the trail runs up the valley to cross a small footbridge and then down the valley to the overlook at Horsetail Falls parking area.

Continuing along the trail which starts its descent to join the wagon road, a steep section will be reached where a hand rope is strung along the track for those who care to use it. This was a series of short switchbacks which snowslides from the gully above destroyed. At about 2.3 miles the Wagon Road will be reached and then right for 2 tenths of a mile to the Bridal Veil Falls parking area.

The distance along the highway from Bridal veil parking area to the the trail head is 1.8 miles and takes about 35 minutes to walk if only one care is used.

—Map and Compilation by Jim Shephard, Valdez Parks and Recreation