Lower Winner Creek Hand Tram
The Lower Winner Creek trailhead is roughly 45-60 minutes away from Anchorage in the little ski town of Girdwood. Hiking to the hand tram takes roughly 2-3 hours round trip through a scenic forest behind Alyeska Hotel.
- Difficulty: easy
- Location: Girdwood (less than an hour from Anchorage), Alaska
- Kid Friendly: yes
- Dog Friendly: yes (on leash)
- Distance: 6 miles round-trip
- Elevation: about 1600 ft.
- Season: spring, summer, fall
- Lat/Long: 60.9864° N, 149.1066° W
- Directions: If you have GPS look up “Hotel Alyeska.” From Anchorage, drive south on Seward Highway towards Girdwood. Turn left on Alyeska Highway at the Tesoro and drive about five miles to the T-intersection at the bottom of the ski hill. Turn left at Crow Creek Rd and keep driving until you reach another T-intersection. You’ll be able to see the resort now so you can find a parking space, but make sure there are no tow-away signs.
Finding the trailhead seemed a little tricky at first since there were differing directions online. Since this Winner Creek has an upper and lower level (as well as a side entrance to the mine), it gets a little complicated maneuvering the hiking blogs. If you have any issues finding the trailhead ask the hotel staff for help.
To find the main trailhead, head to the ski lift/tram behind the hotel and walk past it. You should be in a meadow-like area behind the resort walking toward the trees to the left. At this point you should be able to make out a clear path and see a sign up ahead.
The drive from Anchorage is beautiful along the Turnagain Arm and offers views of the ocean, faraway mountains, moose, eagles, and sometimes dall sheep on the cliffs. We even watched giant pods of beluga whales swimming near shore once in September, but don’t hold your breath if you’re hoping to see them on the way to Girdwood.
When we drove into Girdwood, we felt like we just entered the mini version of Park City, Utah. It’s an adorable town nestled between two towering mountains and thick forests. Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend too much time in the town itself, but we’ll definitely be back in the summer for the annual Girdwood Forest Fair.
The first 3/4 mile of the hike is on a well-maintained boardwalk and then it turns into a flat and easy dirt trail. Sometimes the trail went uphill or through mud but it wasn’t difficult. We passed dogs on leashes, runners, fat bikes, and families with kids of varying ages. The amount of people we passed made the trail feel a little crowded at times but it was pleasant and mellow so we didn’t mind. And since we couldn’t see too far into the trees and vegetation, it almost felt like we were on a popular hiking trail in the Pacific Northwest.
At one point we passed a couple that seemed to be on a date. The guy looked mildly amused by hiking but the lady clearly didn’t want to be there. They made it to mile 2 (literally less than a mile away from the tram) and turned around because they thought the hike was too long and boring. So I guess a word of caution if you get bored: keep walking. Or maybe pick a different hobby.
Nearly three miles into the hike we made it to Winner Creek Gorge. This fast-moving river is forced into a narrow channel between giant boulders. As we walked across the wooden bridge we felt the water thundering below. We walked down one of the side trails to the water’s edge and enjoyed the cool misty air and listened to the rushing water. The view was so perfect that we decided to stay for about 20 minutes for a quick snack.
We made it to the hand tram in less than five minutes from the gorge. It looked a little nerve-racking and wobbly at first glance, but luckily it’s highly maintained and safe. Zuko absolutely HATED being stuck inside the metal cage but it was so worth it for the beautiful view and exciting ride across. It takes some decent muscle to pull yourself across, so it’s much quicker and easier if you help other hikers and they return the favor.
The hand tram is about 100 feet above Glacier Creek and offers great views. Since other people were waiting to cross we didn’t get to sit in the middle too long, though we managed to get a pretty cute video with our GoPro.
After we stepped off the tram we found a cozy little spot off the trail to rest and drink our victory beers. Since it was getting cold and dark we decided against walking the extra mile to the Crow Creek Mine (which is super close to the other trailhead at Crow Creek Road). Instead, we took the hand tram again and walked back the way we came toward the Alyeska Hotel. All in all, the hike took about 2.5 hours with breaks and didn’t feel strenuous at any point.