My first Fat Bike tour… ~20 miles to the toe of Knik Glacier from the Old Glenn Highway Bridge, 8.5 hours roundtrip. As of Dec. 1, the sun never hits the valley floor! We rented four fatbikes from Alaska Pacific University, and borrowed three more. The bikes handle like tanks! Weaving between the icebergs was incredible. With Bill Brooks, Mel, Tomas and Heidi Jensen, Meaghan Loughlin, and Josh Mumm.
I tried this trip in late January in a small group. A few tips for those who are also thinking about doing this trip:
— Start from the big parking lot somewhere down Sullivan Road, not the tiny parking lot immediately to the right after crossing the bridge.
— Don’t bike on the river. There is thin ice and open water on the river year-round, partially because warm water from Eklutna Lake is pumped into the river from the hydro station. Standing on the ice on the riverbank in late January, we were able to break a patch of thin ice with a branch, revealing at least 5 feet of dark, cold, fast-moving water. If you fall in that, you’re done. There were snowmachine tracks all over the river at the time. That doesn’t mean the ice is thick enough to ride on.
— The area right around the river can be a few degrees warmer than Butte, or Palmer. The path/road can get extremely icy. During some conditions, studs would be really, really nice.
— There can be thin ice and overflow on the streams you have to cross.
— There’s a lot of motor traffic for the first half of this route. 4-wheelers, snowmachines, cars, trucks, go-karts, etc.
— You probably don’t need a Fat Bike for this route most of the time. 2.1 or 2.3 tires with studs would be faster and much better on the ice.
We were turned around about halfway by the rough conditions. This trip is probably better to do later in the winter, but before the streams break up. March sounds about perfect.
The Eklutna power plant tailrace is way below your starting point and doesn’t affect the river above, but there is lots of groundwater input thus the precarious ice conditions you experienced, which will continue all winter in some spots.. I was wondering though if you could access the glacier from the southside of the braid plain, far less motorized traffic on that side. Maybe start at the Knik River Lodge.
We’ve gone in from the south side in the summer, you have to cross the Knik after Hunter Creek where it pinches up against some small cliffs. Once you cross, it is back to the main route with the normal winter traffic. Still a cool trip, and shorter. We asked permission to park at a lodge, I can’t remember the name. The owner was very friendly and had no hesitation letting us park there.
Have you been out there in 2015?
Nope. We tried from the Jim Ck side mid Jan and there was too much open water, overflow. I heard Hunter Creek was still open at that time. I’m not sure what it looks like now.