By Teresa McPherson and Doug Ballou
A popular Anchorage trail brings Alaskan wilderness to the city.June 01, 2007
It's a few minutes before 5 p.m. when I glance out my office window. I have maybe 45 minutes before the sun sinks behind spruce trees heavy with February snow. And that's enough. I strap on snowshoes and hop a shortcut behind my office building that connects to the Campbell Tract Loop Trail. The tight bands in my neck and shoulders relax to the rhythmic movement of my snowshoes. I find the pace that feels right, and settle into my walk.
My office is exactly two minutes by foot from Alaska's newest National Recreation Trail, and that makes me pretty lucky. But I'm not alone. The Bureau of Land Management recorded more than 100,000 user visits to the Campbell Tract trail system in 2007. But you'd never know it by looking, for this little jewel nestled in the heart of Anchorage receives excellent care from both BLM and users of the trail.
Campbell Tract Loop Trail became a National Recreation Trail in 2007, and is located on BLM's scenic 730-acre Campbell Tract in Anchorage. Three popular trail segments comprise the multi-use Loop Trail: Moose Track, Viewpoint, and Lynx trails. The trail winds gently through a spruce and hardwood forest, with just enough curves and knolls to keep visitors wondering what's around the next dip or turn.
The Loop Trail includes both improved and natural surface trails open to year-round, non-motorized recreational activities, such as mountain biking, skijoring, cross country and skate skiing, snowshoeing, equestrian use, walking, and hiking. It's also a great place to spot Alaskan wildlife species, including black and brown bear, lynx, moose, bald eagles, owls, coyotes, and the occasional wolf.
History buffs can glimpse military history where the Loop Trail follows taxiways and tank trails dating back to World War II, when Campbell Garrison served as a satellite field to nearby Elmendorf Field in the early 1940s. Remnants of WWII aircraft parking pads, foxholes, and defensive earthworks can still be seen today.
The Campbell Tract trail system is a model of stewardship through partnership. Each year, thousands of volunteers assist with trail upgrades and maintenance activities. Ten partner organizations and user groups help with projects such as winter grooming, trail brushing, trash collection, spreading wood chips or gravel, and yes, even scooping dog poop!
The Loop Trail and Campbell Tract are a hub for trail users and user groups to share information and resolve user conflicts. Monthly user group meetings provide a forum for users to discuss issues and concerns, and find collaborative solutions to multi-use trail challenges.
The Loop Trail also serves as an outdoor classroom for the BLM Campbell Creek Science Center, where students of all ages get up close and personal with Alaska's natural world. Visitors can help with trail projects on National Trails Day (June), join a guided bird walk (May), sample the newest outdoor gear on Winter Trails Day (February), or attend a Fireside Chat or Midsummer Night lecture on topics such as wildlife viewing, bear safety, outdoor survival skills, and much more.
Throughout the year, Alaska's newest National Recreation Trail plays an important role in the everyday life, education, and health of thousands of Anchorage residents and visitors. But on a brisk February afternoon, all that matters to one contented snowshoe enthusiast is that it's here for me to enjoy.
Campbell Tract National Recreation Trail is located on the east side of Anchorage at the BLM Campbell Tract, approximately seven miles from Stevens International Airport. The Campbell Tract is an administrative site for the BLM Anchorage Field Office, which manages the tract's 12+ miles of outdoor recreation trails, and another 19 million acres of public lands throughout southcentral Alaska.
Two trailheads offer direct access to Campbell Tract Loop Trail: Smokejumper Trailhead, at 68th Avenue and Elmore Road, and Campbell Airstrip Trailhead, at mile 1.1 of Campbell Airstrip Road. Parking is free at both trailheads.