I just needed one minute, after I summitted, to take in every angle of the 360-degree view from atop Bodenburg Butte: the Matanuska River valley, the Talkeetna Mountains, the Knik River valley, Pioneer Peak and the Knik Glacier.

I could see it all after an hour-long drive and a 1.5-mile traverse from the West Butte trailhead, near Palmer. It was windy, but in dozens of trips up the Butte, I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t.

My summer hiking log usually starts with the Butte. I get anxious for summer hiking in March, when the snow starts to melt, but few trails offer those summer-like conditions I’m yearning for.

Bodenburg Butte didn’t disappoint.

The first mile of trail is hardened with gravel, the middle section is dirt, but it wasn’t soppy although my dog, Brodie, did find enough mud to turn his white belly brown.

The last portion of the hike is the most physically straining. Stairs, stairs, and more stairs left a somewhat nagging pain in my hind parts for the following couple of days.

It took Brodie and me 45 minutes to reach the top. I may be a little out of shape, but I’ll blame our slow ascent on his wandering nose, my love for photography and the jaw dropping view.

When we finished our climb, we sat on a wooden bench that overlooks Pioneer Peak. Brodie was just as content as I was to sit and take in the moment.

Better safe than sorry

I probably brought too much food. I never touched the trail mix or the apple. From top to bottom, the trek took me about an hour-and-fifteen-minutes. Nonetheless, I packed like I was about to embark on a soul searching walk through the woods of rural Alaska.

I wasn’t.

I have written more stories about simple, but ultimately fatal, mistakes in Alaska’s backcountry than I care to count. I have more of my own close-call stories than I’d care to admit. I know better than to be unprepared.

So, in the same red and black daypack my parents gave me as a Christmas gift when I was in elementary school, I stuffed my rain jacket, the food, a water dish, water, a can of bear spray, a hat, a pair of gloves, a first aid kit, my ice cleats and extra socks.

You’ll probably read this again in future columns, but I’d rather pack something I didn’t need, than need something I neglected to pack.

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters echoed a similar sentiment when I spoke with her in mid-April. It’s hard to nail down exactly how many hiker- in-distress calls troopers receive in the spring, because as Peters explained, the numbers don’t show hiker-specific data. Distress calls could come from hunters and others in the backcountry.

But speaking in general, she said, in the spring some people assume the trails will be as clear as the roads in Anchorage and that way of thinking can be potentially hazardous.

“Just because it’s summer down here, doesn’t mean it will be summer up there,” Peters said.

So I packed for summer and winter.

What you need in your pack: Bug spray, a first aid kit, bear spray, a snack, water, and a wind breaker. If you have a dog, it also needs to be on a leash. Pack one. The trail is narrow and it’s a family hike. Be courteous. Leave your headphones at home; the trail is a popular moose hangout. You need to know where they are and if they are close.

How to get there

If you’re starting in Anchorage, head north on the Glenn Highway. Take the exit for the Old Glenn Highway and take a right at the stop sign at the top of the off ramp. Follow the road, over the Knik River bridge and continue for about four miles. Turn left on Bodenburg Butte Road — not the first Bodenburg Butte road, the second one after the Butte. Travel about a half mile, then take a left on Mothershed Lane. The parking lot will be on the right.

Who should make this hike?

This is a great early-season hike for hikers who only hike in the summer and need to get back in the swing of things. It’s also good for families, the trail isn’t risky and the hike is gradual. Maybe you’re someone who wants to look at the Valley from a view that only seems like it would be possible from the state’s tallest peaks.

Or maybe you’re just a girl with her dog looking for a quiet place to have a moment to themselves.


Megan Edge is a lifelong Alaskan residing in West Anchorage. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of KTVA. “Living Alaska” is a regular feature, appearing on KTVA.com, about experiencing the Last Frontier through the outdoors. 

Megan Edge can be reached by email, on Twitter and Facebook.