Back Side of Flattop – Best way to do Anchorage’s famous hike

Last Updated on January 31, 2023

Flattop Mountain is Anchorage’s most famous hike and with good reason. It’s close to town, has amazing views and a big, flat top to spend some time taking in the view, hanging out with a friend and enjoying lunch. This post is about going the backway up the “backside” of flattop, which is a much better and more enjoyable trail than the main trail from the Glen Alps trailhead. Like the main “front” trail, it provides extensive and breathtaking views all around you along the entire length of the trail.

This route to Flattop Mountain is 3.8 miles round trip with 1500 feet of elevation gain.

The Anchorage area and much of Southcentral Alaska is the homeland of the Dena’ina Athabascan People.

Parking Pass: Chugach State Park (Day Pass $5, Annual Pass $60)

Dog Friendly: yes, on leash (backside is definitely better with a dog than the front way, since it is a trail the whole way without the rock scramble at the top that the main route has).

Why take the Backside Trail to Flattop?

The backside trail to Flattop is the best way to go! This is one of the best things to do in Anchorage. There are two main reasons why this route is better than the “main” or “front” trail to Flattop:

  1. It’s less crowded (more people go the other way)
  2. The trail is in better shape and you don’t have to do the rock scramble at the very top, the trail takes you straight there

When is the Best time to hike it?

Save this hike for a sunny day when you can see the spectacular views of Anchorage, Turnagain arm and surrounding mountains of the Chugach Range!

There are people who hike this trail in the winter, but I don’t don’t recommend that because there is significant avalanche danger here. Save this hike for summer unless you’re super on top of and experienced with avalanche awareness and safety.

There are blueberries here in August, although this trail is popular and they tend to get picked quickly. The surrounding mountains also have lots of berries.

How to get to the Backside Flattop Trailhead

This is a different trailhead from the main trailhead (Glen Alps Trailhead) for Flattop Mountain. The backside trailhead is at the Rabbit Creek Trailhead, shared with the trail to Rabbit Lake (another excellent Anchorage hike).

From Anchorage, take the Seward Highway south and turn left on DeArmoun Road. Follow it until it becomes Canyon Road and then Upper Canyon Road. You’ll see the trailhead on the left. There are multiple trails that leave from here, including the trail to Rabbit Lake.

Find a parking spot and look for the marked trail heading up on the left side of the road.

A trail heading up a meadow with a meadow in the background. In the foreground is a brown trail sign which says "backside flattop trail" with an arrow and a "no bikes"
Starting up the backside flattop trail

Backside Flattop Trail Description

The backside of Flattop is steep, but the trail is in good condition overall. Incredible views are everywhere right from the beginning which helps take your mind off the climb! Make sure to look up as you leave your car and you’ll see your destination, Flattop.

The rocky summit of a mountain surrounded by meadow and a few trees on a sunny day
Looking up at Flattop from the trailhead for the backside trail on UpperCanyon Road

There are some rocks to navigate in the upper part of the trail but overall there aren’t too many hazards and big steps to climb (a challenge for my short legs!).

The backside flattop mountain trail with small trees and shrubs next to it and a forested hillside in the distance. It's a sunny but hazy day, you can just make out Cook Inlet in the distance
Small trees, shrubs dominate the first part of the trail. The Cook Inlet is visible in the distance

For the first half of the hike, you’ll climb steadily through a series of switchbacks. There are some small trees, fireweed and more shrubs here than further up Flattop. You’ll have increasingly good views of the Chugach range mountains as well as the water of Turnagain arm as you climb. Creatively named Peak 2 and Peak 3 are the nearest mountains, and there are trails that go off to each of these. You’ll stay on the main trail (keep left at both intersections).

A trail across a rocky meadow in the foreground. In the background is a forested hillside and more distant mountains and water
Views towards Turnagain arm on a hazy sunny day from the backside Flattop trail. The trailhead is in the valley in the middle left of the photo

About halfway up you’ll begin a long traverse along a slope and in addition to the mountains and the water you’ll also see parts of Anchorage ahead of you.

Next, you’ll come to a saddle with a short side trail providing views to the north for the first time. Make sure to stop here for a few minutes and take in the view and grab a snack for the last bit of the trail that will take you to the summit of flattop mountain!

A woman stands on a trail looking at mountains in the distance. She has a blue backpack and is wearing a hat and sunglasses. She is using hiking poles and wearing gray long pants and a light green tank top
Enjoying the view from the saddle below Flattop

The last half mile or so is less steep with the views continuing to get better and better. At this point you’ll be on the rocky side of flattop and keep your eyes out for rocks on the trail. Before you know it, you’ll come out on to a wide, flat and rocky summit. This is the summit of Flattop mountain!

There’s a tall flagpole and you’ll see hikers coming up the final rock scramble to the summit from the “main” trail on the other side of the mountain. Don’t expect to find solitude at the summit but there’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

The wide, flat, rocky summit of flattop mountain. There is a mountain range in the distance on a sunny day with a few puffy clouds
Views abound in all directions from the flat and rocky summit of Flattop

Make a plan to spend some time here enjoying your lunch or snacks at the full 360 degree view of downtown Anchorage, Cook Inlet and the Chugach Range.

If it’s a clear enough day, you can even see Denali from the summit of flattop, along with Sleeping Lady (Mt Susitna).

the rocky summit of flattop mountain with a trail below and houses and trees and roads far below. In the foreground is a paraglider with a red parachute
A paraglider flying just off the Flattop Mountain summit. The main (front) trail up Flattop is visible below the rocks with parts of Anchorage in the distance

You might also see paragliders here, enjoying a cruise on the thermals.

When you’re ready to head out, follow the trail back the way you came to the trailhead and your car.

A rocky meadow with forested hillsides in the background along with the ocean in the hazy distance. Text reads: Hiking the backside of flattop mountain anchorage alaska
Jennie Flaming on InstagramJennie Flaming on LinkedinJennie Flaming on PinterestJennie Flaming on Youtube
Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!