Eagle and Symphony Lakes is a popular hike in Eagle River, Alaska. This hike will lead you to two gorgeous lakes that contrast in color. Eagle Lake is a green milky color and Symphony Lake is a rich blue aquamarine color.
Both of these lakes can be accessed from the South Fork Eagle River Trail, which is located 30 minutes north of Anchorage. Due to the close proximity to Anchorage, this 12-mile roundtrip trail makes an awesome day hike.
The South Fork Eagle River Trail is best used from May to October, but it always comes down to snow conditions. The photos that I share in this post were taken during the month of October.
In this post, I’m going to share how to hike South Fork Eagle River Trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes in Eagle River, Alaska.
Hike Eagle and Symphony Lakes in Eagle River
Traditional Land: Dena’ina (Visit Native-Land.ca to identify whose land you live, work, and play on.)
Distance: 12 miles roundtrip
Time: 5 hours
Elevation Gain: 850 feet
Get the DNR trail map here.
- Bring $5 for daily parking fee
- Arrive early to secure a parking spot, especially during summer weekends
- Pets must be on leash in trailhead parking lot & under control on trails and in the backcountry
- Carry bear spray
- Prepare for wet and muddy conditions
- Hiking poles may be useful to get across the boulder field
How to get to Eagle and Symphony Lakes Trail
- From Anchorage, head north on the Glenn Highway
- Exit the highway at E Eagle River Loop Rd.
- Take the first right at Hiland Rd.
- Follow Hiland Rd. and turn right on South Creek Road
- Take another right on West Creek Drive
- The parking area for the Eagle and Symphony Lakes trailhead will be on your left
Eagle and Symphony Lakes Trailhead
The Eagle and Symphony Lakes Trailhead can be found in Eagle River Valley. The parking lot is big but because of its popularity, parking is limited. It’s best to arrive earlier in the day to secure a parking spot and avoid parking along the road.
The daily parking fee here is $5 and there are public toilets available to use.
Read more: 5 Best Hikes in Eagle River
Climbing the Valley
You’ll start the trail meandering through the evergreen trees as you make a short climb up the valley. The trail will eventually flatten out as you start to traverse the right side of the valley.
The first two miles follow a well-packed and defined trail as you gradually climb about 400 feet in elevation.
Dropping Into the Valley
After about two miles, you will stay left as you start to descend into Eagle River Valley. As you descend about 200 feet to the valley floor, you will cross the first bridge. The bridge goes over a small stream and takes you to the opposite side of the valley.
You will climb a small hill and then you will want to stay right at the fork. If you go straight, it will take you to Hanging Valley. But if you want to get to Eagle and Symphony Lakes then you will want to continue down the valley along the South Forks Valley Trail.
The next few miles are where things tend to be wet, muddy, and buggy. The mosquitoes are awful here in July, so don’t forget your bug repellant.
The trail is not as well defined as the first couple of miles and eventually, you’ll find yourself walking along wood planks. Be careful here so you don’t end up falling into the bog and getting your shoes and socks soaking wet.
If you somehow lose your way, just remember that the rest of the trail follows the left side of the valley. As long as you continue to head down the middle of the valley towards Cantana Peak then you will find your way to the lakes.
You will reach your second bridge crossing in the last mile of the hike (about 5 miles from the trailhead). This bridge takes you over South Fork Eagle River and exits onto the infamous boulder field.
Crossing the Boulder Field
The hardest part of this trail is crossing the massive boulder field. The boulder field is about 2/3 mile long and it will take you longer to cross than you think.
There is a very faint trail through this section and you can try your best to follow the cairns but honestly, it’s better to just make your own path because you will probably never take the same path twice through this section.
My best advice is to try and stay to the left towards Eagle Lake and pay attention to your footwork. Be cautious for your small children and pets that may need assistance over this section.
Eagle and Symphony Lakes
Once you’ve completely hiked through the entire field of boulders, you will set your eyes on two mesmerizing lakes that contrast in color. Eagle Lake (to the left) is a green milky color and Symphony Lake (to the right) is a rich blue aquamarine color.
So, what causes these different colored lakes? Well, each lake has its own set of mineral deposits that were created by glaciers. These minerals affected the color of the tarns that they left behind.
You will find an old, octagon-shaped structure in between the two lakes, which makes a great place to eat and enjoy the view.
Read more: Hike Barbara Falls in Eagle River
Beyond Eagle and Symphony Lakes
This area of Eagle River connects to many other hiking trails including Hanging Valley Lake, Hunter Pass, Cantana Peak, Eagle Peak, Hurdygurdy Mountain, Flute Glacier, Triangle Peak, and Rendezvous Ridge.
Camping and Fishing
There are plenty of places to camp near the lakes. I prefer camping along the backside of Eagle Lake. Camping is only permitted over ½ mile from the trailhead and open fires are prohibited, except in portable camp stoves.
This area is abundant with wildlife and you may run into moose or bears. Make sure to bring the right gear with you if you plan on staying in the area overnight.
It’s possible to fish in the lakes because ADF&G stocks the lakes with trout and grayling.
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Do you have any questions on hiking Eagle and Symphony Lakes in Eagle River? Let me know in the comments.