This ridge run traverses over three Chugach State Park peaks: Vista (#86 at 4,987 feet), Mile High (#72 at 5,331 feet), and Magnificent (#105 at 4,272 feet), plus several other named peaks with less prominence. This run can be performed in either direction, but logistics are required as this is a point-to-point run to/from the Baldy and Mile High trailheads.
Most people tend to start at Baldy as there is less elevation gain going that way, but I suggest starting from Mile High as the descent is more palatable with tired legs. Elevation gain of this run is all over the map as this page shows 6,400 feet, my Suunto says 6,700 feet, Strava says 7,160 feet, and Google Earth says 7,000 feet.
There is no water along the trail as this follows a dry ridgeline. Snow may be present as late as July. You could carry less water and descend down to Meadow Creek for a refill at mile 4.2. You could then ascend the west rib up to the summit of Mile High, but the travel will not be as pleasant as the route mapped. This would shorten the run a bit in exchange for water and elevation gain.
Weather is critical on this trail; if you reach Magnificent spur and the weather does not look clear, go back to Mile High saddle trailhead. The trail over Mt. Mile High, Vista, and Blacktail all require decent visibility and if you cannot see, the trail could get a bit dangerous.
I will describe this run as mapped, going counter-clockwise from Mile High to Baldy. From Mile High trailhead, the Mount Magnificent Route
is followed for the first 3 miles until you reach the first true summit of Mount Magnificent. Continuing east along the ridge, you follow a goat trail that appears and disappears through a combination of rock and tundra until you reach a fork in the ridge at Peak 1541. Continuing east will take you to Mount Significant and Ram Valley, but taking a sharp left onto the north-northwest ridgeline brings you up to the scree-covered Mile High Peak.
The closer you get to the summit of Mile High, the more scree there is along the trail, but the scree isn't terribly loose, so travel isn't significantly compromised. This helps you mentally as you encounter a few false peaks along the way. An extended break is well deserved once you reach the peak, as you have great panoramic views of Peters Creek and Eagle River valleys and an interesting angle of the Twin Peaks and Pioneer Peak. At this point, you're about halfway done with mileage and about two-thirds done with elevation gain.
Descending down along the ridge, the trail is very easy to pick up as the rock changes from sharper shale on the south side of the mountain to a more rounded sandstone. As you ascend the south ridge of Peak 1510, you'll come across a nice goat trail that cuts a nice shortcut across the face of the peak to the saddle below Vista. Runing up to the saddle, Vista looks pretty menacing with what looks like loose scree slopes halfway up to the peak. However, you breathe a huge sigh of relief as it turns out that you can easily go around any loose scree. The summit of Vista Peak is a fairly small point, which was somewhat of a surprise as the top looks rather flat from a distance.
The descent down the north side of Vista may be the most hazardous section of the run, but it is not terrible if you are comfortable with a very short section of loose scree. If you are running with others, practice safe rock chute travel techniques through this short section. Continuing west-northwest along the ridge, the travel is very pleasant with rolling hills all the way to Blacktail Rocks. Please refer to the Blacktail Rocks Route
and Mt. Baldy Trail
for the descent down to the Baldy trailhead.
This run is rated as difficult for its distance, elevation gain, and some tricky terrain.