Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I just drive to the Trailhead myself and hike Flattop for free?
Yes. You can and you should. If you own, rented, or have a friend with a car, you do not need our service. Save money by driving to the trailhead yourself and hike whenever you want for as long as you want.
There is a $5 self-serve parking fee. Also, if the parking lot is full, do not park on the side of the road. The "No Parking Fire Lane" signs are for real. There is a $200 fine and it's enforced. If the lot is full some people park about 1/2 mile down the road below the curve where there is a wide shoulder and there are no "No Parking Fire Lane" signs. Click here for complimentary directions on how to drive to and from Flattop
2. Do I need to give a deposit or credit card number to sign up?
There is no deposit if you are by yourself or part of a group of three or less people. So that we can retain this flexible policy, if your plans change it is imperative that you EMAIL, TEXT or CALL to cancel. If you do not get a prompt acknowledgment, please follow-up using a different form of communication. Also, it is a good idea to reaffirm your reservation on the morning of the hike via text or by checking-in early at Downtown Bicycle Rental.
For groups of four or more there is a $21 non-refundable deposit for the fourth person and each additional person after the fourth. For example: $42 non-refundable deposit for five people, $64 for six people and so on. Seats for four or more people can be reserved in advance without an advance deposit unless it is less than ten days before the scheduled date. If within ten days of the scheduled hike we haven't phoned you for the deposit (for your security your cc number will be punched directly into our machine), then please call us.
3. How OFTEN do seven OR LESS PEOPLE (minimum required) WANT TO GO?
In June, July and August, unless it is raining, the shuttle not only goes up almost every day with seven or more people, it often sells out. In April and May and after Labor Day in September, the shuttle might not get the minimum of seven people to run. However it will still run if the hikers who do want to go make up the difference in revenue to equal $161. (7 x $23 = $161.) Therefore, if six people sign up it costs $26 per person. Five people - $32. If there are just four people it is cheaper for the group to share the cost of a cab than it would be to pay us $40 per person. (See FAQ 9.)
4. What footwear is best for this hike?
After all the snow has melted (sometime in late May) a hiking sneaker with good traction or light hiking boot is best. In early Spring when there is still snow and mud on the trail, a hiking boot is required. Also inin early spring, for those that wish to hike to the top, gloves are required because you'll be grabbing into the snow hand-over-hand on the headwall just below the summit. After the snow melts sometime in May, as you can see from the many summer photos on this site, this is a well-maintained trail with firm footing. Where it is steep, there are railroad tie steps and solid rock. During summer, most people find hiking boots are too heavy and slow but some still wear them because they want ankle support.
5. What should I wear?
Bring light layers and a breaker that you can peel off as you heat up during the hike. It's better to over-pack than under-pack because you can assess the weather at the trailhead and leave behind in the van whatever you decide you don't actually need on the hike. Be prepared for cold, wind, and rain but also be prepared for hot and sunny in which case all you'll need is a t-shirt and shorts.
For those that wish to summit, current conditions (late April) require gloves. Any type of light glove that will keep your hands warm when you jam them into the snow near the top will suffice.
6. Can YOU pick me up or drop me off anywhere other than downtown?
Because no one likes a milk run, after leaving downtown, there are only two places where we will stop to pick up additional hikers. The first is at the water fountain on the south side of the library in mid-town. It is located on 36th between A and Denali. The second is at the university in front of the Alaska Airlines Sports Arena. Advance arrangements and a non-refundable full payment is required to be picked up in midtown or the University.
On the way back from the mountain we ask if anyone wants to get off at the Alaska Zoo. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the Zoo is open until 9 p.m. and it has a free shuttle to downtown. We can also stop in midtown to drop you off along 36th Avenue or A Street.
7. What happens if the shuttle sells out?
We start a wait list and if someone who has signed-up doesn't show-up we trigger it at 12:30. If everyone who signed up shows up, we introduce people on the wait list to one another and explain the other ways to get to and from the mountain. There is strength in numbers. If there are four people on the wait list, they can simply split the cost of a cab which is the same price they would have paid the shuttle. They exchange sell phone numbers and agree to meet back at the trailhead after their hike at a time of their choosing. If there are less than four people, there are other ways and they are explained below at FAQ 9.
8. can i store luggage at your store or in the van while i hike?
Yes. There is no charge to store luggage at our store. Items left in the locked van while you hike will be safe.
9. if the shuttle does not run, how else can I get to and from Flattop?
- If four or more people are willing to do the Hike/Bike Combo we will go because then the van can leave after it drops you off. When you're done hiking, unlock your rented bike and ride it with a very favorable incline back downtown. Cost: $40 per person. Click here to see how the Hike/Bike Combo works.
- Pay a cab $45 each way. We will introduce you to others who also want to take a cab so you can split the $45 each way cab fare. $90 round trip divided by 4 = $22.50 which is almost exactly the same per person cost as if you took the shuttle with us. The biggest difference is our van remains parked at the trailhead while you hike. Also the van is roomier and our driver points out some of the sites on the circuit route to/from the trailhead.
- Take a cab ($45) to the trailhead with a bike in the trunk. If another person wants to do this, we'll introduce you to them so you can split the fare. We will help you load the 1-3 rental bikes in the cab and brief you on the best way to bike back downtown.
- Bike 16 miles to the trailhead, hike, then bike back. The first half of the bike ride is flat. Then there is a one-mile-long steep hill climb. After that first hill it's slightly uphill for the next two miles. However after that, for the last four miles there is approximately 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Beginning at the intersection of Hillside Drive and Upper Huffman Road, it's very, very steep. (See picture of road grade on Hike/Bike Combo page.) You must be in great shape to bike all the way to the trailhead and still have enough energy to hike. Be sure to bring some healthy food and a couple of bottles of water.
- Rent a bike and put it on the front of the # 2 People Mover bus (fare $2) and take it to the corner of Lake Otis Boulevard and Abbott Road. Click here for a map of the route and here for the Schedule. From there, bike UP the remaining seven miles to the trailhead. The bus departs from the Downtown Transit Center which is on 6th Avenue between G and H. After arriving at the trailhead, lock up your bike, hike, then when done hiking, ride it mostly downhill to downtown which should take between about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Take the People Mover # 2 bus with your bike on the front of it to Lake Otis and Abbott, then call a cab and pay it $20 to take you and your bike to the trailhead. Since the cabby will burn a lot of gas driving up the steep road and stress their brakes driving down, a $5 to $10 tip would be appropriate.
- Take the # 2 bus without a bike to Abbott and Lake Otis and pay a cab $20 to take you to the trailhead. When you're done hiking call a cab. Pay the $20 fare back to Lake Otis and Abbott where you can catch the inbound number 2 bus back downtown.
- Bike the Chester Creek Trail to the University then bike Elmore Road to Hillside Drive which has one big hill climb and then hold up a sign at the intersection of Hillside and Upper Huffman that says "Flattop Trailhead." (We'll give you paper and sharpies to make the sign at the bike rental.) Since almost everyone making the slow turn onto Upper Huffman is going to the trailhead, and since many vehicles are also pick-up trucks or cars with bike racks on the back, you won't have to wait long before an active, positive, helpful outdoors person stops to spare you the tough bike ride to the trailhead. Of course once you're at the trailhead with your bike you've made it because after you're done hiking you can ride your bike (mostly downhill) back into the city.