Hiking Alaska's Kenai Peninsula
For those who enjoy hiking and wilderness treks, the Kenai Peninsula hosts many miles of hiking trails coursing through pristene natural surroundings. Some trails are ideal for day-outings or family adventures while others are for more heartier souls who are up to a challenge.
This is just a partial list covering those trails that are the most popular. The USGS topographical maps for the Kenai Peninsula identifies many others, some originating from the gold rush days.
For additional information:
U.S.D.A. Forest Service
Chugach National Forest
Seward Ranger Station
Seward, Alaska 99664
- Byron Glacier Trail
- Russian Lakes Trail
- Resurrection Pass Trail System
- Ptarmigan Creek Trail
- Lost Lake Trail
- Coastal Trail
- Harding Icefield Trail
- Exit Glacier Trails
- Fuller Lakes Trail
- Skilak Lookout Trail
- Grewingk Glacier Trail
#1 Byron Glacier Trail
(0.8 mile long an elevation change of 100 feet)
Here's a hike for the whole family. Turn on to Portage Glacier Road and drive six miles to the trail head at the end of the road (past the Begich-Boggs Visitors Center). This trail is well-maintained and wide during the first half with the second half being rocky with small stream crossings. The trail ends below the glacier. Great mountain scenery. There is a high avalanche danger during the winter months in this area.
The nice thing about this hike is that you are in the same area as Portage Glacier. There is a very nice visitors center here, beautiful scenery of iceberg-filled Portage Lake and a boat tour to the face of Portage Glacier. Another sidetrip in this area is the Sockeye Salmon Viewing Area next to the road where you can view spawning fish in crystal clear waters. These fish are a late run and will not arrive until late July or early August.
#2 Russian Lakes Trail
(21 miles long with an elevation gain of 768 feet)
This trail begins at Russian River Campground at Mile 52 Sterling Highway. Entry into this campground is regulated as overnight camping and day-use (12 hour limit). The first three miles of the trail to Lower Russian Lake is a good family trail that follows along the Russian River. Thousands of sockeye salmon migrate up this stream each summer to spawn in the Russian Lakes. The Russian River Falls afford the hiker an opportunity to watch migrating salmon jump this obstacle. Refer to the salmon run charts for this drainage to find out the optimum time for visiting the falls. There are two distinct runs of salmon each summer beginning in May and ending in early August.
The trail continues to Upper Russian Lake and Cooper Lake. There is a public-use cabin on Upper Russian Lake (reservations required). There is good fishing in the lakes for rainbow trout (salmon fishing prohibited). This is also Brown Bear country and the prudent hiker will familiarize themselves with our tips for hiking in bear country. With the abundance of salmon in this stream it is a good possibility for observing bears in their natural habitat.
#3 Resurrection Pass Trail System
(35.2 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet)
This trail can be hiked from either end. From the Hope location (trail mile posts are counted from this end), the trail begins four miles up Resurrection Creek Road. The other end of the trail is located at Mile 52.3 Sterling Highway next to the Kenai River bridge.
This is a very popular trail that is well-maintained and offers good lake fishing, six public-use Forest Service cabins (reservations required) and exceptional scenery. A substantial herd of caribou roam the Resurrection drainage as well as trophy moose. This is also Brown Bear country and the prudent hiker will familiarize himself with our tips for hiking in bear country.
#4 Ptarmigan Creek Trail
(3.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 255 feet)
This trail begins at Ptarmigan Creek Campground at Mile 23 of the Seward Highway. This is a fairly easy hike affording the traveler an opportunity to see goats and sheep on the mountain peaks and slopes. These animals move frequently along the mountain sides and may appear or disappear often. The trail ends at Ptarmigan Lake. Rainbow and Dolly Varden trout are available in the lake and creek with the best fishing in first mile below the outlet. Flies, small spinners or spoons and salmon eggs prove effective.
#5 Lost Lake Trail
(7 miles long with an elevation gain of 1,820 feet)
The trail head is located in a gravel pit at Mile 5 Seward Highway (just outside of town). The trail ends at Lost Lake which is two miles above the timberline. This is a trail for the entire family and provides spectacular views of alpine country where the hike can be extended in nearly any direction.
#6 Coastal Trail
(4.5 miles long)
This trail resides in the Caines Head State Recreation Area of Resurrection Bay. The trailhead is at a parking area at Lowell Point which is south of the town of Seward. This trail follows along the shoreline of Resurrection Bay and it is important to time this trip around the tides. There is a three mile stretch between Tonsina Point and North Beach that can only be hiked during low tide. Leave Seward at least two hours before low tide to avoid becoming stranded along the route and stay on the designated trail. There is a camping shelter at the end of the trail in North Beach. From mid-July through late August it is possible to catch silver salmon along the beach as they migrate through this area on their way to spawn. Use spinners or spoons.
#7 Harding Icefield Trail
(3.5 miles long)
This trail is located in Kenai Fjords National Park in the Seward area. The trailhead is at the Ranger Station located 9 miles up Exit Glacier Road on the north side of Seward, Mile 3.7 Seward Highway. The road has recently been paved providing a comfortable drive through scenic landscapes including beaver ponds near the road. This is a strenuous trail with a steep ascent but affords the hiker a magnificent view of Exit Glacier, the glacier valley and the edge of the Harding Icefield.
#8 Exit Glacier Trails
(0.8 to 1 mile long depending on route)
Exit Glacier is one stop no one should miss when visiting Seward. Its also one of my favorites due to its easy access and excellent trail condition. This is a place to spend at least a half day. The Ranger Station provides ample parking for the largest of motorhomes and offers a picnic area and toilets. The Seward Chamber of Commerce operates a visitor center during the summer months and summer weekend activities include ranger-led walks to the glaciers and all-day hikes to Harding Icefield.
The Lower Loop Trail is 0.8 mile long with the first 0.3 mile paved for wheelchair access. This trail and the longer Upper Loop Trail (1 mile) both lead to the face of the glacier. This is the best opportunity for hikers to get Up Close and Personal with a glacier. Respect the warning signs that restrict people from getting near areas of falling ice. Some incredible photos can be taken of your hiking party dwarfed by the sheer wall of turquoise blue ice behind them.
#9 Fuller Lakes Trail
(4.5 miles long with elevation gain of 1,400 feet)
This trail is located at Mile 57.1 Sterling Highway in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and is not for the faint of heart. I have traversed this in the past and must say it is one of the most challenging from a vertical ascent point of view. The reward is that this is one of the few waters on the Kenai Peninsula which contains Arctic Grayling. This species is found in Lower Fuller Lake and is easily caught on a fly or small spinner. The trail to Upper Fuller Lake has little elevation change and this lake contains Dolly Varden trout. Expect wet and muddy areas along the trail. Once on top this area affords beautiful views of the Kenai Mountains.
#10 Skilak Lookout Trail
(2.5 miles long with an elevation change of 750 feet)
The trailhead is located three miles east of the Upper Skilak Campground and two miles west of Hidden Lake Campground on the Skilak Loop Road. It is located in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. There are several steep sections with the trail ending on a knob overlooking Skilak Lake and offers spectacular views. No fishing available.
#11 Grewingk Glacier Trail
(3.2 miles long)
Located in Kachemak Bay State Park and only accessible by boat from Homer. This is an easy hike over flat terrain, through stands of spruce and cottonwood and across the outwash of Grewingk Glacier. Superb views of glacier and surrounding area. Rock cairns mark the trail across the outwash section. Charter boats are available in Homer for drop-offs to this and other areas.
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