The hiking and biking trails of the Kenai Peninsula offer access to many exquisite natural habitats, often with incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. With any outdoor activity, remember to be prepared. Always tell someone where you are going and when you are expecting to be back, or leave written information in your vehicle at the trailhead. Carry adequate emergency supplies whenever venturing into the woods. Also, bears are everywhere and this is important to keep in mind when on the trail or in camp. Pack out whatever is packed in to keep trails they way they were found.
Here are a few popular area hikes, ranging from easy to moderate to challenging:
FFF = Difficult
Russian Lakes Trail F+ Easy to Difficult
21 miles long
Features: The first three miles of the trail to Lower Russian Lake is a good family trail that follows alongside the Russian River. The Russian River Falls can be seen, including sockeye salmon making their upstream battle to spawn, especially in July and August. It is important to watch for bears on this particular trail, as they are almost always present!
How to find it: The trailhead is 1 mile down Russian River Campground Road, at Mile 52 of the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing.
Resurrection Pass Trail FF
35.2 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet
Features: A historic mining trail that runs 38.5 miles from its trailhead on the Sterling Highway to Mile 4 of Resurrection Creek Road near the town of Hope. Hikers can also hike just the first 4.5-miles from the Cooper Landing trailhead to see Juneau Creek Falls, a roaring cataract that slices through the wilderness. This trail is best hiked over several days and is noted as “a serious challenge for bikers.” A herd of caribou often roams the Resurrection drainage, as well as trophy moose.
How to find it: Trailhead is at Mile 52.3 of the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing at the Kenai River bridge.
Fuller Lakes Trail FF+
4.5 miles long
Features: Upper and Lower Fuller Lake offer one of the few waters on the Kenai Peninsula that contain Arctic Grayling. The trail between the two lakes has little elevation change, but can be muddy. Once on top of the higher elevations past Upper Fuller Lake (this lake contains Dolly Varden trout), hikers are afforded extensive views of the Kenai Mountains. Look for Dall sheep on these ridges and beaver and waterfowl in the lakes themselves. Berry picking opportunities abound.
How to find it: Look for a pullout parking area at Mile 57.1 of the Sterling Highway in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Follow the steps up the short bank to access the trail.
Skilak Lookout Trail FF+
Features: A good way to stretch out and work up a sweat, with several steep sections along this trail. It has an elevation gain of 750 feet. The aesthetics of the hike are fairly marginal, but the end of the hike makes it worth it. The trail stops on a smooth, rocky summit with an overlook offering spectacular views of Skilak Lake.
How to find it: Along Skilak Loop Road, the trailhead is approximately 2 miles past Hidden Lake Campground.
Johnson Pass Trail F+
23 miles long
Features: This trail is a favorite for mountain bikers. Accessing from the north side, you will encounter beautiful alpine scenery. Lakes and streams can be found along the trail. Be sure to filter any water you pull from natural Alaska sources. This is usually a longer backpacking trip, but offers a peaceful break on your drive through the Chugach National Forest.
How to find it: Along the Seward Highway from Turnagain Pass, or just past the Sterling Highway cutoff, access the trail from the south side at the designated parking area.
Kenai River Trail F
Features: A meandering trail through forest, meadows, wildflowers, berries and the only trail that actually takes you along the famous Kenai River. Affords great views, especially from the top of the canyon overlooking a narrow rapid of river. Bears are quite common on this trail in late summer and fall. Check out the nearby interpretive panels on Skilak Loop Road to learn more about the Pothole Lake forest fire that impacted this area in 1991.
How to find it: At Mile 58 of the Sterling Highway, turn onto Skilak Loop Road. The trailhead is a half-mile in.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center F
Features: An excellent hike for the elderly or families with small children. Cleared trails offer easier walking. Decking and viewing at the lake, interpretive signage and a bonus of the visitor center rounds out the experience.
How to find it: Trailhead is at the paved parking area of the Soldotna headquarters.
Tsalteshi Trails F
Features: A great area for hikers and bikers who’d like to stay closer to town. These trails are popular throughout the year with area residents and maintained by the Tsalteshi Trails Association. Not much in the ways of scenic views, but the woodland setting with rolling hills can be very relaxing.
How to find it: Just south of Soldotna, behind Skyview High School. Also can be accessed via Kalifornsky Beach Road entrance, across the street from the Soldotna Sports Center.
Captain Cook State Recreation Area F
Features: The beach trail offers great views of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range. Stay on the beach proper, as the tides are fast moving. The array of geological deposits in the form of many shapes and types of stones on this beach make it an interesting adventure. The beach is especially popular with agate hunters. Also, enjoy the swimming beach at Stormy Lake or the lake’s overlook in the recreation area and the mouth of the Swanson River, which is the end of the popular canoe trail system.
How to find it: 25 miles north of Kenai on the Kenai Spur Highway. The beach is just below the Discovery Picnic and Campground area. Access Stormy Lake from the turnouts along the highway just past Nikiski.
Nikiski Community Trail F
Features: Fitness stations are located along the first loop of the trail for those who are serious about getting into and staying in shape. Nature enthusiasts can find plenty to look at along the trail. If solitude is what you seek, the trail leads to a gazebo and picnic area on the banks of Bailey Lake. In the winter, the trails are used for cross-country skiing, skijoring and snowshoeing.
How to find it: Trailhead is adjacent to Nikiski High School off old Nikiski Beach Road in Nikiski.