The hiking and biking trails of the Kenai Peninsula offer access to many exquisite natural habitats, often with incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. As 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. And don’t forget to pack out whatever you pack in.
Here are a few popular area hikes, ranging from easy to moderate to challenging:
◊◊◊ = Difficult
◊◊ = Moderate
◊ = Easy
Nikiski Trail ◊
1.5 miles long
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 (horse-drawn or dog-drawn skiing), and snowshoeing.
How to find it: Trailhead is adjacent to Nikiski High School off old Nikiski Beach Road in Nikiski.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center ◊
2.5 miles long
Features: An excellent hike for the elderly or families with small children. Interpretive signage, overlook decks above the lake, and a visitor center round out the experience.
How to find it: Trailhead is at the paved parking area of the Soldotna headquarters.
Tsalteshi Trails ◊
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 way 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.
Kenai River Trail ◊
2.5 miles long
Features: Meandering through forest, meadows, wildflowers, and berry patches, this trail along the Kenai River affords great views, especially when overlooking the river from the canyon top. In late summer and fall bears are quite common on this trail.
How to find it: At Mile 58 of the Sterling High way, turn onto Skilak Loop Road. The trail head is a half-mile in.
Captain Cook ◊
2.5 miles long
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.
Johnson Pass ◊+
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.
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.
Russian Lakes ◊+
21 miles long
Features: The trail to Lower Russian Lake follows alongside the Russian River, past the Russian River Falls where sockeye salmon swim upstream to spawn in July and August. Bears are often present on this trail
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 ◊◊
35.2 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet
Features: A historic mining trail running from the Sterling Highway trailhead to Mile 4 of Resurrection Creek Road near the town of Hope. A second trailhead exists at Cooper Landing, allowing an easier 4.5 mile hike to Juneau Creek Falls. The complete 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.
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 ◊◊+
4.5 miles long
Features: Upper and Lower Fuller Lake offer one of the few waters on the Kenai Peninsula that contain Arctic Grayling. This trail connects the two lakes, offering little elevation change, but a lot of mud. After reaching the higher elevations past Upper Fuller Lake, hikers are afforded extensive views of the Kenai Mountains. Look for Dall sheep on these ridges and beaver and waterfowl in the lakes themselves.
How to find it: Look for a pullout parking area at Mile 57.1 of the Sterling Highway in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Skilak Lookout ◊◊+
2.5 miles long
Features: Several steep sections along this trail provide opportunities to work up a sweat with an elevation gain of 750 feet. The trail leads to an overlook offering spectacular views of Skilak Lake.
How to find it: Along, the trailhead is approximately 2 miles past Hidden Lake Campground on Skilak Loop Road.
Harding Ice Field ◊◊+
4.1 miles long
This trail in Seward’s Kenai Fjords National Park takes hikers to from the Exit Glacier Nature Center to the top of a stone ridge that juts out above the Harding Ice Field, with Exit Glacier lying below to the West. No trace camping is permitted at least 1/8 mile from the trail. On Wednesdays and Saturdays a National Park Ranger leads a guided walk of the trail from the nature center at 9a.m.