Peninsula hiking trails offer great views

Posted: Saturday, May 27, 2000

Pick a half-mile stroll to the face of Exit Glacier, a 38-mile trek from Cooper Landing to Hope, or a 2-mile cardiac stress test to the summit of Skyline Trail.

Whatever your interests and skills, Kenai Peninsula hiking trails fit the bill. Wander Cook Inlet beaches, hike the Kenai River gorge or find a mountaintop view. Hike for an hour or for a week. Watch for moose, Dall sheep, caribou and bears. From the beach, you may even spot a beluga whale.

For detailed trail information, call the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at 262-7021, the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center at 283-1991, Kache-mak Bay State Park at 235-7024, Chugach National Forest at 224-3374 and Kenai Fjords National Park at 224-3175.

Meanwhile, here are some of the more popular trails:

Resurrection Pass Trail

This historic mining trail runs 38.5 miles through Chu-gach National Forest, from Mile 52 on the Sterling Highway in Cooper Landing to Mile 4 on Resurrection Creek Road in Hope.

Don't miss Juneau Creek Falls, a roaring cataract 4.5 miles from the Cooper Landing trail head. Several lakes offer trout fishing. You may spot Dall sheep, mountain goats or caribou in the high country, or moose in the forested northern areas. Call (877) 444-6777 well ahead for reservations at eight cabins along the route.

The Resurrection trail also links to the Devil's Pass trail, which begins from the Seward Highway just north of the Seward Y.

Kenai River Trail

This is an easy 2.8-mile hike. Find it by turning south on Skilak Lake Road at Mile 58 of the Sterling Highway and driving just over a half-mile to the trail head.

The walk includes sections of canyon, forest, river, meadows with wildflowers and good opportunities for berry picking late in the summer. Beware of bears.

Bear Mountain Trail

Take the same turn onto Skilak Lake Road as for the Kenai River Trail but continue 6.1 miles to the trail head. This .8-mile trail climbs rapidly to a good view at the top of the mountain. Wildflowers dot the way.

Hidden Creek Trail

This trail provides easy access to Skilak Lake and Hidden Creek and views of the Kenai Mountains from the shore of Skilak Lake.

The trail head is about one mile west of the Hidden Creek campground. You will find about three miles of easy to moderate hiking. About halfway, the trail branches west to Skilak Lake and east toward the mouth of Hidden Creek. The east section is about half a mile longer but offers better views of scenery and wildlife. The branches meet at Skilak Lake.

Skyline Trail

If getting above the trees is your goal, this trail climbs more than 2,500 feet in less than two miles.

Park on the south side of the Sterling Highway at Mile 61, and cross the road to the trail head. The trail is very steep and can be extremely slippery when wet, but the view is worth the effort. An unmarked 12-mile route along the ridge links Skyline Trail to the Fuller Lakes Trail, which begins at Mile 57 of the Sterling Highway.

Exit Glacier-Harding Icefield Trail

These hikes near Seward offer magnificent views of glacial ice. It is a half-mile walk to the glacier. However, a network of trails allows hikers to travel just a short distance or up to 7.5 miles round trip. From Mile 3.7 of the Seward Highway, turn west onto Exit Glacier Road. Go 8.9 miles to a parking area.

A paved path leads to the ranger station and the start of the ice. From there, a Harding Icefield trail heads right and continues along the north side of the glacier. The views get better with each step.

A tents-only campground near the parking lot is the only free camping in the Seward area.

Lost Lake Trail

From the gravel pits at Mile 5 of the Seward Highway, families can start down this 7-mile hike. The trail offers good views and access to the alpine country. Lost Lake is above timberline. Brown bears are rare, but black bears are common in spring.

The trail head elevation is about 100 feet. It's a 5-mile hike to timberline at about 1,700 feet. Lost Lake is another two miles and sits at 1,920 feet.

Kachemak Bay State Park

Close to 75 miles of trails cross this park on the south shore of Kachemak Bay. There is no road access. Water taxis from Homer take hikers to the trail heads. Park beaches offer pleasant camping.

It's about three level miles from Glacier Spit to the lake at the foot of Grewingk Glacier. Starting from the Saddle Trail in Halibut Cove cuts the trip to a mile, but adds the climb over a short steep ridge.

Another trail runs 4.9 miles from the mouth of Humpy Creek to the northeast side of the glacier. Scrambling up a steep rock face brings you to the ice.

To breach the tree line, take the Saddle Trail to the Alpine Ridge Trail. It's a grueling 2.5-mile hike from tidewater to the trail's end at about 2,200 feet. From there, you can wander freely through alpine tundra and abundant wildflowers.

Another steep hike rises 3,000 feet to spectacular views from Grace Ridge, which separates Tutka Bay from Sadie Cove.

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