The hiking trails of the Kenai Peninsula are like potato chips: It's tough to stop after just one.
The smells of the clean mountain air, the sounds of twigs snapping underfoot and the taste from the freedom of the hills can leave an irresistible craving for another outdoor excursion.
Crescent Creek Trail is no exception. Tucked away in the Chugach National Forest between Right Mountain to the southwest and Wrong Mountain to the northeast, this trail has a lot to offer. It is popular with hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers and can be a busy place during the peak of summer.
"It heals the soul," said Becky Hutchinson of Soldotna while hiking the trail last weekend. She has hiked nearly every weekend this summer all over the peninsula.
"I come to be out in the woods. It's very therapeutic and makes you remember why you live here. I look forward to it all week," Hutchinson said.
And there's a lot to look forward to on the Crescent Creek Trail. Wandering through birch, aspen and hemlock forest, the trail can be a "green tunnel" for short distances, than just as quickly open up to reveal huge swaths cleared by winter avalanches.
"We like it because it's greener than where we live," said Jan Philpot of Kodiak.
At times the trail follows a ridge overlooking the crystal clear flowing waters of Crescent Creek. Other sections drop down into the canyon or wander though the hillside of broad meadows sparse with trees.
The tranquil waters of the west end of Crescent Lake make a relaxing end to the Crescent Creek Trail.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
"There's plenty of pretty scenery on this hike," said Susan Sulley of Nikiski. "The views are nice and I love when you get to a crest and can look out, but really it's just being outside with all the plants and berries. I really like it."
The main trail ends at the west end of Crescent Lake, although an unmaintained primative trail continues around the lake and hooks up with the Carter Lake trail on the other side. A short distance away is a U.S. Forest Service cabin that, for those with reservations, will sleep six. The cabin also offers a wood stove, table, outhouse, and a boat with oars.
"The fishing is great," said Kurt Egelhofer of Anchorage, who took the boat out to wet a hook. "I caught my limit of grayling yesterday and several again today. Most were in the 12- to 16-inch range."
Egelhofer and his family filleted the fish and fried them for dinner in some butter and garlic.
"We never count on catching them. We always end up bringing enough dinner just in case we don't, but it's delicious when you do get one," Egelhofer said.
For those not interested in fishing, but rather are there just to soak in the scenery, the views of the surrounding mountains from the subalpine lake are abundant. Wild birds are plentiful, and moose and bear can occasionally be seen from the cabin for those glassing the hillsides with binoculars.
Another perk of the Crescent Creek Trail is that unlike some peninsula trails that require quads the size of tree trunks and buns of steel to enjoy them, Crescent Creek Trail is moderate in both elevation gain and degree of difficulty. However, at a round trip length of 13 miles, this hike can still get your heart pumping.
"It's a very mild hike," said Jeanette Peterson of Soldotna. "It's not hard like Skyline Trail, but it is long, so you've got to be in pretty good shape."
Peterson said she is a health fanatic who enjoys the exercise of hiking. However, she said that the health benefits weren't her sole motivation for hiking.
"There's so much of Alaska you can't see from the road, so you've got to get out here and see what it's all about," she said.
Peterson and the other members of her hiking group maintained a 3-mile an hour pace to and from the lake in order to challenge themselves, but their pace wasn't just the result of their physical conditioning.
"The trail was very well maintained," said Pat Walton of Kenai. "It's not over grown like the Skilak Lookout Trail, where I had to put my arms up and couldn't see my feet while walking through the brush. This trail is 100 times better than that."
June to October is recommended as the best times to make this hike, so there's still plenty of time left for anyone looking to stretch their legs before summer ends.
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