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The Kenai Peninsula
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The Kenai Peninsula


Kenai National Wildlife Refuge & Chugach National Forest

Seward Highway (AK1/AK9)--Seward to Portage



Kenai Fjords National Park

Sterling Highway (AK1)--Seward Highway Junction to Homer

Northwest Kenai





Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Area


Kenai National Wildlife Refuge & Chugach National Forest

Location/Size: Refuge is 1.97 million acres (1.4 million acres of designated wilderness); Kenai National Wildlife Refuge encompasses much of the central and northern Kenai Peninsula.

Main Activities: Fishing, hunting, canoeing, hiking, camping, boating, wilderness exploration.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Sterling, Cooper Landing/vehicle access via Seward Highway (AK 1); Hope/vehicle access via Hope Highway from Seward Highway; Kenai, Soldotna/vehicle access via Seward Highway (AK 1), scheduled air service from Anchorage. Refuge access by vehicle through center of refuge via Seward Highway (AK 1) and via roads; canoe and kayak access to lakes and established canoe routes; foot access via several trails from Hope and the Seward Highway.

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: 200 miles of trails, two established canoe routes, numerous campgrounds. Many established campgrounds and campsites along the trails and roads. Private lodges and bed-and-breakfasts are numerous on private lands adjacent to refuge lands.

Headquarters and Information: Refuge Manager, P.O. Box 2139, Soldotna, AK 99669, 262-7021, http://kenai.fws.gov/, kenai@fws.gov.

Much of the northern and western lowland areas of the Kenai Peninsula are within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The Kenai Wilderness unit of the refuge and the western reaches of the Chugach National Forest protect wild lowland areas and the Kenai Mountains. The Kenai River and others are exceedingly popular with salmon fishers, while hikers and backpackers enjoy good trail access to high open country, ridges, and summits. Numerous opportunities are available for users of personal watercraft such as innertubes to powerboats. Later in the year, moose hunters eagerly pursue their allotted quarry.

The Kenai River Special Management Area—administered by the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources—includes the entire Kenai River corridor, plus Kenai Lake and Skilak Lake. Access, camping, and boating rules are covered in the management plan. The only area devoted strictly to non-motorized watercraft is a 10-mile stretch from the confluence of the Kenai and Russian Rivers to Skilak Lake. This route is served by rafting companies and includes a 2.5-mile Class III and Class IV stretch through Kenai River Canyon. Expect motorized boats elsewhere on the river throughout the summer.

Good long-distance trails access the refuge and national forest lands, including some that end a comfortable hitch or second-car ride from where they begin (van or bus shuttles may be possible; see the Appendix).

Resurrection Trail System

Several trails form a network in the mountains west of the Seward Highway, offering a possible through route from Hope to Seward with shorter options along the way. Be careful when inquiring about trails since there is some confusion as to the names. Resurrection Creek flows north from Resurrection Pass to Hope, while the Resurrection River flows south to Seward from the Russian Lakes area. The three main trail segments are the Resurrection Pass Trail, linking Hope and the Sterling Highway; the Russian Lakes Trail, from the Sterling Highway south to the Russian Lake basin; and the Resurrection River Trail, continuing south-east to Seward.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge/Chugach National Forest Trails

In addition to the trails described here, other fishing-access trails are described in the milepost guides for the Seward and Sterling Highways. Consult forest and refuge information sources for details.

Crescent Lake Route (19 miles total, 1,200' gain)—Three trails link up for an easy and beautiful route with two reservable Forest Service cabins and several good campsites along the way. The route can be linked with the Johnson Pass Trail for a total hike of 42 miles. (Through route—2–3 days.) The Crescent Creek Trail (6.4 miles, 1,000' gain) climbs gradually east then south from Mile 45 of the Sterling Highway along Crescent Creek. (RT—long day.) The path becomes the Crescent Lake Trail (9 miles, 200' gain) and contours above the curving south shore of the lake, first heading southeast, then east, then northeast to the head of the lake. (Through trail—all day.) Here, it becomes the Carter Lake Trail (3.3 miles, 1,000' gain), dropping past Carter Lake to Mile 33.1 of the Seward Highway. (RT—half day.)

Devils Pass Trail (10 miles, 1,400' gain)—From mile 20.5 of the Resurrection Pass Trail, the trail climbs east 2 miles above a feeder of Juneau Creek into Devils Pass, then drops southeast along Devils Creek to Mile 39.4 of the Seward Highway. Through trail—all day.

Fuller Lakes & Skyline Trails (13 miles, 2,400' gain)—Both trails are in the Kenai Wilderness of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Through route—1–2 days. The Fuller Lakes Trail (3 miles, 1,400' gain) climbs from Mile 57.1 of the Sterling Highway to Lower and Upper Fuller Lakes, two popular fishing spots. (RT—half day). From the upper lake, the Skyline Trail (10 miles, 1,000' westward gain, 2,400' eastward gain) cuts west and winds up to the crest of the Mystery Hills. It then follows the curving ridgeline past easy summits before dropping down to the highway. Outstanding views! RT—2 days.

Johnson Pass Trail (23 miles, 1,000' gain)—This route connects Mile 32.6 and Mile 63.7 of the Seward Highway. Johnson Pass separates Johnson Creek to the south from Bench Creek to the north. The trail follows both streams closely. There’s good high-country access to cirques, small glaciers, ridges, and 4,000-foot summits. The route can be linked with the Crescent Lake Route (see above) for a total hike of 42 miles. Through trail—2–3 days.

Resurrection Pass Trail (35.2 miles, 2,400' gain)—The north trailhead of this maintained route is 5 miles south of Hope at the end of Resurrection Creek Road. The trail gradually climbs through Resurrection Creek Valley, up into Resurrection (Mile 20.5), then down Juneau Creek to the highway near Cooper Landing. Six reservable Forest Service cabins are on or near the route. Brown bear sightings are not uncommon (nor are sightings of other hikers). Through trail—3–4 days.

Resurrection River Trail (17.8 miles, 900' gain)—The southern trailhead is on Exit Glacier Road north of Seward where the road heads west up Exit Creek and away from the Resurrection River. The route follows a forested valley between glacier-capped ridges and offers scrambling climbs to high cirques. Two reservable Forest Service cabins are located at about midpoint. The trail meets the Russian Lakes Trail about 15 miles from the Sterling Highway, enabling a 33-mile extended route. Through trail—2 days.

Russian Lakes Trail (21.5 miles, 800' gain between Sterling Highway and pass)—This trail climbs 3 miles from the Russian Lakes Campground at Mile 52 of the Sterling Highway to Lower Russian Lake, then 8 miles more to Upper Russian Lake. The route begins in a narrow, swampy valley, then reaches a wide, forested upland. Three reservable Forest Service cabins are located between the two lakes. Swinging east, the route crosses an easy, open divide, then drops to Cooper and Kenai Lakes, both of which offer road access to the highway via the Snug Harbor Road. The route can be linked with the Resurrection River Trail (see above) for a 33-mile route. Through trail—2 days.

Summit Creek Trail (8.4 miles, 2,600' gain westbound, 1,500' eastbound)—This rough alternate route forks off from Devils Pass Trail at the junction with Resurrection Pass Trail, angling up the north side of the spur while Devils Pass Trail stays to the south. The trail climbs to 4,000 feet (splendid views and summit access), crosses two small divides, and drops down Summit Creek to the Seward Highway pass, 1.5 miles south of Upper Summit Lake. There may be snow on the trail into the summer. Through trail—all day.

Swan Lake and Swanson River Canoe Trails

A unit of the Kenai Wilderness protects two of Alaska’s best established canoe routes. From the town of Sterling on the Sterling Highway, the Swanson River Road heads north about 15 miles through forested, lake-dotted flats. Three campgrounds and the Swanson River Oil Field are found near the junction with Swan Lake Road. Turn east on Swan Lake Road. The 80-mile, 40-lake Swanson River Route is to the north, while the 60-mile, 30-lake Swan Lake Route is south of the road. Roadside put-ins and parking are marked. Outfitters offer guided trips, rentals, and shuttles (see the Appendix).

Kenai Backcountry Lodge, south shore of Skilak Lake, P.O. Box 389, Girdwood, AK 99587 (mailing address), (800) 334-8730. Cabin tent stays start at $250 to $300 per person, per night; log cabins are $25 more. Cost includes transportation to and from Kenai, all meals, guided activities, and programs. Stays of three or more nights include a free raft trip.