Experience the untamed, all-natural and unpolluted acres of forested lands of Alaska—from the intimate but thrilling perch of a mountain bike. This tour operator out of the Kenai Peninsula’s Cooper Landing offers an up-close and unforgettable experience—as well as a great workout—in the Alaska wild.
Adventure Guru dates back to 2011, and started as a recreational concierge booking agency to connect travelers with day cruises out of Seward and Kenai River fishing charters. (This facilitating spirit comes naturally: Founder Courtney Larsen says he has actually been creating and planning activities for his friends and family since he was in the 6th grade.) Over the next couple years, the company diversified into helping travelers book recreational activities in the Kenai Peninsula, from sea kayaking and ziplining to sled dog and helicopter rides.
An Extra Focus on Cycling
Most recently, Adventure Guru has intensified its focus on mountain-biking —rentals as well as guided outings. Whether you want a mellow ride or a bucket-list-level challenge, all of the tours offers a picturesque ride alongside trademark Alaska creeks, rivers, mountains, glaciers and meadows. Guests often rave about how these rides make them feel: the air around the Chugach National Forest smells and just feels clean.
Most tours begin and end in Cooper Landing, at the junction of Bean Creek road and Sterling Highway, right before the first Kenai River bridge. (One tour, meanwhile, meets at the Moose Pass hatchery.) Courtney is one of the guides, as is Maggie Donnelly, a longtime Girdwood resident who both races competitively and trains kids in mountain biking. They’ll set you up with a brand new Trek-brand mountain bike with helmet, tire pump and repair kit, and water-bottle cage, and lead you into your adventure.
There are multiple tour options—ranging from beginning-level rides to invigorating challenges. Here are four that are the biggest crowd-pleasers, ranging from easy to advanced:
Russian River Falls
This beginner-friendly, easy ride—less than five miles’ roundtrip—lets you hear the river, falls and the creek—and even feel the water’s mist on face. It runs along the most popular trail for visitors to Cooper Landing, thanks to its ease and its climax at the falls, where you might catch a glimpse of a brown bear feeding on salmon. On the way there, you’ll ride on a 8’-wide, extremely well-maintained path that crosses small streams, passes giant ferns and then plateaus at a meadow of natural potentilla and dwarf birch; the ride finishes with the descent to the creek and the Russian River Falls overlook platform. Take the ride during the evening and you might also see some moose.
Trail of Blue Ice
For another easy ride, try this route that run about five miles (and 35 minutes) one way, with a shuttle going back. It runs along wooden boardwalks, bridges as well as paved and gravel paths through deciduous forests, with possible bear and moose sightings. Depending on the season, you can take a quick detour to watch spawning salmon, or pick blueberries from the hemlock-forest floor. And you can often smell the campfires and barbecuing brisket at trail-adjacent campgrounds.
This intermediate ride offers a good, steady endurance trail of several miles with a gradual descent toward the end, providing an ample work-out. It features a pretty wide trail at the beginning, near the Moose Pass fish hatchery. Then, it parallels the dense, glacier-silt Trail Lakes, which have a wondrous visual appeal (this spots reminds some people of something out of Lord of the Rings). Next, as you ascend toward the summit and its alpine terrain, you’ll go past picturesque waterfalls, travel below a canopy of tall hemlock trees, and even see or hear the Alaska Railroad chugging by.
This intermediate-to-advanced ride is definitely for hard-core mountain bikers, with its 2.5 hour, uphill-burn of an ascent, which doesn't plateau until the last 30 minutes. Your first reward, however, is the refreshingly calm Crescent Lake. Along the way, you’ll cross Crescent Creek a few times, with plenty of big valley vistas and the sights or sounds of song birds, arctic grayling and even black bears. The second reward on this unforgettable ride is the 1.5 hour (and pretty rapid) descent back to the trailhead parking lot, when you can focus more on the horizon instead of your legwork.
Of course, you can always forego the tours and make use of Adventure Guru’s rentals and shuttle service: They’ll set you up with a bike, drop you at the trail-head, then meet you for a pick-up at the trail-tail. If you have your own vehicle, they can also provide a attachable trunk/hatchback 3-bike rack to help you haul your bike rentals. And if you’ve come to Alaska with your own bike, you can ride it on one of the tours at a discounted price—and still enjoy this breathtaking perspective on Alaska’s unique landscaping.