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Follow in the footsteps of the original prospectors and native Alaskan inhabitants by going for a hike or mountain bike ride along the Klutina River. This trail covers the 23 miles between Copper Center and Klutina Lake, which was part of the original prospecting trail from Valdez to the Copper River. The river is fed by the massive glaciers of the Chugach Mountains to the south, and the beautiful turquoise color of the water indicates the presence of glacial silt.
Much of this trail travels along the bluff overlooking the river, with lots of great river views. You’ll find several good spots in just the first couple miles, along with the opportunity to follow side paths down to the river. At times, the trail veers away from the river into the forest, but it always comes back to the bluff and the water.
The river, too, is a travel corridor for wildlife. Several healthy salmon runs travel up the river, starting with King Salmon in late May and ending with Silver Salmon in September. You may spot salmon in some of the quiet eddies alongside the river, though later in the summer it’s more likely to find carcasses of salmon that have already spawned. Keep an eye out for birds: The large salmon food supply attracts eagles, hawks, and others. Larger creatures usually keep to the other side of the river to avoid people.
The trail is a great place to experience the solitude and beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. While you may see a raft or jetboat, or have to step aside for a group of 4-wheelers, this will only impact a fraction of your experience.
To get to the trailhead, turn onto the Brenwick-Craig Road at milepost 101.5 on the Richardson Highway. This is the same road that serves the Princess Lodge in Copper Center, which is perched on the bluff overlooking the Klutina River. The Princess Lodge provides parking and a place to grab a drink or bite to eat before or after your hike. Walk to the far corner of the parking lot and keep your eyes open for a short access path that hooks up with the main trail.