If you want to camp beside subalpine Upper Summit Lake close to trumpeter swans and fishing for rainbows, take the family to this campground deep in the Kenai Mountains off Mile 46 of the Seward Highway.
The 35 sites are spread along a loop in the alder, willow and spruce woods on the hillside above the lake, with clear-running Tenderfoot Creek passing through. The 258-acre lake has been stocked regularly for decades, and provides summer habitat for swans, loons, bald eagles and beavers.
Launch a canoe or kayak and explore its mirror-like waters. The overwhelming beauty of the setting compensates for the traffic noise off the highway across the lake. A mile away is Lower Summit Lake, with biking and hiking access to Mills Creek Mine Road up Manitoba Mountain.
Gold Rush history
Located in the heart of the Kenai Mountains historic gold mining area, both lakes share a long history as summer hiking and winter ski destinations. Trailheads for hikes that lead over the mountains to Resurrection Pass are minutes away. And if the kids get tired of camp grub, the restaurant at Summit Lake Lodge only half-mile away.
What can you do while camping at Tenderfoot Campground?
- Paddle and fish the lake. First stocked with rainbow trout in 1962, the lake may support populations of landlocked salmon, Dolly Varden and trout.
- Explore historic gold rush mining routes. Minutes away by vehicle, trails lead west into the backcountry from the Seward Highway at Fresno, Colorado, Summit and Slate creeks — watch for old cabin and mill ruins, and signs of diggings. Devil’s Pass Trail leads over the mountains to Resurrection Pass and can form a 20-mile loop back to the highway via Summit Creek Trail.
- Bike and hike. The campground loop and half-mile access road can be biked by all ages. Mills Creek Mine Road climbs Manitoba Mountain through a dense hemlock forest, providing a route to alpine habitat and open slopes. Access can be found from the pullout at Lower Summit Lake, the Mile 48 pull-out or the state gravel pit at Mile 49. Adventurous families can also explore the meadows and brush above the lake, especially early in the summer before the grass gets too high.