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Cooper Landing Area Hiking Trails

If you're a hiker, the Cooper Landing Area is paradise. A handful of the best hiking trails in Alaska are located within a few miles. Whether you want steep or flat, long or short, you'll find them here. Turn of-the-century prospectors blazed these trails and carried millions of dollars of gold over them. The well-worn footpaths climb through forested valleys to open meadows shimmering with wildflowers and gem-colored lakes. Most trails in this vicinity follow rushing streams into high country with scenery on par with the most beautiful parks of the Lower 48. Bridges make it one of Alaska's few regions where you can keep your socks dry.

If you want to see bears in July, hike the Russian River Trail. If you want to go into wide open high country dotted with lakes and green mountainsides, consider the Johnson Pass Trail. Looking for a steep, thigh-burner? Try Carter Lake. There are so many choices, you could spend a week here, and not get our fill.

If you're looking for an overnight backpacking trip, the Forest Service maintains public use cabins in the area ($25-$45 per night). Get details on every one of these cabins on our Kenai Peninsula Public Use Cabins page.

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Hiking Trails

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 11 miles

If you have some out­door expe­ri­ence and an adven­tur­ous spir­it, con­sid­er this 11-mile tra­verse up the Col­orado Creek val­ley and down the Sum­mit Creek. Begin­ning 2 hours south of Anchor­age, this tra­verse doesn’t involve any rock scram­bling, riv­er cross­ings, or ardu­ous bush­whack­ing. But if you feel com­fort­able hik­ing in wide and track­less coun­try, you may reap the reward of hav­ing an entire val­ley to yourself.

Difficulty: Moderate Elevation Gain: 1056 feet

Begin­ning 103 miles south of Anchor­age on the Seward High­way, the 3.5‑mile-long Ptarmi­gan Lake Trail makes for a fine fam­i­ly out­ing. The lake itself is a long and nar­row body of water squeezed between ridges and moun­tains that tow­er as high as 6,000 feet. It even offers a small beach upon which to relax and enjoy the view while cool­ing your feet.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 8 miles

This mean­der­ing, sin­gle-track path leads to some of the Kenai Mountain’s most remote and frag­ile high coun­try. On a route once trekked by gold rush prospec­tors, this trail ascends from spruce for­est through the jun­gled zone of alders into a realm of sweep­ing tun­dra, with incred­i­ble views and pro­duc­tive berry pick­ing. Plus, the top of the nine-mile jour­ney ends in Res­ur­rec­tion Pass, about mid­way through the 39-mile Res­ur­rec­tion Pass Trail.

Distance: 4 miles

More a gat­ed road than a trail, this hike large­ly remains a local secret among the res­i­dents of Coop­er Land­ing, the fish­ing mec­ca locat­ed some 105 miles south of Anchor­age on Ster­ling High­way. Many in this town con­sid­er it their per­son­al get­away, which makes it quite a pop­u­lar secret. A fore­man for Chugach Elec­tric (the com­pa­ny that man­ages the dam on Coop­er Lake) said he often expe­ri­enced con­ges­tion while dri­ving to the dam, due to the heavy  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 6 miles

This trail is a good day hike for the whole fam­i­ly. It alter­nates between open mead­ows and forests and offers the option of tent camp­ing or stay­ing in Cres­cent Lake Cab­in. There are options for longer hikes and there is a lot of wildlife to be seen such as moose, goats and bears.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 21 miles

Pop­u­lar with hik­ers and back­pack­ers, this easy-to-fol­low trail con­nects the state’s most intense sock­eye salmon sports fish­ery with stun­ning moun­tain back­coun­try. It offers many of the Kenai Peninsula’s high­lights in one trip. The 21-mile route access­es Russ­ian Riv­er Falls, Low­er and Upper Russ­ian Lakes, Coop­er Lake, 3 fed­er­al­ly man­aged recre­ation­al cab­ins, and numer­ous campsites

This wildlife sweet spot is worth a vis­it. The Russ­ian Lakes Trail begins off the access road to the Russ­ian Riv­er Camp­ground in Coop­er Land­ing, at mile­post 52 of the Ster­ling High­way. Get off-the-beat­en path, hike two miles to the falls and enjoy the imme­di­ate reward of spec­tac­u­lar salmon viewing. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 10 miles

Well-main­tained and suit­able for sum­mer hik­ing and bik­ing, the 10-mile Devil’s Pass Trail fea­tures a steep route up a spec­tac­u­lar V‑shaped val­ley that inter­sects with the Res­ur­rec­tion Pass Trail and a rental cab­in in the alpine realm. The coun­try is rugged, with great access to cross-coun­try tun­dra explo­ration and berry picking.

No oth­er min­ing trail on the Kenai Penin­su­la climbs as high or takes in more exten­sive views as the 6‑mile-long Crown Mine Trail. Begin­ning some 2 hours south of Anchor­age on the appro­pri­ate­ly named Mine Road just south of Trail Lake, this trail climbs to 3,900 feet above sea lev­el to a unique spot — a glacial cirque lit­tered with min­ing paraphernalia.

Difficulty: Moderate

The 23-mile John­son Pass Trail offers hik­ers, back­pack­ers and bik­ers a well-marked route through a lush pass in the Kenai Moun­tains — fea­tur­ing grad­ual climbs, two lakes with fish, spec­tac­u­lar peaks and some way cool gorges.

This is a day use site that offers 13 pic­nic sites with tables, a fish view­ing plat­form, water, toi­lets, an infor­ma­tion board, and fire grates.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 23 miles

The wild­flow­ers are abun­dant and ver­dant under­growth can be check high some­times. Most of the trail lies below tree­line, so there are estab­lished camp clear­ings along the way that are nes­tled into the trees. One of the best camp­sites is 10 miles in from the north­ern trail­head, set among trees on a spruce-cov­ered knoll look­ing over the trail and Bench Lake.

Locat­ed about 3 miles up a grav­el road from Snug Har­bor Road along Kenai Lake. A prim­i­tive camp­ing area is near­by over­look­ing the lake 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 38 miles

This 38 mile long USFS trail climbs Res­ur­rec­tion Pass (elev. 2,600) and descends to the north to anoth­er trail­head­trail­head near Hope on Tur­na­gain Arm. There are 8 pub­lic use cab­ins along the trail, mak­ing this an advanced but com­fort­able day cab­in-to-cab­in hike. There are also 19 camp­sites avail­able along the trail.

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