Photo Credit: Kenai Riverside Fishing

Things to Do in the Cooper Landing Area

Two people in a boat hold up a fish they caught

Anglers show off their catch with Alaska River Adventures

1. Fishing the Kenai River

Discover why this river offers the ultimate fishing adventure for anglers the world over. Fish from shore or take a fishing charter, or stay at a fishing lodge and cast for all five species of salmon, along with trout. Whether you’re a pro or novice, you’ll delight in the river’s bounty, with experts to guide you all the way.

2. Raft the Kenai River

The Kenai is also famous for awesome rafting in its glacially fed waters. The fairly mild rapids make it an exciting outing that’s also great for families. Choose from a half-day or full day of fun, as you travel deep into the Alaskan wilderness, keeping an eye out for wildlife along the river banks and eagles perched in the trees.

Rafting on the Kenai River

Enjoy a gentle float on the glacially fed Kenai River

A lake and mountain in the Alaska backcountry

Get in touch with nature on one of the many trails in the area. Photo by Susan Long.

3. Go Hiking

You can find some of the best hiking in Southcentral Alaska right here in Cooper Landing. The area offers a variety of trails for hikers of all ages and abilities: historic trails used by gold prospectors, paths that lead through lush forests filled with wildlife, and walkways that transport you to open meadows with shimmering lakes.

Discover Historic Sites in the Cooper Landing Area

Discover historic sites in the Cooper Landing Area

4. Discover Historic Sites

Learn about some of the state’s unique history and culture at the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. Explore tales of the Gold Rush and the characters who made this area their home, all among a stunning setting of mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciers, and fjords. See the historic post office (the oldest functional building in Cooper Landing) and Estes Grocery, an old roadhouse with historic photos.

5. Drive Skilak Lake Road

If wildlife and iconic views are on your Alaskan agenda, driving the Skilak Lake Road should be a must-do. This 18-mile-long loop gravel road not only leads you through the Kenai Peninsula’s best area for wildlife viewing, but also to great views of lakes and glaciers.

A black bear walking through the woods

Driving the Skilak Lake Road is a great way to view wildlife. Photo by Wayne Renfrow.

Salmon swimming in a river

Watch energetic salmon swim upstream

6. Watch the Salmon

The annual upstream salmon migration—when waters teem with fish—is not only a classic Alaskan event, but it also makes for exciting viewing. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to watch salmon in late summer, when the rivers teem with fish. From viewing platforms to riverside trails, pick a spot to check out salmon make their journey.

A sprig of fireweed next to a lake with mountains in the background

How many different bird species can you spot at Tern Lake? Photo by Susan Long.

7. See Wildlife at Tern Lake

Bask in the beauty of Alaskan flora and fauna at Tern Lake. Bird watchers will thrill to the sight of bald eagles, loons, and arctic terns; and everyone will be excited by the chance to see beavers, otters and salmon, along with Dall sheep, moose, and mountain goats in the surrounding mountains. Stop off at the Tern Lake day use area, where you’ll find picnic tables and a fish-viewing platform.

Cooper Landing Day Tours & Attractions View All

Season: Jun 06 to Sep 30 $315 Day Trip or $1945+ all-inclusive packages Full Day to Multi Day

Where will you find Alaska’s best salmon fish­ing? The Kenai Penin­su­la is hard to beat. Alas­ka Wild­land Adven­tures (AWA) has spe­cial­ized in fish­ing the Upper Kenai Riv­er between Kenai and Ski­lak Lakes since 1977. Their pro­fes­sion­al guides are experts in fly-fish­ing, drift fish­ing, and back trolling, so you can fish from the boat, the bank, or both. Expect an excit­ing day of fish­ing for salmon (red, sil­ver, or king depend­ing on the sea­son), as  ...more

Season: May 24 to Sep 15 $65+ 2 to 7 hrs

Alas­ka Wild­land Adven­tures pio­neered float­ing the mel­low, turquoise Kenai Riv­er and has oper­at­ed con­tin­u­ous­ly since 1977. Join them for a serene 2‑hour float, or take on a 7‑hour adven­ture, com­plete with fun Class II+ rapids and a cruise through a glacial lake. AWA’s Kenai Riv­er Scenic Float Trip offers a nice intro­duc­tion to the riv­er, tak­ing you along a stretch of the scenic Upper Kenai closed to motor­ized boats. Watch for wildlife as your  ...more

Season: May 15 to Oct 31 $175+ 4 - 9 hrs

Fish­ing the Kenai Penin­su­la is pret­ty much the ulti­mate for fish­er­men the world over, and with Alas­ka Riv­er Adven­tures, even begin­ners do well. This area is famous for salmon (Kings, reds and sil­vers), rain­bow trout, and Dol­ly Var­den, which Alas­ka Riv­er Adven­tures can help you find in the amaz­ing green of the Kenai Riv­er and oth­er points along the Penin­su­la. Alas­ka Riv­er Adven­ture guides have been fish­ing these waters for years. They’re patient  ...more

Season: May 01 to Oct 01 $59+ per person 3 - 9 hrs

Alas­ka Riv­er Adven­tures Kenai Riv­er raft­ing trips are some of its most pop­u­lar and acces­si­ble excur­sions – and are a great val­ue too. Full day trips show­case 19 miles of Alas­ka wild from Kenai Lake to Ski­lak Lake, giv­ing plen­ty of time for spot­ting wildlife, his­toric spots and gor­geous views from all angles. When you have just a few hours, a scenic and serene 14-mile float of the Upper Kenai Riv­er pro­vides a vari­ety of sights, from historic  ...more

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Cooper Landing Area Hiking Trails View All

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.

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. 

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 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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: 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.

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.

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