Cordova Parks & Trails
The trails around Cordova serve up tons of variety. Most are located in the Chugach National Forest and are very well maintained by the Forest Service. In fact, you’ll find some 40 miles of maintained, road-accessible trails (and well over 100 miles of trail in total) that take you through everything from muskeg meadow to alpine ridges above treeline, often in just a few miles.
The climate within the forest creates a landscape that’s especially spectacular. While other parts of the Chugach get around 60 inches of rain each year, Cordova can see as much as 180 inches, which brings a lush, mossy green to the trees. Of course, all that rain also makes for a marsh-like environment with wet ground. Fortunately, many miles of these well-maintained trails are laid with planks, both to protect the environment and help you walk without sinking in.
Each year, the trails are typically clear of snow by May; just be aware that depending on the winter, some of the trails with open slopes may still have some snow until early June.
With such a wide variety of trails it can be hard to know which to hike if you have limited time in town. Here are some ideas to get you started. Or, jump to list of trails.
Easy: Pipeline Lakes and McKinley Trail Loop. This 4- to 5-mile round-trip hike is suitable for most anyone. Start from either of the two trailheads along the Copper River Highway (they’re close together, making for an easy walk to your car when you’re finished). Pipeline Lakes takes you through dense forest that opens up to meadows and fantastic mountain views. If you’re interested in some trout fishing, take the short spur trails, which lead to several small lakes filled with them. Along the way, you’ll intersect with the McKinley Lake Trail, which takes you through old-growth canopy of Sitka and hemlock spruce.
Moderate/Challenging: Heney Ridge Trail. This 6.1-mile trail offers great views, though it does require some effort to get to the top. It starts out following Hartney Bay stream on a gravel walkway; you’ll soon come to a beautiful bridge over a creek that in mid-July and August is full of chum spawning salmon. Turn around here if you don’t feel up to the more challenging part of the climb.
But continue on and you’ll pass through beautiful forest and muskeg meadows; be sure to look back over your shoulder for terrific views of Hartney Bay and Prince William Sound. The last mile gets pretty steep, but the payoff is in the views of Cordova, Nelson Bay, the Sound and some of the main islands.
Best View: Alice Smith Intertie. Any of the trails that take you into the alpine will offer great views. But 6.6-mile Alice Smith Intertie features the area’s most jaw-dropping sights. It takes about 5 hours each way, via either the Power Creek or Crater Lake trails (or you can hike the ridge from end-to-end, 11 miles, if you arrange for a shuttle vehicle at one end). Once you reach the ridge, you’ll find unforgettable views of Prince William Sound, Eyak Lake, and the Copper River Delta. Just be aware that the trail is prone to dense fog, so it’s wise to come prepared to spend the night (there’s a free shelter halfway).
Winter:The easy Pipeline Lakes and McKinley Loop we mention above is also a fantastic winter walk. Another is the Saddlebag Glacier Trail. This 6.1-mile round-trip is flat, making it popular for both snowshoeing and fat-tire biking. And the payoff is a small, pretty lake at the foot of a spectacular glacier. Locals will pack their ice skates in case the lake is frozen.. A similar experience is available on the shorter Sheridan Lake Trail, where you only have to walk about a mile to get to the lake. Don your skates and glide around icebergs frozen into the ice. Best conditions for skating are generally late November through early January, before there’s much snow accumulation.
If you’re not necessarily interested in a hike, but want to enjoy the outdoors and some potential wildlife viewing, there are a few great picnic and recreation areas just beyond town along the Copper River Highway.
Alaganik Slough Recreation Area has a boardwalk with an observation deck, plus a blind to spot wildlife without disturbing any critters. Play in the water or fish for Coho. Come in spring and you’ll also find hooligan (or candlefish), who arrive in massive numbers. And the seals, sea lions, and birds who flock here for the feast create a cacaphony of noise. You’ll find four separate sites with picnic tables and fire rings; spend a day or set up and camp for a week.
Both 18-Mile and One Eye Pond each have day-use picnic areas; walk the trail around the pond and look for the Coho salmon that come to spawn.
Parks & Trails
This 4.1‑mile trail starts through forest and muskeg meadows. You’ll cross a beautiful bridge over a creek that in mid-July and August is full of spawning chum salmon Then once you’re at the top take in views of Cordova, Nelson Bay, and Prince William Sound.
This 1.5‑mile hike is an easy stroll down to the lake that offers a great payoff in the form of a gorgeous glacier. If you’re here in winter and the conditions are right, it’s a great spot for wilderness ice skating, fat biking, or cross-country skiing!
This ski trail weaves through muskeg and forest and gradually gains elevation until it ends. The trail leads to a high muskeg that overlooks the Copper River Delta, Heney Range and the Gulf of Alaska. This trail is very wet during all seasons excluding winter and is not a hiking trail.
The 3.3‑mile long trail is mostly boardwalk over muskeg. This is an excellent spot to bird-watch, look for waterfowl feeding on Eyak Lake. Trumpeter swans frequent this lake. Most fly south for the winter however, up to 100 swans will winter here in this ice-free lake.
An easy trail, about 0.6 miles long, that will take about 1 hour to hike and leads you to excellent views of Child’s Glacier. Important note: While the Forest Service still maintains it, you can’t get here by car, as the Copper River highway is washed out at Mile 36. You can only access the trail by hiring a boat or a plane from town.
This is an easy 2.4‑mile hike with excellent fishing for sockeye, Dolly Varden and cutthroat. You’ll find access to McKinley Trail and McKinley Lake public use cabins. It is a well-maintained trail that has several bridges for easy stream crossings and interpretive signs to explain the trail’s history.
Discover year-round recreation above Cordova on this gorgeous mountain. In winter, you can lose yourself among the puffy snowdrifts and powder-covered trees as you schuss down the slopes. And in the summer, you’ll find berry picking, hiking, and festivals.
This ridge route has amazing views of Prince William Sound, Eyak Lake, and the Copper River Delta. About halfway down the trail, there is small shelter available for day use or overnight camping. It is available on a first-come first-serve basis.
Located at Mile 17 of the Copper River Highway. An accessible boardwalk leads visitors to stunning views of both the expansive wetlands of the Copper River Delta and the surrounding mountains. A wide variety of wetland animals including trumpeter swans, moose, brown bear, and shorebirds can be seen in the area, especially during the spring and fall. The first half of this trail is paved with geoblock, so that it does not have a negative… ...more
This is a steep climb that ends where Crater Lake sits. The first half climbs over rocky sections with numerous switchbacks, with muddy areas and wood bridges. The second half continues to climb, but at a much nicer grade. At mile 1.2 there is an intertie to Ski Hill trail and at the lake there is the option to hike the Alice Smith Intertie. The entire loop from Crater Lake to Power Creek Trailhead is 12 miles. Along this trail there is good… ...more
The first mile and a half of this trail leads up over rocky slopes that offer a great view of Eyak Lake and the Orca Inlet. At this point the trail splits in two and the hiker has a choice of going around the south end of Mt. Eyak or climbing straight up to the top.
This very active glacier forms a wall along the fabled Copper River near a historic railroad route that once serviced the world’s largest copper mine. NOTE: A bridge at Mile 36 of the Copper River Highway is currently (2020) impassable, with repairs not expected for several years. Child’s Glacier is not currently accessible by road. Contact Cordova Ranger District for current venders providing transportation options to the far side. ...more