Bertha Creek Campground is a great choice for a low-key campout in a recreational gold-panning area on a quiet loop where the kids won’t get lost. Located just south of Turnagain Pass in the Kenai Mountains about 65 miles south of Anchorage, the campground is tucked into an open forest beside the confluence of Bertha and Granite creeks at the base of steep mountains.
The Gold Rush past
The spot has links to the region’s gold rush past and once featured a mining operation. (A prospector named the creek in 1902 for his daughter!) You can see ditches left decades ago from hydraulic mining just across the bridge on the flats near the creek’s mouth.
The family can try out gold panning on unvegetated gravels along Bertha. The best results will be found upstream of the Seward Highway. The area is popular with expert recreational miners using four-inch dredges and light equipment. The campground also makes a convenient base for berry picking, hiking, biking and exploring the area.
Here’s what you can do while camping at Bertha Creek:
- Pan for gold. Recreational panning is permitted along Bertha Creek from Granite Creek upslope to the power line. (Granite Creek is out of bounds due to its salmon run.) Try the placer diggings on the trails upstream of the Seward Highway.
- Explore the area. A trail up the steep ridge directly between the campground and the highway leads to a stunning viewpoint of the surrounding country. A bridge over Bertha Creek follows a winter route for a quarter mile before getting too wet. Many paths lead to clear-running Granite Creek.
- Bike. The campground loop is great for kids. A paved bike trail stretches more than seven miles from Johnson Pass Trailhead past Granite Creek campground and recreation area to the wayside at the Hope Cutoff. Park at Johnson Pass Trailhead 1.5 miles away.
- Pick berries or go hiking. Turnagain Pass is famous for blueberries in season and hiking trails. Park at the wayside on the east side of the highway about 2.6 miles back up the hill toward town.