Why Take This Hike
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.
There’s nothing tricky about hiking this old mining road. Just be aware that because it’s a popular spot for ATVs, you’ll have to negotiate your way around some muddy spots over the first 2 miles, where the trail winds over the foothills at the base of Solars Mountain.
Upon reaching the base proper of Solars Mountain, the trail starts up a series of switchbacks on the mountain’s southwest face (and the ground dries out substantially). As you climb slowly and steadily, the trail will carry you up through spruce and willow trees before emerging high on the open face of the mountain. Here you can look down at most of Kenai Lake (to the west) and Trail Lake (to the north). Keen eyes might even pick out the mountains above Summit Lake farther north.
After climbing another few switchbacks, the trail swings to the right and winds around the southwest shoulder of the ridge. The final stretch runs straight up the valley toward the rugged and rocky summit of Solars Mountain. Just over 0.25 miles later, the trail ends at the bottom of a rockslide.
From the rocky outcrop just to the left of the trail’s end you can look down and across an entire glacier-plastered cirque. Look closer and you’ll see the surprising amount of mining debris that litters this valley, as well as a narrow trail that runs along the opposite side of the cirque and out to a small mine portal.
You don’t need to stop here. For even better views—and more glaciers—turn left and start up the broad and steep grass slope leading to the top of the mountain’s west ridge. After some 0.3 miles of climbing you’ll reach a wide, gravel saddle between the small knob of Crown Point on the left and the very rocky upper west ridge of Solars Mountain on the right.
Look down the far side of this saddle and you’ll see two more glaciers clinging to the high rocky walls of Solar Mountain’s northwest flank. From here you can traverse the ridge to the left, which leads to the summit of Crown Point. And from that high viewpoint you can look out over the lake valleys far below—including most of Kenai Lake.
If you’ve reached this point, don’t hurry away. Sit, snack, and enjoy the views. Very few places on the Kenai Peninsula offer such a wide-ranging view from so high a perch.
(For more, see Walk-About Guide to Alaska, Volume One by Shawn R. Lyons)