The Devil’s Creek-Summit Creek Loop.
Two connecting trails—Devil’s Creek and Summit Creek—lead to and from the Resurrection Pass area across the mountains to the Seward Highway. They offer an alternative itinerary (and a potential bail-out option) with great berry picking through some of the most spectacular alpine hiking in the region. A 20-mile (or so) weekend backpacking loop via Devil’s and Resurrection passes is doable, requiring only a 4.5-mile shuttle between the parking areas on the Seward Highway.
- Devil’s Creek Trail (10 miles one way) is well maintained and popular with mountain bikers. From a trailhead at Mile 39.5 of the Seward Highway, the route climbs 1,400-feet from the highway to Devil’s Pass through a dramatic V-shaped valley, passing a small lake. It intersects the Resurrection Pass Trail near the Devil’s Pass Cabin. Travel above Mile 3 is not recommended during winter due to snow avalanche hazards.
- Summit Creek Trail (about 9 miles one way) is narrower, more meandering and requiring more route finding. It is not recommended winter travel due to avalanche exposure. The Forest Service also strongly discourages biking the route, due to the fragile tundra setting and rugged conditions found on the trail. (Bikers who have attempted the trip usually report they bailed or had to walk bikes. “Not really doable,” is a frequent comment.) But if you want to hike some of the Kenai’s most remote high country on a single track once trekked by gold rush prospectors, it’s a blast. From a trailhead near Mile 44 of the Seward Highway (across the road from southern end of Summit Lake), this trail ascends through the forest into sweeping tundra, up and over two ridges, and descends on a single track to the pass itself. Lower sections of the route become overgrown during high summer, with six-foot-tall grass sometimes blocking the view of your boots as you walk. Watch for the zigzag of an old mining road on the mountain face across the creek as you rise out of the Canyon Creek valley. The alpine zone offers a decent chance to see caribou.
- Want to backpack the 20-mile loop from the Seward Highway to Resurrection Pass and back? The Forest Services recommends that first-time users ascend the Summit Creek Trail to the pass, then descend the Devil’s Creek Trail back to the highway. Locating Summit Creek trail cut-off in the pass can sometimes be difficult. Also, Summit Creek Trail has steeper grades and can be more challenging than the Devil’s Creek and Resurrection Pass routes.
- An old road a few hundred yards south of the modern Summit Creek trailhead leads to old mining sites and some mysterious lode mine portals. While this road along the creek appears on many topo maps as the main route to Resurrection Pass, it is no longer maintained and becomes overgrown and quite challenging only a few miles in. If the pass is your destination, stick to the modern trailhead! Not unless you want to spend time crawling on your hands and knees through alder thickets or bushwhacking across steep slopes.
- Want to try a fun (if somewhat epic) diversion? The commercial Summit Lake Lodge—with a restaurant and rental cabins open during summer—is situated at the north end of Summit Lake about a mile from Summit Creek trailhead. The USFS Tenderfoot Creek campground is on the other side of the lake. So, if you are up for an two-or-three-day side excursion during your trip traversing the Resurrection Pass Trail, you could descend Summit Creek Trail to spend a night at the lodge or campground. Imagine—a burger and a brew for an evening meal, followed by flapjacks at breakfast! And then—well fed and rested—you could hike back up Summit Creek Trail to Resurrection Pass and resume the trip.
- If you’re willing to walk another three miles further north from Summit Lake—about four miles from the Summit Creek trailhead—you can rent a bunk and a enjoy a wood-fire sauna. And maybe join a communal dinner! The Manitoba Cabin of the Alaska Wilderness Huts Association features rental bunks inside two yurts (one dog friendly) and shared kitchen space with a propane stove, sink and utensils inside a historic mining cabin. You must bring your own food. Reservations should be made in advance, but you might be able to conjure a cell connection good enough to book online after you emerge from the mountains to the highway. Summer weekdays frequently have available bunks.
Continue the journey south . . .
- Extend the adventure another two to four days on the Russian Lakes Trail. This popular route begins in the Russian River Campground just across the Kenai River from the south terminus of the Resurrection Pass Trail. It runs another 22 miles past the fabulous Russian River falls with leaping salmon, skirts two lakes, two cabins (that must be reserved in advance) and seven campsites. The route ends at the Cooper Lake remote site off Snug Harbor Road. If you’re on foot when you exit the Resurrection Pass Trail, you can reach the Russian Lakes trail by walking east on the Sterling Highway over the Kenai River Bridge, and then take the Forest Service campground access road to the trailhead. The distance between trailheads is about 1.5 miles.
- For the truly adventurous backcountry traveler, there’s even more. The Resurrection River Trail branches off from the Russian Lakes Trail at about Mile 15 (past the Upper Russian Lake) and runs another 16 miles south to a trailhead on Exit Glacier Road near Seward. The upper 10 miles of this mostly wooded, lowland trail is primitive, with two major stream crossings required where floods destroyed the bridges. During spring melt or after heavy rains, these crossings may be dangerous or even impossible. On the last 4.5 miles or so, the trail improves and is sometimes ridden by mountain bikers. But few people attempt the full route, and it is not recommended for livestock, children, snow vehicles or skis.