Depending on which hike you choose, you will enjoy spectacular perspectives on Kenai Lake, the Cooper Landing Valley, Russian River, Russian Lakes, Skilak Lake, Chugach Mountains, Crescent Lake, Cooper Lake, etc. We think that in order to fully enjoy Alaska, at least one back country hike should be part of your Alaskan vacation.
Our guides are great company on a hike and can give you a safer, enhanced experience, so you come away not only awed by spectacular views, but also a little more knowledgeable about the area you hiked in. Plus:
- The guide will help pick a trail that matches your activity level.
- You don’t have to worry about navigating.
- The guide carries safety and survival equipment.
- The guide will teach you about the area’s plants, wildlife and geology.
The hikes in Alaska are bigger, better and wilder, which means you have to be prepared. Especially if you are planning to hike without a guide, you need to do your research. Preparation can mean the difference between a rewarding day in the wilderness and dangerous situations.
If you are concerned about bears, we are happy to talk to you about our safety precautions. There are many steps we take to minimize risk.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources provides excellent safety information for hikers, including bear safety.
Choose A Trail
We offer a variety of guided hiking opportunities ranging from easy half day trips, to more rigorous trips that are a little longer in length and have tougher terrain for those who want a challenge.
Ptarmigan Creek— If you enjoy forest hikes, you will love traveling through cottonwoods, spruce, and hemlock alongside silty Ptarmigan Creek. Catch a glimpse of a red salmon fighting its way upstream before gradually climbing high above to the shores of Ptarmigan Lake. This slender lake, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, makes this a picturesque and peaceful destination. If you’re lucky, you may hear the call of a common loon.
Hidden Creek—This trail has diverse scenery, weaving through the scars of the 1996 Hidden Creek Fire, past the wetlands of Hidden Creek and finally to the beautiful blue waters of Skilak Lake. This hike is ideal for birders and is a great place to see a Bald Eagle perched in a tree or a Double-crested Cormorant skimming over the water’s surface. In spring and summer beautiful flower displays give way to watermelon berries, blueberries and mushrooms as the seasons progress.
Russian River Falls—Watch as the salmon continue their struggle to their spawning grounds, fighting to make it up the rushing waters of the Russian River Falls. This hike offers opportunities to see wildlife, birds and a taste of the tangy Red Currant.
Confluence Trail – This is another trail that is easily accessible. A set of stairs at the start of the trail leads down to a flat boardwalk raised to protect the riparian habitat. The trail is about a half mile long and brings you to the sanctuary where the Kenai River and the Russian river meet. The two rivers have unique appearances which can best be seen from this trail or on one of our scenic rafting trips. The Russian is a clear, snow pack fed river and the Kenai is a vibrant blue glacial fed river. Bears can also be seen fishing and wandering around on this hike, along with salmon in the clear waters of the Russian after the June run of Red salmon.
Rainbow Lakes—This is a short, easy hike to a high mountain lake. Separated by only a foot bridge, and surrounded by hemlocks, the Rainbow Lakes have a magical feel. This trail offers beautiful views, great opportunities for photography, berries, mushrooms and the occasional Trumpeter Swan when the season is right.
Johnson Pass North– This is an ideal trail for splendid mountain views and birding as it traverses through forest and grasslands as it winds deeper into the mountains. From the tiny camouflaged Brown Creeper to the contentious Merlin, this trail offers glimpses at many of the birds of southcentral Alaska.
Palmer Creek—Watch for moose, caribou and hawks as you travel through forest and grassy mountain slopes above Palmer Creek. This hike begins in the tundra and leads to the abandoned Hirshey Mine. Pass blueberries, wildflowers and waterfalls as you climb towards the end of the valley and two alpine lakes.
Gull Rock– Watch the beauty and power of the ocean as the tides rush in and out of Turnagain Arm. This trail leads to a great spot to watch for Beluga Whales and soak in the view of mountains rising thousands of feet out of the ocean.
Skilak Lookout– Hike through the heart of the forest regenerated after the 1996 Hidden Creek Fire. From the alpine zone at the end of the trail, look down to Skilak Lake for a view of gull and cormorant rookeries on the lake’s rocky islands.
Summit Pass—Quickly climb into alpine tundra and travel through a series of glacially carved valleys. This trail offers spectacular views, the opportunity to see wildlife such as marmots and Dahl Sheep and is an ideal hike for the geology buff.
Crescent Lake—Follow Crescent Creek through birch and hemlock forest and grassy mountain meadows to Crescent Lake. This trail offers birding, blueberries, wildlife and spectacular fireweed displays.
Skyline– This is a rigorous hike, climbing quickly out of the trees, but the reward is great. If you need a break along the way, there are a couple of spots that are worth stopping at to grab a snack or a drink and explore a little. One such spot consists of a mysterious looking dwarfed forest near the tree line. The top of the mountain is spectacularly windy with one heck of a view and a geo-cache. You can see the volcanoes across Cook Inlet climbing out of the ocean, and on a very clear day you can see the highest mountain peak in North America, Denali, hundreds of miles to the north.
Fuller Lakes-Round Mountain— This is a hike is fairly strenuous the first half, and then gradually flattens out for the second half. The trail head is right off the Sterling Highway and spruce trees populate the entrance. The Fuller Lakes are nestled between steep mountain slopes, creating a picturesque scene. Sure-footed Dahl sheep can sometimes be spotted on the surrounding mountains.
Hope Point–This is a challenging but magnificent hike offering views of the Kenai Mountains, Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm. Travel from birch forest, to alpine tundra, to the rocky summit for a well-earned rest and one of the best views on the Kenai Peninsula.
Slaughter Gulch– Quickly climb out of the forest to spectacular bird’s eye views of Kenai Lake and surrounding mountains. Although steep, every step is worth the effort on this hike as each one carries you higher. This hike awakens all the senses as it is lined with a beautiful assortment of wildflowers and a taste of blueberries, crowberries, high-bush cranberries, and service berries. Once the ridgeline is reached, one can continue to follow the ridge up to the Peak of Juneau Mountain.
Berries and Foraging
While most people do not come to Alaska to forage, it is a nice perk of visiting our Great State! Often on hikes in the late summer/early fall, we do not need to pack snacks due to the great abundance of berries on our trails! What better trail snack is there than fresh blueberries as you go?
Salmonberries, Watermelon Berries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Low Bush Cranberries- These are just some of the delicious berries you might encounter on any outing in our area. We often harvest them to make jams, pies and crumbles. Mid August through Late September, berries can be found in abundance on the Kenai Peninsula. As with fishing holes, every Alaskan has a “honey hole” where they go to get their berries; if you’re lucky, your guide or one of our staff might share the whereabouts of theirs with you! Be sure you check with a guidebook or a knowledgeable person before consuming berries you have found because there are some that look edible but are very dangerous if consumed.
We have so many different types of Mushrooms in Alaska. The link below is extremely informative and interesting. Our favorites to harvest are the highly sought after Morel Mushrooms and the beautiful Chanterelles. These can be found in our areas and the “honey holes” for these foraged items may be even more top secret than berry picking spots!
Morels are found all over the Kenai Peninsula and seem to flourish in places where there have been recent (within the last 2-3 years) burns. You have to have a good eye when picking morels as there are many False Morels which grow in similar areas and they can be deadly poisonous.
Chanterelles are one of the most common mushrooms found in our area and can be found in mossy forested areas.
*We advise cooking all mushrooms very well before consuming them.
This is a great link for mushroom information Mushrooms of the National Forests in Alaska
Drifter’s Lodge sits in an amazing valley setting on the Kenai River; the temperate weather paired with the protection of our valley attracts many different species of wildlife and birds year round. Birds and waterfowl are quite abundant, so a variety of species are available for viewing throughout the year. Different seasons bring different species. The following lists are only small portion of the species that you could see right from the lodge deck and campfire.
From the deck of the lodge, see these magnificent birds arrive in early April, have their goslings and raise them until they can fly. Then, in May, watch them take off for Northern Alaska, returning again in September with their young, feeding heavily before flying south in November for the fall migration. We have had a couple years that they stay with us in Cooper Landing all winter long.
CANADIAN SNOW GEESE
These awesome birds stop by briefly in Cooper Landing in Late August through Early September as part of their migration south. They spend the summers nesting in the arctic tundra of Northern Alaska.
These birds are the longest migratory bird in the world. Each year, they travel about 12,000 miles, from Northern Alaska all the way to the Antarctic. These birds mainly travel over the ocean while they are migrating. They are usually only seen during their breeding season in the arctic. We are very lucky in Cooper Landing to see these incredible birds quite often during the summer.
These beautiful birds migrate to Alaska each year to breed. They meet in Nebraska, near the Platte River Valley and then all migrate together to Alaska. Its not uncommon to see a flock of 1000+ birds fly over Cooper Landing in the early Summer and then again in the beginning of September.
These local birds cruise every day on the river in front of the lodge. Local nests are visible along the river in the immediate area of the lodge. We have resident Bald Eagles in Cooper Landing and they can be seen all year long.
And more…such as:
Willow ptarmigan, Black Billed Magpie, Arctic Tern, Red Faced Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Dark Eyed Junco, Harlequin Ducks, Mallard Ducks, Spectacled Eider Ducks, Wood Ducks, Merganser Ducks, Scoter Ducks, Kingfisher (belted), Robin, Black Billed Magpie, Red Faced Cormorant, Sellers’ Jay, Grey Jay, Ravens, Crows, Black Capped Chickadee, Red Breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Varied Throughsh, Red Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Spruce Grouse Black Backed Woodpecker, Violet-Blue swallow, Green Swallow, Brown Swallow, Great Horned owls , Short Eared Owls and finally, Grey (immature) gulls, and Mew Gulls. Needless to say, Cooper Landing is a birder’s paradise!!