Home | Sailing | Alaska 2003 |     Share This Page

Alaska 2003
  • Places: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: May - August 2002
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Level of adventure: high to ridiculous
Copyright © 2003, P. Lutus. All rights reserved.

Hiking Notes
This page summarizes my Alaska / British Columbia personal field notes about hiking trails, for the edification of anyone who wants to find some nice trails, some well-known, some never hiked. Many of the listed trails are just outside various towns along the more common marine routes. This list is updated regularly, most recently in 2009.

Shearwater, B.C.

Go into the boatyard near the marina, then move west and go up the hill. A trail, not easy to see from the boatyard, begins to make itself visible as you climb up. You will come to a gravel road, walk south. Croil Lake appears in the right of the road, along with a sign leading to the Eddie Lake trail. Visit Croil Lake, then notice that the trail continues.

The Eddie Lake trail is long and can be very muddy at some times of year, wear appropriate shoes. It is quite enjoyable and there is not much climbing involved.

Ketchikan, AK

Rainbird. Go to roughly 55d 21.34m n, 131d 40.67m w on a college campus. Go north behind a maintenance shed, climb the hill on a reasonably well-marked trail, you will encounter a large flat trail that leads east (rainbird trail). There are some trails that branch off from this trail, that go up to a lookout and elsewhere (the latter not walked yet).

Carlanna Lake. Go to roughly 55d 21.34m n, 131d 41.61m w (Canyon road), this becomes an uphill gravel road leading to the lake. Supposedly, if you go to the east side of the lake and go uphill, you encounter a trail that ascends Minerva mountain, east of the lake (the latter not located or walked yet).

Bald Eagle on the beach, Wrangell
Wrangell, AK

Walk from the marina to the beach with the petroglyphs (NW of marina a couple of miles — walk near the beach). On the way back, move east into the woods and climb the hill that lies directly north of the main part of town. The north face is rugged without much in the way of trails, but it affords a nice challenge, and a trail can be acquired from the top back into town on the south side.

Petersburg, AK

Go to a gravel parking lot at 56d 48.19m n, 132d 55.72m w, near the east end of the airport runway, look for a sign for Raven's Roost Trail. Walk west along a gravel road, take the first left, walk south on another gravel road, watch for a trail sign on the right near a small building. Walk along a gravel path that becomes a wooden walkway through muskeg, now you are on the trail.

This is a fairly long trail, not terribly difficult, developed in places along its entire length (wooden walkways, staircases, etc.). It gradually rises about 1700 feet to a large muskeg meadow with a view of town, then it descends to the southwest of town alongside Wrangell Narrows. Be aware that the trail doesn't end on top, it continues, so you have to decide if you are going to return to your starting point or descend by a different route than you ascended.

A worthwhile hike, very pretty, and a walking staff is a good idea.

Juneau, AK

Go to roughly 58d 18.38m n, 134d 25.1m w (Evergreen road), join Gold creek flume, a walkway on top of a water flume that bears NE. Join perseverance Trail at the end of the flume. This trail ascends into some pretty canyon areas, and Mt. Juneau Trail branches off to the left (west). Haven't walked Mt. Juneau Trail yet, but Perseverance is very nice.

Cordova, AK

This town has an excellent hiking trail (in fact, several). Go into town and locate (or ask directions to) the ski area. It's at the top of "ski hill road." As you come to the top of the gravel road, near the base of the ski lift, a trail appears at the right, about 50 yards west of the ski lift line. Climb this trail. At the top of this trail are (1) the top of the ski lift, and (2) a relay station/antenna farm.

But this is just the beginning! To the north of the relay station is more trail, well-maintained and very interesting, moving at first along a saddle, through muskeg meadows and small ponds and lakes, very pretty country, leading up to a much higher peak that overlooks the town from the NE. Both the relay station and the higher peak are visible from the marina. Just look toward the NE, they are both in the same quadrant.

Reflecting pool east of Galena Bay
Galena Bay, AK near Valdez

This is not a trail near a city. It is a trail between the lagoon at the east edge of Galena Bay and Silver Lake. This is a difficult trail, seven miles long, very challenging terrain, and at present (5/2003) it doesn't actually get to the lake.

Anchor at the east end of Galena Bay at 60d 56.229m n, 146d 36.065m w, at the entrance to the lagoon. Paddle into the lagoon (at low tide this requires some portage). Leave the boat at 60d 56.459m n, 146d 33.875m w and walk north, watching for orange plastic trail blazes on the trees (over time the bears tear down, then chew up, many of the plastic blazes). Join the trail when it is encountered. The trail at this stage follows the south side of Duck Creek, through some very rough terrain with plenty of bears (in late May 2003 there was fresh bear sign everywhere).

Near the lake there is a rope across the creek, too high to pass in the spring, that moves the trail from the south to the north side of the creek. This ford was not followed due to high water. I made my way up a ridge on the south side to a view of the lake and surrounding mountains, but it appears it would be very difficult to approach the lake from the south side.

This is a very difficult trail, and one would be wise to carry bear defenses and be watchful. As mentioned above, there were fresh bear sign everywhere in the area. I met a bear hunter on the trail, and he said several bears had been killed in the immediate past. The trail is pretty in places, and is a rewarding experience in spite of everything.

Cascade Bay, from top of falls.
Cascade Bay, in Eaglek Bay East of Whittier in PWS

Cascade bay has a nice waterfall. The entrance has a glacial moraine that is very shallow (as in ten feet at low tides), in fact I think this bay was probably a lagoon before the 1964 earthquake. Enter very carefully.

There is a lake that feeds the waterfall, and there is a trail to the lake. Looking at the chart one might think that simply crossing the ridge will lead to the lake, and although this is true, it is a much greater altitude gain than is necessary. Instead, go to the beach that is SW of the falls, beach the dinghy, and walk north, staying near shore. Enter a canyon with some muskeg meadows, and a trail will appear that goes up to the falls and the lake.

BUT! To see more lake, the north side of the lake looks better (not as steep, affording more chances to walk a good distance along the shore). Looking from the south side of the lake, it became obvious that the north side would have been a better goal. Try to find a trail on the east side of the falls next time. The distances are not great, but the terrain can be challenging.

Anchor in front of a bight across from the falls, there is an uncharted shallow spot well offshore that must be sought out, and with reasonable holding (60d 54.84m n 147d 48.27m w). There are what appear to be lion's mane jellyfish in this bay, so no swimming or falling out of boats.

Whittier, AK

There are two trails here (more, actually). One, Horsetail Falls Trail, rises behind town, the other runs east to Shotgun Cove. I have only walked the first,

It is not easy to describe how to get to the Horsetail Falls Trail by way of city-style directions, just ask someone or go to 60d 46.346m n, 148d 40.627m w, near the trailhead. The first part of the trail is well-developed with wooden walkways, and ends on a nice hilltop with a view. But as is so often true in Alaska, there is much more of a hike beyond the end of the trail. The terrain is increasingly alpine beyond the end of the trail, eventually becoming a glacier. Very scenic and fun.

The second trail, to Shotgun Cove, begins as a gravel road in town and then becomes a footpath (reportedely, have not yet walked it). It sounds very promising.

Blue Fox Bay from Devil's Paw Mountain
Blue Fox Bay, Afognak Island, AK

To the west of Blue Fox Bay is a multiple-peak mountain named "Devil's Paw". There is a trail leading from Blue Fox Bay west, up to the high country and to any of the peaks one cares to challenge. Part of the trail is steep and challenging — a hiking staff or ski pole is almost a must for the steepest parts. Enter Blue Fox Bay, go to the south end, find the shelter cabin (not private property) at the west side of the south end. The trail begins about 100 meters north of the cabin, at a tree that extends out on the beach. The trail is not marked but is relatively easy to follow.

There are bears in this neighborhood. Some fresh bear scat appeared within two hours between my ascent and descent, and for all I know it was left by a bear that was stalking me. And, from the evidence of one scat pile, they're big bears, Kodiak bears. Didn't actually see any bears, but the evidence left little to the imagination.

Great view from the top of the north peak of Devil's Paw.

Karluk River Trail, Larsen Bay, Kodiak Iskand.

Not for the faint of heart, this trail extends from the west end of Larsen Bay at 57° 31.97' N, 154° 06.10' W, approximately west about three miles through some rather rough country to the shore of the Karluk River at 57° 32.33' N, 154° 09.22' W. This is bear country and you are likely to at least see bear tracks along the way, so carry some form of protection. The local people mostly drive ATVs along this trail, so it has a distinctly roadlike appearance, and it is rather muddy and boggy in places.

Once the river is reached, one may turn and walk south along the shore and get to Karluk Lake, I mean eventually. I haven't walked as far as the lake but the local people say it's feasible. Very pretty country.

An unnamed island in front of the Geographic Harbor entrance, west of Kodiak Island on the Alaska Peninsula.

This island lies east of Takli, the main island lying in front of the entrance to Geographic Harbor. Anchor on the north side near a sandy beach — best on days with SW wind. Allow two or more hours for a full exploration. There is bear sign in various places, so this is not a bear-free zone as one might expect. There is an old native camp with obsidian chips that has been explored by one or more professionals (numbered obsidian pieces on the ground, a screened protective frame over a site of particular interest).

Obviously there are any number of islands to choose from, but this one is not particularly hilly, and it's just the right size for a relatively brief exploration. And it is very pretty. A nice stopoff in the event that the current is running strong in the entrance to Geographic Harbor. Carry bear protection.

Prince William Sound/Cochrane Bay/Three Fingers Trail

A very nice trail, emanating from a very nice anchorage (the easternmost of three connected bays at Three Fingers Cove). The trail goes to a publicly maintained wilderness cabin at Shrode Lake. It is very pretty, not difficult, one river needs to be forded in a wide, shallow passage (knee-deep). Be sure to explore the area at the end of this trail next time — visit Lake Jack and/or Long Bay, both destinations accessible from the Shrode Lake cabin.

Looking down on Granite Bay
Prince William Sound/Granite Bay. No name mountain south of inside anchorage, whose peak is located at 52d 16m n, 148d 3.51m w.

Very nice view of western PWS, easy to walk on top, mostly granite, little vegetation. A rewarding climb. I climbed this mountain on 7/8/2003 (no name, 1700 feet), approaching from the north (the anchorage), then ascending with difficulty through muskeg and brushy areas to get above the tree line, then walking along a ridge that extends from the peak to the northwest. This specific approach to the mountain was terrible for a bunch of reasons, mostly the requirement to bushwhack long stretches at the lower elevations, so this approach is not recommended for the future. Next time, consider an approach from the southwest, where there are approaches across some large smooth slabs of granite beginning at a low elevation, and little obstructing brush (the rock might be dicey on a wet day). Overall a great opportunity to ascend above the typical Alaska brushy terrain on a route mostly of rock (if the right approach is chosen).

Auke Bay (just north of Juneau), Skating Cabin Trail

Travel from the marina along Mendenhall loop road, then to the west side of Mendenhall Lake. Note the historical cabin, marked "skating cabin." The trail just north of the cabin is actually two trails, unmarked of course. One (the main trail) moves along the west side of Mendenhall Lake and then ascends into a wilderness to the northwest, becoming more and more ridiculously steep as it does. Once you are looking down on Mendenhall Glacier, you know you are on this trail.

To visit the glacier, on the other hand, watch for a shelter off the right-hand side of the trail well before you even approach the glacier. This shelter marks a second trail, one that descends to the shore of the lake, then ascends across a rocky ridge (with some very steep hand-and-foot rock climbing for a spell), then approaches the west side of Mendenhall Glacier. Pay particular attention to your return route as you travel on this trail, it is poorly marked and difficult to retrace until you have walked it several times (most Juneau locals have never seen it, and cannot locate it). Very pretty ice caves and overhangs, somewhat dangerous as well. A worthwhile hike.

Juneau, Mount Roberts Trail

From the marina, travel to the top of sixth street in Juneau, notice the staircase — that is the trailhead. The old trail ascends directly from town, rather rough and wet in this part, and ascends to the top of the tram. Of course, no one would consider riding the tram instead. :)

Then the trail ascends a rocky ridge and comes out on a hilltop, where it forks. The right-hand trail goes to Mount Gastineau and then Mount Roberts, both very steep knife-edge ridges. The left-hand trail leads to Gold Ridge, a nicer destination for those not in the mood for a life-threatening experience. Gold Ridge affords nice views of town and the surrounding countryside.

Goal: Climb Gastineau Peak on a day with much less wind than you experienced this time.

Home | Sailing | Alaska 2003 |     Share This Page