Five Notable Trails Near Seward, Alaska

Five Notable Trails Near Seward, Alaska

Five Notable Trails Near Seward, Alaska

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Nestled on the edge of the epic gulf of Resurrection Bay, the small, bustling town of Seward, Alaska, is best known for its towering glaciers, especially those in Kenai Fjords National Park. However, the real draw of this coastal outpost about two hours south of Anchorage would have to be the many breathtaking hikes away from the glaciers and outside the park, which includes some of the best in the state.

Trails of varying lengths and difficulty wind their way through diverse environments, such as the summit of a craggy mountain peak with breathtaking views of the bay and a secluded tarn, as well as verdant forests and the rocky ocean shoreline. Here are five unforgettable treks, including options to suit every schedule and hikers of all skill levels.

Start from the trailhead at the end of Hayden Lane.

Set aside a full day for this rigorous yet rewarding hike to a picturesque ridge lake that sits cozily along the summit of Mount Ascension. The nearly 14-mile back-and-forth trail with about 2,600 feet of elevation gain took me 5½ hours to complete, though you may want to allow up to eight hours. The trail winds through a Sitka spruce forest and then along the edge of a lush gorge. The trail eventually makes its way to the meadows, where you have a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Wild blueberry bushes line the trail for several long stretches, offering a tangy-sweet snack on the go. At one point I saw a marmot emerge from its den, and birdsong was the soundtrack to many miles of the journey. The lake was pure magic, the water looked jade green from afar but turned to granite gray as I got closer, the mirror-sharp surface mirroring the contours of the rolling ridges around it and the wispy, billowing clouds that sat just above. The shoreline was flat and grassy, ​​the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch and rest my legs before heading home.

Planning a walk? Here’s what you need to know.

Mount Marathon Jeep Trail

Start from the trailhead at the corner of First Avenue and Monroe Street.

Some reviews of this hike make it sound like it’s an easy trek in the woods. Don’t believe them. Although it’s only about four miles round trip, there is over 1,600 feet of elevation gain, starting with some steep hairpin turns in the woods. All the effort is worth it. After rising above the tree line, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of Resurrection Bay stretching out to the horizon and Seward below. Keep going to the top, where there are many lichen-dappled, flower-strewn rock formations, and you can chillax as you take in the view that spreads out in front of you. Keep an eye out for wildlife. The forest is buzzing with birds and I was lucky enough to see a mother moose and her calf. This is quite a popular trail so expect to see lots of other walkers and runners, some will train for a grueling annual 5K following a similar route up the mountain.

Start from the trailhead at the corner of Bleth Street and Bear Lake Road.

They don’t call it Bear Lake for nothing. The day I hiked it, a sign at the trailhead warned that a person there had recently been mauled by a bear, requiring 30 stitches to the side of his face. The sow that attacked him was still in the area, along with her cubs. While such announcements can be unpleasant, bears are a fact of life in this region. Going during the day, making constant noises as you walk to warn bears of your presence, and carrying bear spray can greatly reduce the chance of a dangerous interaction. Aside from the threat of an encounter with a brown or black bear, this is an easy back-and-forth walk of just over four miles over generally flat ground. It makes its way through the woods, past merry streams and small waterfalls, and along the lake, where you’ll see many bald eagles and other birdlife.

On your next hike, think about the trail builders who made it possible

Start from the trailhead of Pinnacle View Road.

While this is a beautiful walk all year round, it is especially magical when the salmons run around Tonsina Creek, where thousands spawn from about June to September. A pair of wooden bridges intersect two branches of the stream, providing excellent views of bumper-to-bumper fish as they strive to complete their life cycles, though sometimes thwarted by the geography of the waterway, the persistence of dive-bombing birds and the limits of their own endurance. Even if this drama doesn’t take place, Tonsina Point is a gem, but make sure to plan your visit during low tide to make sure you can access it. The trail is generally level terrain, starting in the woods and then following the shingle beach of Resurrection Bay. (It’s about 3½ to six miles round trip, depending on how far you go.) The area is rich in wildlife, including sea otters, bald eagles, and many other birds. Expect to see plenty of outdoor enthusiasts too, as this is a popular hiking spot.

Start from the trailhead at the camp on Ptarmigan Lake Trail 14.

If you’re looking for a brisk three hour hike with lots of natural beauty and few fellow hikers, this is for you. The well-maintained trail is about half an hour’s drive north of town and is approximately 7 miles round trip with about 300 meters of elevation gain as you climb Crown Point and follow the bubbling, rippling waters of Ptarmigan Creek through the forest. Next, you will stand on the uncovered mountainside, where you will be treated to views of the Chugach Mountains. Finally, you reach the lake, which stretches into the distance, with the glacier-topped Andy Simons Mountain in the background. There is a small beach on the picturesque shoreline where you can enjoy a snack while watching the many beavers that call the lake home, as well as an abundance of birdlife.

Martell is a writer based in Silver Spring, Maryland. His website is: nevinmartell.com† Find him on Twitter and Instagram: @nevinmartell.

Potential travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines related to the pandemic before planning any travel. Information about health declarations for travel can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map with travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s health declarations webpage.