In the last entry I described the part of this trail that leads to the
popular Russian River Falls overlook where visitors can observe salmon
swimming upstream during the summer and the bears and birds that feed on them.
The photos I included showed the first 1½
miles of the Russian Lakes Trail from the upper trailhead (#1 on map
below) in the nearby National Forest Service campground to the trail
intersection where a spur continues for about a mile on the west side of
the Russian River to the falls (#2 on map below):
Map from an Alaska Department of
At that intersection a bridge
crosses the river. The trail narrows and continues another mile south
through meadows and forests on the eastern side of the river to the
Lower Russian Lake (#3 on map above).
That's the part of the trail I'll focus on in this entry. Yesterday
both Jim and I went out and back to that lake (the part
of the trail highlighted in yellow). Jim went a little farther south
along the lake on his bike than I did while
hiking with Cody. We didn't have time this morning to go back to the
lake, just the falls.
Lower Russian Lake
All the photos in this two-page entry are from the 1½
miles we ventured past the bridge to the Lower Russian Lake. Several of
the photos are ones that Jim took. (He usually doesn't want to carry a
FOR A LONGER HIKE OR RIDE .
As you can see on the map above, the red Russian Lakes Trail
continues south and east to the Upper Russian Lake (left of the #4) and
terminates at the very large Kenai Lake (#5), a distance of 21 miles
point to point.
This trail serves as a critical middle link in the 72-mile
Resurrection Trail between the towns of Hope and Seward, part of the
historic Iditarod Trail.
Jim took this picture of a mama
grouse and three of her babies on the Russian Lakes Trail.
The northern section is called the
Resurrection Pass Trail, a 40-mile** trail
from Hope (on Turnagain Arm) to Cooper Landing (on the Seward Hwy.).
Thru-hikers/cyclists then get on the Russian Lakes Trail for about 16
miles. Near the Upper Russian Lake the Russian Lake Trail intersects
Resurrection River Trail (at #4 on map
above). From there they can go south another 16 miles along the
Resurrection River to Seward.
Of course, they can also go northbound from Seward to Hope. You can
find more information about the two Resurrection Trail segments at the
links above (and many others, including
this one from Backpacker magazine).
** Not sure why that website says the pass trail is 19 miles; the
other sites I've seen say it's 38-40 miles from Hope to Cooper Landing.
Dandelions along the Russian
Lakes Trail between the bridge and Lower Lake
As noted in the descriptions of the three trails, part or all of them
are open to hikers, backpackers, anglers, hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, cyclists, and
equestrians at various times during the warmer months and dog mushers, skiers, and
snowmachiners when snow covers the trails.
The Resurrection Pass Trail from Hope to Cooper Landing ranges in
elevation from 300 feet to 2,600 feet at the pass. Even though it and the
Russian Lakes Trail are both rated as easy in the summer and
moderate in difficulty in the winter, each season has hazards that can
make the trails harder to negotiate --
avalanches in the winter, for example, and flooding, mud, overgrown vegetation, and
downed trees in the summer.
Fortunately, we didn't run into any of those
problems on the short section of
the Russian Lakes Trail we hiked/rode yesterday.
The tall blue flower is larkspur.
It is interesting to me that the Resurrection River Trail, which
appears to follow the Resurrection River and doesn't go up into the mountains, is
rated as difficult. Maybe it's because of stream crossings,
flooding, tree roots, and/or downed trees.
After the heavy snowfall this past winter in the Kenai Peninsula,
then copious snowmelt and rain in the spring and early summer, these
trails are reportedly a mess south of the Lower Russian Lake.
I got that description from four European backpackers I met on the
trail near the lake yesterday:
They were so discouraged at how long it took them to reach that point
from Seward that they planned to stop at Cooper Landing instead of
going all the way north to Hope.
That and other trail reports were the main reason we didn't try to hike or ride any further on
either the Russian Lakes or Resurrection trails while we were here. If
conditions are better when we leave the Kenai in a few weeks we might stay here
again and venture farther north or south on these trails.
BRIDGE TO LAKE
I'm happy to report that the 4½ miles
of the Russian Lakes Trail that we've seen to the Lower Lake and to the falls are in great shape right now.
The remaining photos on this page are mostly in order going southbound.
In the last entry I showed photos of the first 1½
miles of the trail from the upper trailhead parking area on the road leading into the
Russian Lakes Campground to this intersection:
The wide trail to the right is the spur to the Russian River Falls on
the west side of the river canyon. To get to the Lower or Upper Russian
Lakes trail users turn left at this bridge and cross the river, which is
rather narrow at this point.
It is only about one mile from the bridge to the north end of Lower Russian Lake.
The trail narrows to about three feet wide and goes through an old burn
area where there are more open views.
This sign explains the damage that was done to the vegetative growth by
both a 1969 wildfire in the nearby valley and more recently by black
It also lists the benefits of removing the old, crowded, diseased
trees -- allowing new, healthy spruce trees and willow shrubs to
grow. Moose now inhabit the valley because they have a good supply of food.
Unfortunately, a young man lost his life while helping to fight that
fire. Near the sign there is a handsome plaque set in stone that is dedicated to his memory.
The Chugach National Forest rangers also do occasional controlled
burns to remove dead and diseased vegetation. This sign a little ways
past the bridge over the river explains how a more recent controlled
burn benefits moose:
It was part of the Moose Habitat Improvement Program.
Moose prefer young birch, aspen, and willow leaves. As local forests
mature, these trees and shrubs grow beyond the reach of moose and are
shaded out by taller spruce. Controlled burns in small areas
re-establish the habitat needed by moose to thrive.
We both looked hard for moose along the trail after reading these
signs yesterday but, alas, neither of us saw one.
There aren't very many charred trees still visible, either. I did
note this photogenic charred stump:
The trail parallels the river to the lake but I couldn't see it after
crossing the bridge.
We passed through more open than forested terrain to the lower lake,
giving us the opportunity to better see the mountains and this glacier
in the distance:
I showed several photos of the trail near the beginning of this entry. Here are a couple more views going south before I reached the
Prickly roses along the trail
First glimpse of Lower Russian Lake
Lower Russian Lake is very pretty and reportedly has some good
fishing. The lake makes a scenic destination for a day hike or a
good place to camp if you're backpacking.
Moose, wolves, and bears, both black and brown (grizzly),
frequent the area so be cautious. We saw trampled vegetation and bear scat on the trail near the
lake but didn't see any bears.
There is a National Forest Service cabin on the lakeshore that
can be rented, the Barber Cabin. Jim rode farther along the
shoreline than I did but he didn't go as far as the cabin. You
can see pictures of it on
this government web page.
Both of us continued a little ways on the trail to the right at
this intersection because it stayed closer to the lakeshore:
The trail to the right goes to the Barber Cabin and dead-ends at
some point along the lake.
The more narrow and more overgrown trail to the left goes to the
Upper Russian Lake several miles upstream:
I went up that trail only a little way before turning around. I
just didn't have time to go farther. That's the trail the backpackers
had just come down.
Here are some more of the photos Jim and I took at the lake:
I took the next photo headed back to the trailhead:
There were more flowers along this section of the trail than the
segments I described yesterday. I've already shown some of them above.
There are lots more on the next page.
Continued on the
next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil