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   (+ information about the 72-mile Resurrection Trail from Hope to Seward)


"Visitors enjoy boating and rainbow trout fishing on Lower Russian Lake . . . 
A variety of trails and unexplored areas exist near the [Barber] cabin.
Hikers and bikers can explore varying terrain, including muskeg, meadows,
and high-canopied forest along the 21-mile Russian Lakes Trail . . ."
~ partial description of the Russian Lakes Trail from the Recreation.Gov website
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 1 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 Natural Resources web page

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 1 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 camera.)


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 with the 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.


I'm happy to report that the 4 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 1 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 spruce beetles:

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.

Birch bark

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 lake:

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 . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil