2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   MOOSE & MORE ON ANCHORAGE'S
POPULAR TONY KNOWLES COASTAL TRAIL

THURSDAY, JUNE 21

 
"Anchorage has one of the best systems of bike paths in the country. There are 121 miles 
(195 km) of paved trails. Don't miss the chance to explore them on foot or on a bike. 
The best is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which runs along the shore
of Cook Inlet . . . This trail has been designated a National Recreation Trail."
 
~ Traveler's Guide to Alaskan Camping by Mike and Terri Church, 5th Edition, p. 190
 
 

We had a lot of fun cycling today. Jim wanted a long bike ride on a nice trail where he could do some fast pedaling. I wanted a bike path that wasn't too difficult and has great scenery.

Based on our research it appeared that a good option for our first greenway experience in Anchorage was the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which is very popular not only with cyclists but also runners, walkers, and inline skaters who want a nice paved trail that isnt too gnarly and is easily accessible from many locations.


Benches are strategically placed along the Coastal Trail to encourage folks to relax and
enjoy the views. Here at the north end of the trail it's fun to watch ships come and go.


In June lots of wild roses are blooming in open areas along the Coastal Trail.

Since the Black Spruce Campground was going to be sprayed for mosquitoes early this morning folks were advised to either leave from 7:30 to 11 AM or stay indoors with their windows/doors closed. We chose to leave.

The campground was noticeably more pleasant when we returned after lunch with no pesky mosquitoes hovering around our door. Some have gotten in when the door is open and they drive us crazy.

This morning was cool and cloudy. By the time we got done riding the sun was coming out and it was warming up. Temps got into the low 70s F. by mid-afternoon and the clouds were gone. It was beautiful all afternoon and evening.


Another pleasant place along the Coastal Trail to watch the tide, birds, ships, and airplanes

I wish it had been more clear when we were riding this morning. Most of the pictures I took during my ride show clouds. We had a great time anyway.

The locals are loving the summery weather even more than the visitors, I think. This article explains about the first five months of the year being several degrees cooler than normal. This week has finally been warmer. Its also the warmest Jim and I have had since we were in Colorado Springs.

LET'S RIDE!

We parked the truck at W. Second Ave. and Christensen at a parking meter in a residential area. The cost there is 75 cents/hour for up to 10 hours, which is much cheaper than the cost at meters a few blocks away in the downtown area and you aren't limited to two hours.

Jim put in enough money for four hours so Id have plenty of time to dawdle and take pictures on the way back to the truck. Our plan was to go south to Kincaid Park and turn around, for a total of 22-23 miles.


The northern end of the Coastal Trail has views of the busy port area. The Alaska Range is on the horizon.

The Coastal Trail begins/ends near our parking spot, although there are numerous access points to the greenway and so many streets in Anchorage have bike lanes that you could keep going just about forever.

From what we've read and the driving around weve done so far in Anchorage, I would guess there are more miles of paved and dirt cycling/walking trails in this city per capita than in any other city in the U.S. They are everywhere sometimes just along a street, sometimes hidden away by a creek or through the woods. Im totally impressed.


Pretty forested section of the Coastal Trail between Point Woronzof and Kincaid Park

I don't know the exact number of miles of bike paths and trails in town but I do know the whole system is extensive for a city this size. I've seen wide variations in distance, probably because some publications count only separate paved greenways, some count bike paths next to or near traffic lanes, some include dirt trails through parks, and some count all of the above.

The 2012 Official Guide to Anchorage brochure states that Anchorage has over 135 miles of paved multi-use trails and another 300 miles of unpaved and wilderness trails for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog mushing.

I can see why the Coastal Trail is reported to be the most heavily used trail in town. We loved it.

It runs right along or very close to the coastline of Anchorage from the west end of Second Ave. to the middle of Kincaid Park, about 11 miles away. It passes through several city parks and the west side of the international airport where it borders the coastline:


One of the best places to see passenger and cargo planes come and go is at the end of one of the  
runways near this high point above Cook Inlet -- whales, too!  The tall white flowers are cow parsnip.

At the south end of the Coastal Trail in Kincaid Park you can keep going on the Raspberry Trail or get off earlier at one of several intersections with other bike paths, such as the Chester Creek Trail. The north end, where we parked, connects to a trail along Ship Creek.

Most of the asphalt on the Coastal Trail is smooth this summer, although there are some cracks and frost heaves. After the winter Anchorage had (record-breaking snow), I'm surprised the Trail is in such good shape  One section looks like it has been recently paved. All of the Coastal Trail is fine for either road or mountain bikes.

Along much of the path you can walk or run on a narrow strip of dirt if you don't want to pound the  pavement:


The tide is in and very close to the trail right here. Point Woronzof is in the distance.

Much of the path is fairly flat but there are some good hills, too.

We rode close to the water in Knik Arm (part of Cook Inlet) at the north end. The trail rises a couple hundred feet above sea level to Earthquake Park and Point Woronzof, goes down a little bit through six miles of forest, and then rises higher again at the "end" in Kincaid Park.

The longest hill southbound is going up to the lodge/parking area at Kincaid Park. It's fun to ride down that hill fast going the other direction but it has some blind curves and you have to be careful you don't run into other trail users or large critters like moose, deer, or bears.

Seriously. This urban trail is one of the best places in Alaska to see moose and bears!

WESTCHESTER PARK & LAGOON

The Coastal Trail passes by more water than just the shore of Cook Inlet (which includes Knik Arm at the north end and Turnagain Arm at the south end). The Trail also goes over several creeks, wet areas, and a lagoon on sturdy wooden bridges.

The busiest trail intersection and the most inland water along the Coastal Trail is at its juncture with the Chester Creek Greenway at Westchester Park.

The Zero Mile Marker in the next photo marks the beginning of the Chester Creek Greenway, which winds east through town for 6.5 miles to the northern unit of Russian Jack Springs Park or takes off on several other spur trails to the north and south:

Before the 1964 earthquake this area was a tidewater estuary where salt water and fresh water intermingled in a wetland rich with wildlife.

Mother Nature altered the landscape significantly, with some additional help from mankind to preserve the biologically diverse environment after the earthquake rearranged things. Now Chester Creek passes through scenic dammed Westchester Lagoon, where folks like to fish, watch domestic and migratory birds, and just chill out:

When it's not so cloudy there are nice views in the distance to the Chugach Mountains. They were barely visible this morning when I took that photo outbound.

So far we've seen only the end of Westchester Park near the Coastal Trail, where there is a parking area, kids' playground, and bench with colorful plantings at the intersection of the two greenways:

 

This is just one of many garden areas planted and maintained by the horticultural staff in the city's Parks & Recreation Dept. One of these days we'll take a ride on the Chester Creek Greenway and show photos of the other end of Westchester Park.

On the other side of the Coastal Trail at this intersection there is also a nice salmon viewing area at the lake outlet where Chester Creek continues a few hundred yards to Cook Inlet: 

During the summer salmon are still able to return here to spawn, courtesy of the ecosystem restoration project.

The Coastal Trail continues south over the lagoon on a levee and long wooden bridge:

THE LAGOON TO POINT WORONZOF 

As you're going southbound on the Coastal Trail there are several good views of The Point. I took the next photo from about two miles north:

We rode from fairly open terrain near the inlet at the north end of the Coastal Trail to a beautiful boreal forest with small ponds before reaching Earthquake Park a few miles south.

This lush wet area was my favorite part of the trail and helped me forget about the long, gradual hill up to the park:

 

 

I showed pictures of Earthquake Park in one of yesterday's entries. We rode a short loop through the park today but still couldn't see the Alaska Range clearly because of the clouds.

The one-mile section between Earthquake Park and Point Woronzof undulates 100-200 feet above the water through some dense trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and groundcover plants:

The next photo shows the highest point of the trail about a quarter mile north of the park and parking area at Woronzof Point (there's another picture farther up this page that shows the view from the field with all the cow parsnips blooming):

Then the trail drops rather sharply to the entrance to the parking area at Point Woronzof.

That's the steepest hill on the Coastal Trail going the other direction (northbound). Thankfully, it's short.

Too many pictures for one page, so keep going to page 2. That's where the moose photos are, among other things . . .

Happy trails,

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

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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