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Five Remarkable Trails Near Seward, Alaska

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Perched on the edge of epic Resurrection Bay, the bustling little town of Seward, Alaska is best known for its huge glaciers, especially those in Kenai Fjords National Park. However, the real draw to this seaside outpost about a two-hour drive south of Anchorage should be its slew of breathtaking hikes away from the glaciers and outside the park, which include some of the best of State.

Trails of varying lengths and difficulty traverse diverse environments, such as a steep mountain peak with sweeping views of the bay and a secluded ridge-top lake, as well as verdant forests and the rocky shoreline of the ocean. Here are five unforgettable hikes, including options for all schedules and hikers of all skill levels.

Start at the trailhead at the end of Hayden Lane.

Set aside a full day for this rigorous but rewarding hike to a scenic ridgetop lake comfortably set along the summit of Mount Ascension. The nearly 14 mile round trip trail with about 2,600 feet of elevation gain took me 5.5 hours, although you might want to plan up to eight hours. Winding through a forest of Sitka spruces, then along a lushly carpeted canyon, the path eventually winds its way through grasslands, where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of mountains and hills. surrounding glaciers. Bushes of wild blueberries line the trail for several long stretches, providing a sweet and tangy snack to go. At one point I spotted a marmot popping out of its burrow and the chirping of birds followed for many miles of the journey. The lake was pure magic, its water looking like jade green from afar but changing to granite gray as I got closer, its crisp mirror-like surface reflecting the outlines of the undulating ridges around it and the clouds. puffy with wispy edges sitting just above. The shore was flat and grassy, ​​the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and rest my legs before heading home.

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

Mount Marathon Jeep Trail

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

Some reviews of this hike make it sound like an easy getaway in the woods. Don’t believe them. Although it’s only about four miles round trip, there’s over 1,600 feet of elevation gain, starting with a sharp bend in the woods. All the effort is worth it. After clearing the treeline, you are greeted by sweeping views of Resurrection Bay stretching out to the horizon and Seward below. Continue to the summit, where there are many rock formations dotted with lichens and flowers, and you can relax while enjoying the view stretching out before you. Keep an eye out for wildlife. The forest is teeming with birds and I was lucky enough to see a mother moose and her calf. It’s a fairly popular path, so expect to see plenty of other hikers as well as runners, some training for a grueling annual 5k that follows a similar route up the mountain.

Start at 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, a sign posted at the trailhead warned that an individual had recently been mauled by a bear, requiring 30 stitches in the side of the face. The sow that attacked him was still in the area with her young. While reviews like this can be off-putting, bears are a fact of life in this area. Going during daylight hours, constantly making noise as you walk to alert bears to your presence, and carrying bear spray greatly decrease your chances of having a dangerous interaction. Aside from the threat of an encounter with a brown or black bear, this is an easy out-and-back hike covering just over four miles on mostly flat terrain. It winds its way through the forest, past cheerful streams and small waterfalls, and along the lake, where it is common to see bald eagles and other birds.

On your next hike, spare a thought for the trail builders who made it possible

Start at the trailhead on Pinnacle View Road.

While it’s a great hike year-round, it’s especially magical when the salmon run through Tonsina Creek, where thousands spawn from June through September. A pair of wooden bridges cross two branches of the creek, providing great views of the bumper-to-bumper fish as they strive to complete their life cycle, though sometimes thwarted by geography of the waterway, the persistence of dive-bombing birds, and the limits of their own endurance. Even if that drama doesn’t unfold, Tonsina Point is a gem, but be sure to time your visit at low tide to ensure you can access it. The trail is generally flat, starting in the forest and then following the pebble beach at Resurrection Bay. (It’s about 3½ to 6 miles round trip, depending on distance traveled.) The area is rich in wildlife, including sea otters, bald eagles, and many other birds. Also expect to see lots of outdoor enthusiasts, as it is a popular hiking spot.

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

If you’re looking for a solid three hour hike with lots of natural beauty and few hikers, this is the one for you. Located about half an hour’s drive north of town, the well-maintained trail is about 7 miles round trip with about 300 meters of elevation gain as you climb Crown Point, following the gurgling, bubbling waters of Ptarmigan Creek through the forest. Next, you’re on the exposed mountainside, where you’ll be treated to views of the Chugach Mountain Range. Finally, you will reach the lake, which stretches out into the distance, with the glacier-tipped Andy Simons Mountain rising in the background. There is a small beach on the scenic shore, where you can enjoy a bite to eat while watching the many beavers that inhabit the lake as well as an abundance of bird life.

Martell is a writer based in Silver Spring, Md. His website is nevinmartell.com. Find it on Twitter and instagram: @nevinmartell.

Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.