With the massive Kenai Range and rugged Gilpatrick Mountain as backdrops, your photos will make this trek (mostly on trails) look a lot harder than it is. Sample the best of the area on this 20.7-mile point-to-point (no extra car needed; the 4.5-mile road shuttle on the Seward Highway is easy to hike or hitch). And don’t mistake trails for crowds: The open tundra country above treeline makes solitude guaranteed for those who seek it–just head cross-country almost anywhere between Devil’s Pass and Summit Creek, and find your own private Alaska.
Begin by climbing 8.2 miles and 1,300 vertical feet on Trail #5 to wide-open Devil’s Pass. Continue 1.5 miles to a junction and the Devil’s Pass Forest Service cabin, ($35/night, recreation.gov; book up to 180 days in advance). Just southeast of the cabin, take the fork signed “Hope” (Trail #17) and follow it 1.75 miles, to an old trail that forks east just short of Resurrection Pass. Look up to the east and you’ll see Trail #48 (officially an unmaintained route, but in fine condition) switchbacking up to ridgeline. On the ascent, avoid beaver pond swamps by rounding their northern end. After the pass, a small pond just southeast of the trail at mile 13 makes an excellent, isolated campsite. Schedule an extra night here, or at another tundra pond at the head of Colorado Creek, just north of the Summit Creek Pass, for a three-day adventure.
Beyond the pond, drop steeply down to East Creek, passing another lake (too swampy for good camping). Climb gradual trail east to your last pass, at mile 16.8, a narrow gap set amid rocky cliffs, and descend into Summit Creek drainage. Extended backpacking option: The ridgeline north from this pass is also the junction for a three- or four-day off-trail trek northward, through the headwaters of Colorado, Fox, Fresno, and Pass Creeks, to the town of Hope. To finish the shorter alternative, head four miles down the Summit Creek Trail–steep, and overgrown with shoulder-high grass down low. End at a trailhead near milepost 35 on the Seward Highway.
–mapped by Steve Howe
MORE INFO: Alaska Public Lands Information Center, (907) 644-3661; nps.gov/aplic/center