The Johnson Pass Trail was originally part of the Iditarod miner’s route, forged by gold-rushers racing north from Seward to Nome. Today, the trail’s bridged streams, easy grade, and no-hassle routefinding make it perfect for families (and mountain bikes, if you want a change of pace). In midsummer, wildflowers grow thick and grasses sprout chest high. Nearly the entire trail lies below treeline, so there are established camp clearings along the way. Your destination: Johnson Creek Summit’s broad saddle (10 miles one-way, starting from the northern trailhead). Here you’ll find the best campsite hidden on a spruce-covered knoll above the trail, just before it descends to Bench Lake. Pack a rod for the arctic grayling in Bench and rainbow trout in Johnson Lake. Return the way you came (it’s possible to thru-hike another 13 miles to the southern trailhead at Moose Pass at the south end of Upper Trail Lake, but the southern half of the trail is muddy and overgrown, and not worth the long shuttle).
Boost the adventure: With some modest bushwhacking, explore alpine scenery above Ohio Creek and an unnamed drainage immediately to its north. On the trail, make plenty of noise as you hike to avoid sudden bear encounters; the trailside vegetation is thick, and the track parallels roaring Johnson Creek.
MORE INFO: Chugach National Forest; fs.fed.us/r10/chugach
--mapped by Steve Howe
- Distance: 32.7
Location: 60.724111, -149.277686
Thompson Pass trailhead at milepost 64 on Seward Highway
Location: 60.704332, -149.244676
Location: 60.686829, -149.229813
Location: 60.684421, -149.228976
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Location: 60.668147, -149.231286
Location: 60.655727, -149.225681
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Cool, breezy campsite atop spruce-covered knoll above trail.
Location: 60.634949, -149.219394
Bridge. Good water source.
Location: 60.610905, -149.244748
Johnson Creek Summit