One of our favorite things about living in Alaska’s Kenai River City is being the ultimate hub for all things outdoorsy. Hiking trails are plentiful right from your cabin doorstep, or you can opt to take a little road-trip to one of our amazing neighboring towns.
Skyline Trail in the beautiful nearby town of Cooper Landing, Alaska is an excellent hike for those ready to climb up a steep mountainside to experience absolutely breathtaking panoramic views. Get high above the clouds in just a couple of miles. Expansive views of Skilak Lake & the Kenai Mountains have the tenancy to completely overwhelm even the most seasoned hikers.
From A Cabin by the Pond heading towards Anchorage on the Sterling Highway, Skyline Trail is located at mile marker 61, roughly 40 minutes from the heart of downtown Soldotna. Parking is on the south side of the highway, then you’ll pass underneath the highway through a new tunnel put in last year. Signage and trail paths clearly lead the way.
A narrow, winding dirt trail leads hikers through thick mountain brush. Or if you’re like us and choose to take the hike in the winter, dirt trails are covered in heavy snowfall. Usually snowshoes would be recommended (or even required) after periods of heavy snowfall, making the trail much harder to find and the area much more unpredictable. Avalanches are always a hazard in the winter, so plan carefully before going. We choose to go on a cold day after a long dry-spell of snow. The trail was hard packed and easier than usual to navigate for this time of year.
When we started the hike, it was 6 below 0 degrees outside, brr! -6 pretty stinkin’ cold, so climbing straight up the side of a mountain sounded like the perfect way to enjoy the sun-shining Sunday. As you can see, I was in joyful spirits while Eric was looking at me like, “what did I let you talk me into?”
On the way up we had fun taking in the quiet, calm environment winding through the dense forest. During our busy summer months, we dream about these peaceful winter days with nothing to do but explore Alaska. Winter truly is our best kept secret!
And so you understand just how large this frozen waterfall was, the obligatory selfie! No matter how many times we do this hike the landscape is always changing. There is always something new to capture in nature. This time, we saw two spruce hens while winding through the forest. We also spotted a tree that had four separate nests in it, which was really cool. We paused, looked up, and listened for a while as a variety of birds were chirping in the above.
Just over a mile in, expansive panoramic views completely overwhelmed us. Cook Inlet, the Sterling Highway, and all those vast volcanoes in the distance had to be seen in person to truly be appreciated. This remarkable area leads hikers to the Mystery Creek Unit of the Kenai Wilderness. In the summertime the trail is equally as steep but much more rocky, so we always recommend that hikers wear a good pair of hiking boots and layers to adapt to fluctuating weather patterns. Bring a camera because the wildflowers are explosive under the midnight sun!
After you wind through the forest and emerge above treeline, a beautiful alpine area opens up and offers lots of different areas for hikers to explore. Or, hikers can continue on to climb one of several surrounding mountain peaks. Conditions in the off-season (November – May) can be very dangerous to make a summit possible. Fun Fact: On a clear day from certain vantage points atop Skyline Trail, hikers are rewarded with million-dollar-views of Denali a.k.a. “The Great One.”
After gaining 1,800 feet (high point at 2,300 feet), our frozen feet were mighty cold. Eric being the mountain-man that he is, made a quick little trail fire and we spent about 15 minutes warming up our toes and soaking in the serenity of being “a million miles away” from it all. Nothing beats quiet time spent together on the side of a mountain while the campfire is cracking.