Alaska Walking & Hiking
Hiking/Trekking in Alaska with Backroads
- The hike of a lifetime along Exit Glacier to staggering views of Resurrection River Valley and Harding Icefield
- Boat across Kachemak Bay, then trek to amazing Grewingk Glacier
- Coastal towns of Homer and Seward
- Watch for black bears, mountain goats and salmon swimming upstream
- Discover Ptarmigan Lake's alpine splendor
From Homer to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula
It feels like the end of the earth... or the beginning of it. Two legs take you to places that few humans have seen. Glaciers sheer down mountainsides to waters brimming with sea life. Poets fish - and fishers write poetry - in the coastal town of Homer. You marvel as Kachemak Bay shows you all its weather, or when your hiking "companions" on the Ptarmigan Lake trail are sockeye salmon swimming upstream. Your sense of the wilderness will never be the same after this. Come hike a trail in a place with very few of them.
- All lodgings
- On Inn Trips, all meals except 1 dinner, when you'll have the opportunity to sample local fare on your own
- Expertise and services of our experienced Trip Leaders
- Additional guides and experts from the region on many trips
- Van shuttles to support a variety of route options
- Comprehensive Travel Planner with detailed pre-trip information
- Private guided tours at museums, historic sites, wineries and other select attractions as noted
- All gratuities at hotels and restaurants on Inn Trips
- Park and other entry fees
- Fares for trains, ferries and other modes of travel
- Select coach transfers
- Baggage transfers and porterage
- Backroads water bottle
- Alcoholic beverages (Backroads provides wine at select events)
- Gratuities for Trip Leaders
- Personal expenses
Day by Day Itinerary
Meet your Backroads Trip Leaders (the folks wearing Backroads T-shirts) at 11:30 a.m. at the Homer airport. Alternatively, you can meet the Backroads shuttle at 11 a.m. at Land’s End Resort in Homer for a lift to the airport. Please arrive dressed in your hiking clothes and bring a daypack with your rain gear and whatever you might need on today’s hike (sunglasses, camera, extra layer, etc.).
Carl E. Wynn Nature Center Hike 5 Miles (200-foot elevation gain)
Welcome to Alaska! After meeting we hop in the shuttle for a quick drive to Bishop’s Beach, set on Kachemak Bay. We get acquainted over a delicious Backroads picnic, then continue in the van up to the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center. This former homestead is now a wildlife refuge with hiking trails, great bird-watching and an undeveloped migration corridor for moose and black bears. During our walk with a local naturalist, we learn about the native uses of the trees, plants and wildflowers found here in the transitional zone between northern coastal forest and southern boreal forest.
Then it’s a short ride to Land’s End Resort, where simple rooms with spectacular views await. The resort is located on Kachemak Bay at the tip of Homer Spit, the world’s second-longest natural spit. This evening we toast the beginning of our Alaskan adventure at a cocktail reception before shuttling to Wasabi’s, where we enjoy more views of the bay over dinner.
Lodging: Land’s End Resort
Water Taxi to Yukon Island 1 Hour Round-Trip
Grewingk Lake Hike 7 Miles (400-foot elevation gain)
Shorter Option: Grewingk Lake Direct 5 Miles (400-foot elevation gain)
Longer Options: Overlook 8 Miles (1,200-foot elevation gain) or Up & Over 11 Miles (1,700-foot elevation gain)
This morning we cruise by water taxi across Kachemak Bay to Kachemak Bay State Park—still a part of the Kenai Peninsula, but you’ll feel like you’re on a remote island. Our hike leads through temperate rain forests, across glacial moraine and out to a glacial lake. If you’d like to take on something more challenging, cross the glacial outwash river by hand tram before heading to a gorgeous overlook. Whether you’re in for the long haul or a shorter trek, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking scenery at every turn. Break for lunch in this amazing setting, awed by views of majestic Grewingk Glacier and the many icebergs floating in the frigid waters. Then find your way to a remote beach trailhead to catch the water taxi back to Homer.
If you’d rather spend the day halibut fishing, several companies in Homer offer half-day and full-day excursions. (Please note that fishing is not included in the trip price, and we recommend making reservations in advance.) For more information and a short list of outfitters, please see ―Extending Your Vacation‖ in your Travel Planner.
Do you hear Homer Spit’s shops and bustling marina calling your name? Then feel free to enjoy some leisure time in town after the hike. Grab a coffee or an ice cream and watch Homer’s anglers as they bring in the daily catch. Or head indoors and relax in the hotel’s hot tub. We reconvene for dinner at the resort’s Chart Room. Remember when ordering that Homer is the world capital for halibut!
Lodging: Land’s End Resort
Shuttle to Cooper Landing 3 Hours
Russian River Hike 5 Miles (200-foot elevation gain)
Longer Option: Barber Cabin 8 Miles (600-foot elevation gain)
We start the day by shuttling to Cooper Landing, popular with outdoor enthusiasts because of its great hiking, rafting, fishing, canoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. The town’s lifeline is the Kenai River, whose waters abound with salmon. Watch for moose, eagles, Dall sheep, beavers and bears as we lunch overlooking the river.
During our afternoon hike to the Russian River, you may see salmon making the arduous journey upstream to mate. Framed by the Chugach Mountains as it merges with the Kenai River, the Russian River flows with such force that it’s a wonder these amazing fish ever reach their destination. If you can go the distance, take a cue from the determined salmon and head farther into the valley to Barber Cabin on Lower Russian Lake.
After hiking out of the river valley, we jump in the van for a lift to our next hotel, the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, tucked in the Chugach National Forest on the banks of the Kenai River. Sink into the hot tub or a play a game of horseshoes before dinner. Later we savor classic Alaskan cuisine at the lodge’s Eagle’s Crest Dining Room, which features a huge river-rock fireplace and magnificent views.
Lodging: Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge
Shuttle to Carter Lake Trailhead 45 Minutes
Carter Lake Hike 6.5 Miles (1,000-foot elevation gain)
Shuttle to Seward 30 Minutes
After fueling up with breakfast, we shuttle south to the Carter Lake trailhead. You’ll quickly work up a sweat, ascending switchbacks and crossing over multiple small streams. After a mile and a half, we reach Carter Lake where the trail levels off. Take in beautiful subalpine and alpine splendor, and the abundant wildflowers for which this trail is known, before continuing on to Crescent Lake. Eat your packed lunch by the lake before retracing your steps through this spectacular scenery.
Back at the trailhead, we jump in the van and make our way to Seward Windsong Lodge, our mountain retreat set in the Resurrection River Valley. The valley was named by Alexander Baranof, who took shelter here during a storm in 1791 on the Russian Sunday of the Resurrection. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring the picturesque town of Seward, where you’re on your own for dinner.
Lodging: Seward Windsong Lodge
Harding Icefield Hike 8 Miles (3,200-foot elevation gain)
Shorter Options: Marmot Meadows 4 Miles (2,200-foot elevation gain) or Alpine Meadows 6 Miles(2,000-foot elevation gain)
Grab your daypack (stocked with rain gear and warm layers, including a hat and gloves—you’ll want them today!) and enjoy the short breathtaking drive through the Resurrection River Valley. As we follow the valley’s namesake river, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Exit Glacier, a dramatic field of ice that ―flows‖ down the mountain. At Kenai Fjords National Park, you’re in for the hike of a lifetime to Harding Icefield, which spans more than 900 square miles and conceals an entire mountain range under several thousand feet of ice. The steep ascent (and corresponding descent) may be one of the toughest you’ve ever attempted, but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. The trail follows the edge of Exit Glacier through a dense forest that’s home to mountain goats, moose, black bears and marmots. When you reach the tree line, all obstructions disappear, exposing an expansive landscape of snow and ice. If you’re set on going the entire distance, or if it’s the early part of the summer, you’re sure to be hiking in snow—potentially, quite a lot of it! You’ll be glad to have those extra layers.
Tonight we celebrate your feats on the trail with dinner at the lodge’s rustic Resurrection Roadhouse, where you can choose from a menu of fresh seafood and steaks.
Lodging: Seward Windsong Lodge
Shuttle to Trailhead 30 Minutes
Ptarmigan Lake Hike 7 Miles (600-foot elevation gain)
Shuttle to Anchorage 2½ Hours
After breakfast we shuttle to the trailhead for our final hike to stunning Ptarmigan Lake. The first easygoing mile follows the Ptarmigan Creek upstream through a beautiful Sitka spruce forest. During late July and August, the creek’s clear waters are teeming with spawning red sockeye salmon, who put on quite a show! As you veer from the creek, the trail becomes more challenging, with short steep climbs and descents through a conifer forest. Just when you think the vista can’t get any better, you reach Ptarmigan Lake, cradled by the magnificent Chugach Mountains. Find a comfortable spot by the turquoise water and feast on your packed lunch, keeping an eye out for moose and bald eagles.
Back at the trailhead, we settle into the van for the scenic ride to Anchorage.
About The Operator:
Every Backroads vacation is a one-of-a-kind adventure, where serendipity is supported - often invisibly - by a well choreographed backstage effort. After 30 years of practice, we've perfected the craft of creating and delivering world-class experiences and service, both hallmarks of a carefree Backroads vacation.
We ease your trip preparation with little extras, from a recommended packing list to lodging suggestions for before and after your trip. During your vacation, we make sure your luggage is waiting in your room, you have a cool drink or a lift when you desire them, and travel logistics are handled so you can focus on fun and relaxation.
Anticipating and responding to your needs - that is our commitment!Worldwide Presence
The Best Routes
All Backroads itineraries have been carefully researched by our team of 23 Trip Specialists and 9 Regional Managers to ensure you experience the very best way to explore the region. And before your trip, the routes are once again tested by our Trip Leaders-each and every season.
Seven Days of Service
Your Backroads Trip Consultants are available 7 days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, to answer your questions.
We've designed our trips with plenty of options that let you personalize each day and make the most of your vacation. And on each day of the trip (or the night before if you're heading out early), you'll receive a Daily Snapshot that gives you all of the important information you need so that you have control of your precious time.
Bikes & Accessories
All Biking and Multisport Trips include use of a fully equipped, custom-designed Backroads Titanium bike. Choose either upright or drop handlebars. Backroads is also unique among travel companies in manufacturing our own line of custom-designed kids' bikes. For the younger ones we offer the Burley d'Lite trailer and Burley Piccolo trailercycle.
A Choice of Lodging
We're the only company that distinguishes between Premiere Inns and Casual Inns, making it easy for you to choose a trip that suits your personal style. We provide an honest assessment of each hotel giving you an assurance of quality you can trust.
Backroads has been taking responsible travel seriously since our first trip over 30 years ago. While traveling on two feet or two wheels is the ultimate minimal-impact approach to traveling, we recognize that any travel has an impact and so we do everything we can to make the impact as light and as positive as possible.
When you're out exploring, you may welcome some time to yourself, but when needed, we are there. We pioneered on-trip vehicle support and we continue to perfect it. Read more about On-Trip Support.
Local experts team up with your Backroads leaders, offering firsthand perspectives to enhance your overall experience. From explorations of historic and cultural sites, to culinary adventures showcasing traditional cuisine, to visits with special friends we've made over the years, we take you into the heart of a region with an immediacy and authenticity you'll never forget.
One of the biggest benefits of traveling with Backroads is the wonderful folks you travel with-adventurers who appreciate the Backroads level of quality, pursue new experiences with a passion and take their fun as seriously as they take their work. "People less interested in impressing each other than in having a good time," is how Departures magazine captured the spirit of our guests. Join us-and travel in terrific company.
Nobody knows families like Backroads. From our designated Kid Coordinators to extra vehicle support to custom-designed kids' bikes (a Backroads exclusive), we've considered all angles important to families. Each family trip balances quality time together and apart, with welcome opportunities for everyone to take a break and recharge-something that's virtually impossible to achieve when you vacation on your own.
Your Trip is Guaranteed
At Backroads we're so committed to providing you with an extraordinary experience that we guarantee the quality of your trip. We value our relationship with you, our guest, and want it to be mutually rewarding and long-term.
Our Leaders Make the Trip
You'll find Backroads Trip Leaders to be the best you've ever traveled with. That's not an idle claim-it's backed by the most rigorous recruiting, hiring, training and guest satisfaction programs in the business. View the full scoop on our leaders and why you'll love them.