Johnson Pass Trail

Shuttle • 23 mi • 1000 ft

A popular 2-to-4-day traverse or a long, out-and-back day hike to 2 large lakes and an alpine pass in the Kenai Mountains. One of the easier overnight hikes on the Kenai, Johnson Pass makes a good, longer family backpack with kids who can carry their own gear. Think of it as a shorter Resurrection Pass hike without the cabins. There is good camping and decent fishing at both Bench and Johnson Lakes, which are less than a mile apart on opposite sides of gentle, alpine Johnson Pass. Steeper, cross-country hiking into the higher country from Bench Lake is excellent, though best in the first half of the summer before the brushy vegetation has grown up. The trail over Johnson Pass, first known to Europeans as the Sunrise Trail, was one of the Kenai’s earliest “highways.” Wranglers led pack trains over the pass, connecting the port at Seward with the gold-rush towns of Sunrise and Hope. The trail is one of the segments of the historic Iditarod Trail from Alaska’s gold rush era, and the hike today still follows some of the original sections of the trail. Groundhog Creek, about 5 miles from the north trailhead, was the site of an early mining operation; the original, bench-cut wagon road is still visible there. Special features: Alpine country, lake fishing, varied scenery.
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Seward
Length: 23 total miles
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Moderate
Season: Mid-June through September
Trailhead Elevation: 500 feet
Top Elevation: 1,550 feet
Local Contacts: Chugach National Forest, Seward Ranger District
Local Maps: USGS Seward C-6 and C-7; Trails Illustrated Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
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Recent Trail Reviews


beautiful hike, pretty lakes and waterfalls. the trail is good too, flooded in several places though. can get muddy, and in one spot the creek totally moved around the bridge, so the bridge just crossed a dry ravine. but the valley is vast, much wildlife and great camping spots all over.

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