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Thread: Alaska/Kesugi Ridge Trail intel needed - day hikes possible? other Alaska must-dos?

  1. #1
    Member TwinMom+1's Avatar
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    Alaska/Kesugi Ridge Trail intel needed - day hikes possible? other Alaska must-dos?

    Immensely grateful as always for the intel on this forum, especially now as we plan an Alaska trip for July 2019.
    On the Kesugi Ridge, for those who have done it - are day hikes doable?
    Our family hasn't backpacked before due to the sensory/other complexities at times with the twin sons 25-years old with autism.
    However we've done the Bonds in a day, this Baxter/Katahdin, Rangeley lake longish treks etc. so we're fine on long hike endurance - it's the just pitching/carrying tents, sleeping bags, water etc. that concern me especially in areas where food may attract bears. OK I admit it, I like a hot shower too.

    If we did maybe one or two long days either S to N from Byers Lake to Ermine Hill Tr, OR N to S from Little Coal Creek to Ermine Hill Trail,
    would either of these allow for the fabulous Denali views, weather permitting, and be realistic in a long summer day? They appear to be esp since the gain isn't that tough (2000' or so as I see it, esp N-S where you're descending mostly). From what I've read the views on the S to N section sound better.

    Likely booking some cabin or such in Talkeetna as a jumping off point, after a few days earlier around Anchorage/Flattop Mt and Kenai Fjords/Exit Glacier/Harding Icefields trek. We ruled out Wrangell-St. Elias due to limited time/long trek to get over there, and also ruled out Tongass and Inside Passage boat trips just because it's too far away. However eager for recommendations on must-do items in and around Anchorage, Kenai area and Denali.

    Thank you all very much.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    I was in Alaska last SEPT (with my non hiking wife though so I didn't get to do much hiking). We started in Anchorage, went up to Talkeetna for the day and a plane tour, then South to Seward for a night and a cruise. We finished with a few days in Eagle River (just North of Anchorage) with friends who live there on a small piece of land that would be the equivalent of having a house at Greenleaf Hut. It was ridiculous. Some random thoughts:

    >As far as views of Denali, if the weather is good you'll have views of Denali from just about everywhere. I did not fully comprehend the size of it until we were there. As your driving North you see it and don't realize your still 150 miles away from it. Even in Talkeetna it seems massive and is still 50+ air miles away. On the plane tour you really appreciate it's magnitude as you fly through ravines a mile deep and have to duck down in the plane window to look up at the summit. I'm sure any hike you do in that area that doesn't have obstructions from other ranges will provide tremendous views.
    >If you are going to do Exit Glacier that is very close to Seward, which is jaw dropping gorgeous and has numerous cruise opportunities right there on the pier so if you are already there it is not far at all (I think Seward was 20 minutes from Exit Glacier). I believe we used Kenai Fjords tours but there are 3-4 companies right on the pier. It was about a 6 hour cruise that included a box lunch and some snacks. It went up and down Resurrection Bay, cut across to another bay for a glacier close up and back the opposite side of bay. It was absolutely awesome. If you were considering a cruise I would wholeheartedly recommend. July is prime time vacation period for Alaska so look to book in advance. Seward doesn't have many hotels but does have a public campground right on the point, which I suspect is also difficult to get a site at.

    >The drive from Anchorage to Seward on Rte 1 is STUNNING. It is literally non stop awesome for 2 hours. And I mean literally non-stop. Plenty of parking turn outs to take in the views. About half way to Seward there was a pretty cool animal preserve if you're into that kind of thing. Can drive or walk the 2 mile or so loop through the grounds (which of course have stunning views in all directions). I don't know if I'd call it "must see" but it was pretty neat and broke up the drive to Seward.

    >Talkeetna is a pretty cool town. Lot of cool little breweries and restaurants. If you go to the end of town past the parking there are some short trails/roads that lead to a river bank with a spectacular view of Denali. Don't stop at the little outlook. Continue up the path and there is a huge area you can put out chairs, there was a fire pit, etc. Downside of Talkeetna - it is very small and in peak season is massively crowded. Being there in July may limit some of your options. My wife and I also did a plane tour of Denali which I would definitely categorize as must do if it is in the budget. We did the basic tour (no glacier landing) and it literally flies to Denali and goes in and out of every major valley in the range. And there small tours, no more than 6 people in a plane and the pilots go up and down every feature, tilt the wings, etc so no one has a bad seat. You can't be on the wrong side of the plane. Again, jaw dropping awesome.
    >If you are doing most of the driving on your own I'd recommend this guide:
    https://www.amazon.com/MILEPOST-2019...s%2C131&sr=8-1
    I was told on our friends Alaska hiking forum that it was the "bible" for Alaska roads, hiking and attractions. It was very, very comprehensive (that's how we stumbled on the animal preserve actually).

    If you have never been to Alaska prepare to be BLOWN AWAY by the experience. It was amazing. My wife, who is not a hiker at all and barely a camper wants to move there since we have visited. July is prime time as you probably already know so availability may be limited on a lot of stuff. Anchorage is very large but most of the other towns you will find yourself in are comparatively small (think Lincoln, NH or Gorham, NH in terms of size and amenities and Columbus Day weekend for crowds). My wife and I went after Labor Day Weekend and were fortunate to be able to make decisions based on the weather without having to book in advance. But even then there were only handfuls of available seats. We wound up having an incredible weather window (sun every day, mid 50's-60's, Denali in full view whenever we wanted to look at it) but I guess this is not normal at all as we were regularly reminded by our friends.

    Probably can't help you out too much on questions but more than willing to answer anything I can. I'm jealous of your trip!
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  3. #3
    Member TwinMom+1's Avatar
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    Many thank DayTrip! especially for the Seward boat trip recommendation - I'll definitely go check it out now. We'd wanted to get closer to the glaciers and this sounds fabulous and doesn't force us over to the Insider Passage. I'll definitely go work to get Seward accommodations right now. Again, big thanks!

  4. #4
    Member Paul_Bear's Avatar
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    We did a day hike up and down Little Coal Creek to Kesugi Ridge. Nice hike with great views of Kesugi ridge and of Denali and the Alaska range (we had a clear day). Effort was similar to many White Mountain 4K day hikes. I think we did it the same day we went flightseeing over Denali from Talkeetna ... those long summer days are awesome!

    I second the idea of the boat tour from Seward ... great views and lots of wildlife.

  5. #5
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Note that Denali park has a rather strict management system. You can do day hikes without any paperwork (starting from anywhere along the road - bus drivers will drop you off), but overnight trips are another story. The park is divided into BackCountry Units, each with a strict quota (typically, around 5 people). You cannot reserve a particular BCU in advance, you must show up in person at the park headquarters to claim your spot(s) for the next day(s). So you'll want to research three or four possible hiking routes. The park is full of spectacular scenery, and you can see Denali from the road, so you needn't make "views of Denali" a major criterion when choosing a BCU.


    https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvis...king-guide.htm

    Two tips:
    1) Plan your food carefully. Bear cans are required, but offer limited space (and are heavy).
    2) In July, expect more mosquitoes than you've ever imagined.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ExploreTheEast's Avatar
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    I've dayhiked and overnighted up on Kesugi Ridge. It was definitely one of the best hikes I got to experience in Alaska, and for sure the one that had the best view of Denali. I didn't try to make a loop out of the dayhike though, I just started at Byers lake and hiked up to the top of the ridge and back. It's a pretty scenic walk through the woods, over a creek (either the inlet or outlet, I forget) with gigantic salmon in it, and then some pretty easy switchbacks all the way up. The view behind you out towards Denali just gets better and better.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    In Denali National Park, even if you don't camp or hike, you should definitely take the bus out and back again (if the kids are up for it). It's an all day thing, but you get to see a lot of the park, and some moose, caribou, etc. I'm pretty sure you can also get off and dayhike if you're not taking it all the way out to Wonder Lake. If you don't want to do the bus at all, there is a short hike along the creek, right at the point where they don't let cars drive any further along the Denali Road. Savage River maybe? I would also highly recommend trying to spend a night in the Denali area, because the chances of seeing Northern Lights are pretty high.

    Back towards Anchorage, there are a lot of sea kayak trips you can do if you're up for renting some boats and paddling out of Whittier, which is an amazingly cool sea town. The drive to get there is pretty interesting as well. Also, there's a hike by Alyeska near Winner Creek that has a pretty cool hand tram if you're ok with heights!

    If I can think of anything else, I'll add it later...
    Uh-oh.... somebody's got a new website... wandr.com :-)

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