Dupont Beach trail offers driest hike in town

A view down the Dupont / Point Bishop trail is pictured on a rare sunny day this week. Spring is a great time to hike this trail which provides views of Gastineau Channel along the way and access to a peaceful beach after 1.7 miles.

After days of December-like, white-out conditions the sun shone on a cloudless Juneau.

The forecast called for 12 short hours of sun.

I sighed as I closed the weather forecast, paused for a moment in the rays of light pouring through my living room windows and then, began to pack.

It was Monday, but I would not be going to work.

Instead, an impromptu adventure was planned, a celebration of sorts to revel in the day’s gift of sunshine.

This time of year, especially when winter hangs on like it has, I like to keep hikes near or at sea level. Evening temperatures don’t dip as low here as they do in alpine areas or drainages, so any lingering snowpack slowly, but continuously melts even after the sun goes down. I also choose trails that are protected by a somewhat substantial tree canopy. Cover from above not only ensures there will be little snow, if any below, but also protects hikers from stiff north winds that can blow on sunny days. Staying low has it’s benefits for sure, including the need for less gear and a trail that is often more user-friendly.

We chose the Dupont or Point Bishop Trail, located at the end of Thane Road. Here, a 1.7-mile-long trail leads to Dupont Beach, or continues on to Point Bishop, roughly another five miles farther south.

With its all-day sun exposure, this southwest facing trail must be one of the driest hikes in town.

The trail starts out as wide as a sidewalk and nearly as smooth. Vingettes of Gastineau Channel appear through the trees as the trail meanders along the topography of the shoreline and over bustling streams.

This time of year the Dupont Trail proved to be in great condition — the entire trail was either dry or close to it, as most of the water was runoff from above and filled the creeks instead of muddying up the pathway. There was, of course, the occasional mud hole, but they were not nearly as frequent here as they are on other trails in the area. Spring is also just arriving in the rainforest, so the thick vegetation that can be found on this trail in mid-summer was only just beginning to sprout. Instead of being choked, the trail felt open and good visibility through the forest offered the opportunity for wildlife sightings, such as Sitka black-tailed deer, porcupine or busy red squirrels.

We took the entire family on our spontaneous Monday holiday hike. Our four-year-old walked as often or as little as he liked — besides the occasional downed tree, he could have easily managed the entire route. And the littlest one happily checked out the passing scenery.

Once at the beach, we explored, skipped rocks, played in the sun and enjoyed the warm protection from the frigid wind that blew down the channel. The beach here is gently sloping and not terribly rocky, so little ones have no trouble puttering around on their own.

Besides the historical mining relics that litter Dupont Beach, there is also a camping site and nearby freshwater stream that feeds the small cove. I may even venture to bet there are dolly varden trout feeding on salmon fry not too far from shore this time of year. At least the rafts of sea ducks seemed to find something worth diving for ...

We loafed around on the beach for a few hours, before turning back for town.

Indeed, it was nice to return to the car drier than I had been in months with two sleepy kids and a little sun on my face.

 

Contact Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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