Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series outlining Juneau area trails this summer season. The first segment (http://bit.ly/18wE2ed) ran in Outdoors on Friday, June 21.
Our long days of sunshine over the past month have sent hiking enthusiasts into the alpine and there’s no doubt trail crews got a jump start on trail work improvements this season.
The big items on the to-do list this summer include more improvements to the Peterson Lake Trail, the Oliver Inlet Tram Trail and the Mount Juneau Trail.
Here’s the details on your neighborhood pathways into the wilderness.
DAN MOLLER TRAIL:
It’s about 5.5 miles round trip from the Blueberry Hill parking lot to the Dan Moller U.S. Forest Service public use cabin, and in past years that short jaunt took a bit of footwork to navigate.
Between the broken boardwalk that seemed to spring up out of nowhere, to the slippery nature of partially decomposed, tipping bridges, the trail was ridden with tiny hiker traps.
But that’s a thing of the past.
Last summer the trail’s questionable mid-section had things tucked back into place, so to speak, as broken boardwalk boards were replaced and at least one bridge rebuilt.
Work is scheduled to continue this summer, according to the USFS, with the rebuilding of a more substantial bridge, located just below the cabin.
Ed Grossman, recreation program manager for the USFS, said in an email last week that crews were scheduled to begin work on the upper Dan Moller bridge beginning Tuesday, July 16.
Overall, the trail is in good shape. The rocks that littler the mid-section of the trail will always be a little slippery, but otherwise one can now run with leaps and bounds down the trail with few fears of careening into the muskeg.
MOUNT ROBERTS TRAIL:
The trail up Mount Roberts is still a muddy mess after a good hard rain, but two years after Trail Mix Inc. installed some new switchbacks and a partial reroute, the improvements seem to be doing the trick. Mostly.
A few areas where large stair steps were installed, have begun to wash out. Deep troughs where water has carved its way under and around the secured logs is quite evident and it’s easy to see how these portions of the trail will need additional attention.
However, the reroutes, which now direct traffic away from areas that were historically soggy and late to thaw, are working nicely. In fact, even this seasoned hiker hardly misses the portions no longer included in the traditional route.
In all the trail is about 2.8 miles long from the Basin Road trailhead to the cross, located above the tram. Most stop here, but it is possible to continue upward to the true summit of the mountain.
Beyond the cross, the trail reduces to a narrow, rocky singletrack that climbs steeply before traversing a long and slender ridge. The final ascent becomes steep, but on a clear day the views are quite worth the effort. This portion of the trail is less maintained than the rest and should only be attempted in good weather with the proper gear and footwear.
MOUNT JUNEAU TRAIL:
Last summer, a hardy crew of Trail Mix folks camped on the summit of Mount Juneau to work from the top down on a trail that, for years, has been an extreme thigh-burner due to it’s straight uphill nature.
Now, the improved trail climbs neatly up the final pitch to the mountaintop in a series of gently sloping switchbacks. And work is nearly complete, Erik Boraas said.
Boraas is the executive director of Trail Mix and he said last month he hopes to have work wrapped up any day now.
“We’ve got about two weeks of work left up there,” he said. “We’re going to put in some stone steps on steeper areas, work on drainage and finish up the reroutes we did last year.”
The lower portion of the trail, which is accessible as a spur off the Perseverance Trail, was not improved during this go-round of work, but annual brushing will happen as it does every year.
This 3-mile long Juneau fixture is still a hard-hit pathway for locals and visitors alike.
From the trailhead on Basin Road, the historic pathway climbs into Silverbow Basin, before leveling out along the valley floor. In past years, the steep portion of the trail that climbs up from Gold Creek has been plagued by rock slides; this year is no exception.
As of last week a large slide still blocked most of the trail at the apex of the climb. Users have created a pathway through the rubble, but traffic on the multi-use trail is certainly limited. For instance, inexperienced bikers or family’s with strollers may not be able to traverse the debris field. (In fact, as a mom myself, I wouldn’t recommend trying.)
But the trail is still doable, and the rock slide is the only obstacle these days, besides that one protective grouse who will not hesitate to charge hikers. That’s a whole other story, however.
The bridge at the end of the trail is still washed out after last year’s monster landslide. Boraas said there are no plans to replace the bridge, since not many users continue past that point.
RED MILL TRAIL:
Another spur off the Perseverance Trail is the Red Mill Trail. Located just past the dual bridges crossing Gold Creek, this little gem is a short loop that leads hikers to the “Glory Hole,” a caved-in portion of the basin that was left behind after the mining days. The trail continues on past the Glory Hole spur, and wraps users back into the main pathway, but not before a few rollicking ups and downs through the hills.
DUPONT BEACH / POINT BISHOP TRAIL:
A quick one-mile long hike is all it takes to reach the secluded Dupont Beach. A longer commitment is needed to reach Point Bishop. No matter where hikers are headed, be prepared for lots of ducking and climbing over downed trees.
The trail itself is in good shape, beginning like a wide sidewalk in the wilderness at the end of Thane Road. Continuing on, the trail begins to narrow and when users aren’t ducking, they may certainly be traversing around a few mud holes.
No work is planned on this trail this year, according to officials.
SHEEP CREEK TRAIL:
Despite talk of grand improvements to the Sheep Creek Trail in recent years — making it mountain bike friendly, installing reroutes — the trail remains much the same. Like most pathways in the capital city, the Sheep Creek Trail points users straight up hill before leveling out after less than a mile. Here, the trail drops down into a gentle valley and follows Sheep Creek for a few miles.
Users should be cautious of the trail as it passes close to a white water section of the creek. Here, weather and water have eroded the pathway and it won’t be long until there is no trail at all in this section. Beyond this area, however, the pathway is quite pleasant — perfect for a sunny stroll or an easy, peaceful jog.
No work is planned for this trail this summer season.
OLIVER INLET TRAM TRAIL:
One short trail that leads to a big wildlife bonanza, the Oliver Inlet Tram Trail, is getting some attention this summer after Trail Mix thrust the historical pathway into the spotlight at the organization’s annual gala fundraiser last fall.
Erik Boraas said crews are already on site on Admiralty Island working to replace aging timber trestles under historic rails on the Oliver Inlet Tram Trail that were salvaged from local mines in the area. Crews also replaced part of the USFS public use cabin at the end of the trail, which Boraas said was “in danger of falling into the creek.”
In addition to the construction work, the Division of Alaska State Parks, who manages the land and oversees the trail, has purchased two new hand carts users regularly utilize for moving gear to the cabin and transporting kayaks, for instance.
SHEEP CREEK TRAIL:
A new set of stairs is the most recent improvement to the Salmon Creek Trail, located behind the Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. buildings off Egan Drive, near the hospital.
The trail, which also serves as an service road for AEL&P maintenance crews, climbs steeply before leveling out as it follows Salmon Creek. At the old powerhouse, the trail turns into the woods and narrows, resembling most of our local rainforest trails.
But perhaps the most interesting, not to mention harrowing, portion of the trail is near the end, when users reach the base of the Salmon Creek Dam. Here, it climbs steeply, SO steeply that cables are needed in spots and vertical stairs are bolted into the bedrock.
Still, the climb and the view of Salmon Creek Reservoir at the end are worth it.
EAST GLACIER TRAIL:
Work is finally complete in the vicinity of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, meaning temporary reroutes of the East Glacier Trail are also over with.
This 3-mile long loop takes users over a brand new bridge crossing Steep Creek and treats them to vistas of the Mendenhall Glacier from above Nugget Creek. It’s a popular trail for locals and visitors, so users should be prepared to run into tour groups, families, hikers and joggers. Oh, and possibly the occasional bear.
WEST GLACIER TRAIL:
This year, the USFS has big plans for the West Glacier Trail, which acts as the major pathway to the face of the Mendenhall Glacier in the summer.
Mike Dilger, a recreation resources planner with the USFS, said this is the year crews will address the failing rock steps, located at about mile marker two, past the first overlook / shelter.
“There’s two isolated sections where the trail gets steep,” Dilger said. “So, we’re going to fly in some rock and gravel ... and add a cable guard rail.”
He said work is on hold until the materials arrive, but should begin in late August or early September.
Last year, USFS crews replaced a few bridges that had been swept off their bases by recent flooding and improved a few soggy portions of the trail.
A word of caution to users: The West Glacier Trail is riddled with user-made trails that spur off the main pathway, in the direction of the glacier. Please note, these trails are not supported or maintained by USFS crews, so their reliability is not confirmed.
MORAINE ECOLOGY TRAIL:
Dilger said users should be aware the Church of Latter Day Saints will be putting their youth to work with a service day on the Moraine Ecology Trail in late July.
He said work crews will brush the trail on week prior and the church group will come through shortly thereafter to clean it all up. He said they expect nearly 100 kids to participate in the service day this year.
“Every winter the alders in the area lean a little more over the trail,” Dilger said. “This work should improve both winter and summer use.”
MONTANA CREEK TRAIL:
These days the Montana Creek Trail is still the overland connection to Windfall Lake, but it’s more plagued with downed trees than a brand new beaver dam.
Ok, perhaps that’s a stretch.
But recent reports from the field confirm there’s plenty of obstacles for users.
“The last few years we’ve had some windy fall months that have contributed to the downed trees,” he said.
Currently, there are no plans in place by the USFS to clear the trail.
AUKE NU TRAIL:
Last week, USFS crews were hard at work improving the Auke Nu Trail, a spur off the Spaulding Meadows Trail that leads to the John Muir Cabin, a USFS public use structure on the flanks of Spaulding Meadows.
The goal of the work is to fill mud holes, improve root-ridden areas, replace old boardwalk with gravel and construct new bridges, where necessary.
On July 8, weather permitting, a helicopter is scheduled to move more gravel to the Auk Nu Trail from the Lake Creek Trailhead, according to Grossman. At this time crews will also clean out the outhouse at the cabin.
The work happening now on the Auke Nu Trail is in preparation for a volunteer day, organized by Trail Mix, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Aug. 17.
PETERSON LAKE TRAIL:
Attention is certainly focussed on this trail for the summer of 2013 as work to harden and widen the existing trail continues.
Last summer, the first mile or so of this 4.3-mile long trail was covered in rough cut rock and a small rest spot was created near a waterfall overlook.
Now, crews will be placing lighter rock over top of the existing layer to even the base. They will also begin laying rock farther down the trail, Dilger said. They’ll do so as far as possible in an effort to improve water drainage and the overall experience for hikers.
Dilger anticipates most of the work will be wrapped up this summer, weather permitting.
WINDFALL LAKE TRAIL:
A group dedicated providing summer camp opportunities for youth will be doing a volunteer service project on the Windfall Lake Trail this summer.
Overland, based in Williamstown, Mass., will begin work with their group in early July to improve the portion of the trail directly after the first river crossing.
Dilger said work aims to modify the tread of the trail by filling in muddy areas with gravel. He anticipates work will last a few weeks on this 3.2 mile long trail that ends at Windfall Lake and provides access to multiple fishing opportunities and a pubic use cabin.
POINT BRIDGET TRAIL:
According to Boraas, Trail Mix is currently working with the Alaska State Parks Division to address mud holes and the drainage issues that continue to plague the Point Bridget Trail and its users.
No official plan is set at this time.
Overall, the trail is in decent shape as it traverses rolling terrain. Users should be prepared to wet conditions, especially after a long rain event.
Located far north of Juneau, the Amalga Trail is most often used to access the USFS public use cabin near the end of the trail.
Dilger said he’s currently in the process of completing a condition survey, where he’s identified five to six areas on the trail that need attention.
“There are quite a few beaver ponds that you encounter along the way,” Dilger said. “The problem areas are where the trail is pinned between a beaver pond and sometimes a rock mountainside; there’s a lot of going up 50 feet, just to go down 50 feet.”
Then, he said, there’s the root wads to contend with.
In general, Dilger said the trail is not terribly muddy, there’s “just a lot of climbing and scurrying, when it could easily be an easy incline.”
“If you’re hiking into the cabin with a pack, give yourself a good 2-3 hours,” he said.
• Do you have trail updates to share? Tell us! Contact Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at 523-2271 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.