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KENAI - Alaska offers countless opportunities to escape civilization and quietly gaze down on the world below from above the tree line. But getting those views often requires a dauntingly steep climb.
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Don't give up on visiting the serene mountaintops quite yet; not every alpine hike requires beefy calves.
Lost Lake, a polished blue gem set in the crown of the Kenai Mountains, offers panoramic mountain views that even the scrawniest-legged hiker can reach. The climb to this isolated lake is gradual, but the rewards are steep.
Two trail heads off the Seward Highway provide access to the lake. The Primrose Trail at Mile 17 of the Seward Highway climbs 1,500 feet in elevation over an eight-mile stretch and travels just past Lost Lake where it becomes the Lost Lake Trail. Hikers who continue back down to the Seward Highway on the Lost Lake Trail descend 1,820 feet over seven miles and emerge at a trail head off Mile 5 of the Seward Highway.
Hikers who travel both trails can choose either end to begin their trek. Hikers who start at the Primrose trail head will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Seward and Resurrection Bay as they descend to the Lost Lake trail head.
Ambitious hikers can walk the trail in one day, which can take anywhere from seven to 10 hours. Less experienced hikers might want to use the hike to wet their feet on backpacking. Even for experienced hikers, an overnight stay might be preferable to a day hike, since day-hikers will likely regret a hasty departure from such a beautiful and serene place.
Starting at the Primrose end, the trail to Lost Lake first ascends through a shady grove of spruce trees threaded with cold running streams and bedded in a thick blanket of moss.
As you continue to walk, the trail weaves through a neighborhood of little glass ponds until you finally reach the big pond. Lost Lake is nestled between rolling alpine hills and offers an unlimited number of picture-perfect places to pitch a tent. As you settle into camp, though, you'll notice the alpine offers little fire fuel.
The vegetation around Lost Lake grows slowly, and small clumps of mountain hemlock leave few dead branches below their low skirts. While campfires are permitted in Chugach National Forest, the park encourages the use of portable camp stoves and strongly discourages campfires, particularly in the alpine where fire scars recover slowly.
To enjoy all of these treasures you don't have to be an expert hiker. Even the skinny spaghetti legs of novice wanderer can reach this beautiful crown of gems.