Switchback Trail to Hope Point is A Hiker’s Dream
We couldn’t believe it as we slowly moved upward September 28 of this year on the Hope Point Trail. Located on the Kenai Peninsula outside of the small community of Hope, this was no typical Alaskan trail. The tread way was wide and the grade was amazingly gradual, reminiscent of Grand Canyon trails and others in the lower 48.
Pete Panarese and I had started on the morning of September 28 under a mostly sunny sky, but the forecast called for increasing clouds. The trailhead is left, just before the Porcupine Campground outside of Hope.
We learned later that over the past two years the U.S. Forest Service made significant trail improvements to the 3–‐1/2 mile (round trip) trail that once went nearly straight up the mountain.
We wished for a breeze because the bugs were coming to life as the morning sun rose higher. Ascending above the tree line we noticed goats—eight to be exact–‐–‐ high on the mountain. They were grazing on grass in a gully and moving leisurely across the slope as we climbed upward.
After about two hours of steady hiking, the switchbacks had taken us above the tree line, where we were treated to an awesome view of Hope, Resurrection River Valley and its side valleys, (Bear Valley, Palmer Creek Valley) and Cook Inlet all the way along Turnagain Arm.
The trail steepened at this point, but was still very moderate, with shorter switchbacks as we climbed toward the 3,708–‐foot summit. Cresting over a flat saddle between two peaks, we were only about 150 yards from the goats. They were now bedded down and lazily enjoying the afternoon sun.
After snapping a few photos, we moved farther up the trail and our motion was enough to convince the goats they should seek more isolation. They soon disappeared over the nearest ridge.
In about 30 more minutes we were at the summit, which was sprinkled with patches of new snow. It seemed strange – we felt like we were somewhat in the wilderness. Yet to the northwest, we had a clear view of downtown Anchorage.
There was a chill in the air, but without much wind, it only took a few clothing layers to remain comfortable. With binoculars, we spotted about nine or 10 Beluga whales surfacing about 400 yards off the coast, not far from Gull Rock – destination of another great hike that begins in Hope.
After signing the register and enjoying a leisurely lunch, we began the return trip. At this point, the skies were clearing rather than clouding up, as forecast.
On the way down, at roughly the 2,000–‐foot level, we spotted a black bear about 400 yards to our left and below us. He apparently wanted to either cross the slope, or join the trail we were on, but apparently changed his plan when he saw/heard us and soon moved down the mountain out of sight.
From the top, it took us about 2–‐1/2 hours to get down – for a total round trip time of about 7 hours. I’m certain many others could make it faster, but we always enjoy loitering and taking in the sights.
I’m hesitant to recommend hikes for families, because what seems moderate in my estimation can be challenging for some. But this trail – Hope Point – is a must do for all people—young, old and children, preferably in summer/autumn. The U.S. Forest Service warns of avalanche danger in the winter.
On the way out we drove through old Hope, site of one of Alaska’s biggest gold rushes during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. There is an inexplicable magic that lingers here, like an echo from a distant past. You feel as if this is a place that somehow retains a memory of what it was.
Frank E. Baker is a member of The ECHO News team and freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.
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