Several popular trails closed after being damaged by the Swan Lake Fire last year are reopening to the public.
The Skyline Trail, which takes hikers up a steep mile to the tops of the Mystery Hills, and Hideout Trail, which takes off from near the eastern entrance of Skilak Lake Road, are now open again. Fuller Lakes Trail has been open this year up to the lower lake, but closed up to the upper lake. That upper part is now open as well. All three trails are popular but were closed due to extensive damage during the fires in 2019.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced the reopenings Friday. Manager Andy Loranger says the refuge trail crew has done a lot of work to restore the trails over the past two months to help ensure visitor safety.
Refuge visitor services manager Matt Conner says the Skyline Trail has been rerouted through the hard work of the trails crew members this year, and the closed section of the Kenai River Trail is still underoing work. One hazard to watch out for on the Skyline Trail is the ash—on a rainy day, the ash can build up and be slick on slopes, so it's good to bring trekking poles for balance, he says.
There are still fire hazards in the burned areas, including fire-weakened trees, and potentially deep ash pits full of hot embers. Hikers in burned areas are advised to take caution, including avoiding damaged trees, taking a probe and watching their steps, and watching out for tripping and “poking hazards”—essentially, spiky tree limbs that have fallen and could present stabbing danger.
The Surprise Creek Trail and parts of the Kenai River and Seven Lakes trails remain closed for repair due to extensive fire damage. For more information, visit the Kenai National Wildlfie Refuge’s website at kenai.fws.gov or call the refuge headquarters at 907-262-7021.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.