A guide from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge leads visitors on a hike of Centennial Trail near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A guide from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge leads visitors on a hike of Centennial Trail near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Refuge readies for another season of Guided Discovery Hikes

Guided Discovery Hikes are scheduled for every Friday and Saturday from June 21 to Aug. 30

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday hosted a celebration of National Trails Day that also served as a kickoff to this year’s series of Guided Discovery Hikes on refuge trails.

Guided Discovery Hikes are scheduled for every Friday and Saturday from June 21 to Aug. 30, with Friday hikes starting at 10 a.m. and Saturday hikes starting at 1 p.m. The hikes are led by experienced guides and offer an opportunity to take on local trails with a group.

At the refuge on Saturday, a discovery room was intended to share basic information on hiking. Tables, signs and displays educated visitors about what to bring on a hike, how to be “bear aware,” how to make a tasty and energizing trail mix and how to choose where to hike.

The information provided says that hikers should wear good footwear, have access to navigation tools, water, food, emergency supplies and gear for multiple weather scenarios. Emergency supplies include fire material, a light, first aid, a knife and shelter.

To choose a hike, hikers should consider its length, seasonal conditions, elevation gain, time and weather.

In addition to the discovery room, there were a couple of guided hikes on Saturday that departed right from the refuge’s visitor center. At 2 p.m., about a dozen took on Centennial Trail, roughly 2.5 miles long, in a hike that concluded at Headquarters Lake.

The guide promised, and delivered, a slow-paced hike with regular stops to share information about local flora and fauna.

“The idea here is to have fun,” he said. “It’s a great day for a walk, isn’t it?”

He said that bears hate surprises, but are unlikely to approach a group of such a size. Moose, he said, were more likely to be seen, and especially at this time of year, can be more dangerous as they’re protective of newborn calves.

No bears or moose were seen on the trail. Instead, hikers learned about the plants along the trail, especially devil’s club and spruce trees and their uses by Indigenous populations.

Also discussed were spruce bark beetles, whose handiwork was readily apparent from any point of the trail. The guide said that spruce bark beetles, though more impactful in recent years because of climate change, are native to this region and a part of the ecosystem.

“It’s part of nature,” he said, gesturing toward dead and fallen trees.

Also discussed were berries likely to be harvested by Indigenous populations — and those more likely avoided.

For more information about the Guided Discovery Hikes or the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, visit kenai.fws.gov or call 907-260-2820.

Guided Discovery Hikes

Fridays at 10 a.m.

June 21 — Bear Mountain Trail, Mile 6 Skilak Lake Road

June 28 — Upper Kenai River Trail, Mile .6 Skilak Lake Road near Jims’ Landing

July 5 — Hideout – Burney’s Extension, meet at Hidden Lake Campground Day Use Parking for a shuttle to Hideout Trailhead

July 12 — Seven Lakes Trail, from Engineer Lake Campground

July 19 — Seven Lakes Trail, from Kelly Lake Campground

July 26 — Skilak Lookout Trail, Mile 5.4 Skilak Lake Road

Aug. 2 — Upper Kenai River Trail, Mile .6 Skilak Lake Road near Jims’ Landing

Aug. 9 — Bear Mountain Trail, Mile 6 Skilak Lake Road

Aug. 16 — Vista Trail, Upper Skilak Campground, park in day use and walk across bridge to trailhead

Aug. 23 — Hideout Trail, Mile 1.9 Skilak Lake Road

Aug. 30 — Hike Finale: To Be Announced

Saturdays at 1 p.m.

June 22 — Hidden Creek Trail, Mile 4.6 Skilak Lake Road

June 29 — Vista Trail, Upper Skilak Campground

July 6 — Burney’s Trail, Hidden Lake Campground

July 13 — Hidden Creek Trail, Mile 4.6 Skilak Lake Road

July 20 — Vista Trail, Upper Skilak Campground, park in day use and walk across bridge to trailhead

July 27 — Hideout Trail, Mile 1.9 Skilak Lake Road

Aug. 3 — Marsh Lake Trail, Mile 16.6 Skilak Lake Road

Aug. 10 — Fuller Lakes Trail, Mile 57 Sterling Highway

Aug. 17 — Skyline Trail, Mile 61 Sterling Highway

Aug. 24 — Bear Mountain Trail, Mile 6 Skilak Lake Road

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Hiking equipment is fills a table in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Hiking equipment is fills a table in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Key ingredients for a trail mix are spread in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Key ingredients for a trail mix are spread in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Training bear spray is displayed in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Training bear spray is displayed in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Bear skulls are displayed in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Bear skulls are displayed in a Trails and Hiking Discovery Room at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Hikers trudge down Centennial Trail in a guided hike at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Hikers trudge down Centennial Trail in a guided hike at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Signs direct visitors down trails at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Signs direct visitors down trails at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A guide from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge leads visitors on a hike of Centennial Trail near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A guide from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge leads visitors on a hike of Centennial Trail near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A guide from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge leads visitors on a hike of Centennial Trail that concluded at Headquarters Lake near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A guide from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge leads visitors on a hike of Centennial Trail that concluded at Headquarters Lake near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A small bird rests on the limb of a spruce tree at Headquarters Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A small bird rests on the limb of a spruce tree at Headquarters Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A placard describes the Dena’ina name for devil’s club, heshkegh ka’a, and includes information about it along the trail from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A placard describes the Dena’ina name for devil’s club, heshkegh ka’a, and includes information about it along the trail from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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