The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge trails in Soldotna, Alaska, are still covered with snow on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge trails in Soldotna, Alaska, are still covered with snow on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Refuge trails emerge from winter

It’s officially the end of the groomed winter trail season

It’s breakup season on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which means popular recreation trails will start seeing more traffic as both the sun and community members start to come out.

Leah Eskelin, the visitor center manager at the refuge, said Wednesday that it’s officially the end of the groomed winter trail season, but that many paths still aren’t in optimal summer condition.

“All that time that we try to keep up with ski conditions and things like that, that’s kind of passed,” she said.

There was more snow this year than last, Eskelin said, but some of the warmer temperatures have been causing breakup on the refuge.

Some of the most popular summer trails include Hidden Creek, Upper Kenai River Trail and Skyline, Eskelin said. These trails are all still pretty icy.

“There’s a lot of snow still on the Skilak trails, like all the Skilak area,” she said. “Because as breakup arrives, it arrives first at the lowlands and then kind of goes up the elevation.”

Although most of the refuge has a fair amount of snow and ice, Eskelin said people are still coming out to enjoy the trails.

“According to a couple reports we got this last weekend, it’s still really snowy, but beautiful (in Skilak),” she said.

Ice cleats or snowshoes are still recommended in this area, Eskelin said.

“Surprisingly, it’s kind of hard to remember that a lot of Skilak is kind of at that upper elevation,” she said.

Looking forward to this spring and summer, Eskelin said she’s excited to start bringing back some annual programming that has been altered or canceled altogether because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The visitor’s center will also begin to gradually open its doors to the public next month.

She said rangers plan to start guided hikes in June like last year, and also launch a new vista punch card program, which will encourage hikers to visit as many viewpoints on the refuge as they can.

“The intention of this program is not to get people to hike every single trail, but find the place that makes you stop and go ‘wow,’” Eskelin said.

Some of the sites on the punch card, she said, are newer viewpoints only visible after the Swan Lake Fire.

“I’m looking forward to having people who are out on the refuge, visitors and residents and hikers, go and kind of find those cool spots and share them with us,” Eskelin said.

More summer programming should be finalized in the coming months, but for now, she said she encourages people to use the refuge — including the multiuse trail near the visitor’s center — whether that be in hiking boots, cleats or snowshoes.

More information can be found on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge website at

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

More in News

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Chief J.J. Hendrickson plays with Torch the cat at the Kenai Animal Shelter on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna, Kenai to extend animal control partnership

So far this year, the Kenai shelter has served roughly 190 animals

Transportation professionals tour the Sterling Highway and Birch Avenue intersection in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, May 22, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna brainstorming pop-up pedestrian safety project

The temporary project aims to boost pedestrian safety near Soldotna Creek Park

Most Read