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Ptarmigan Creek Campground

There is a little federal campground located between mile 24 and 23 of the Seward Highway.  Heading south toward Seward after Moose Pass, the campground will be on the left.  We visited this campsite for the first time in late May, 1999.  Fresh snow could be seen along the mountaintops and it was raining lightly.  The cold night air kept us snuggled in front of the campfire. 

The camping spots are clean and well maintained.  There is plenty of wood to use to start small camp fires, and each spot has a small grill and a picnic table.  There are water pumps for fresh water and typical park toilets (not much more than a fancy outhouse with hand bars to assist the disabled).  These sites should be reserved in advance for busy weekends, but we managed to drive in and take our choice of 4 or 5 available spots that were reserved beginning the next night.  We only planned on staying one night, so it worked fine.  

Ptarmigan Lake Trail

Activities near this campground include a hike up to Ptarmigan Lake.  This is an easy to moderate trail climbing up about 800 feet to and along side Ptarmigan Lake.  It took us about two hours one way to hike to the beginning of the lake.  The first third of the trail follows right next to Ptarmigan Creek.  It was amazing to see the number of sockeye salmon making their final spawning run.  Bright red streaks are hard to miss in the crystal clear creek.  This of course means that there will also likely be bears around.  We met several people who had spotted bears on the trail that day, but we did not see any bears ourselves.

Another bear food supply along the trail was a number of berry bushes.  We found blueberry bushes plentiful along the beginning of the trail, but there were no ripe berries on them.  Either bears or other hikers had beat us to them all.  However, up higher along the trail there were many wild raspberry bushes.  We found small raspberries that were quite tasty despite their size.

The trail is rutty and has both devilís club and stinging nettles growing along side of it.  We recommend wearing good hiking boots and pants to protect feet, ankles and legs.  There are a few spots that run along side dangerous cliffs.  Small children should be kept under close supervision.

Claimjumper pointed out as we walked how quickly the biota would change.  One minute we would be hiking through heavily wooded areas with ferns and mushrooms growing underneath tall spruce trees.  Then we would break out into the open where grasses and wildflowers grew six feet tall.  Even though we left the river and hiked up a distance there would be openings were one can see back down to watch the river winding through the valley floor.  Looking up and across the valley there are some great views of Mother Goose Glacier.

The lake itself was beautiful and pristine.  The glacial water that fed it keeps it an amazing blue color.  I tried swimming here but the water was far too cold, even for me.  We discovered two places along the lake that backpackers could make camp.  It appears that the forest service expects backpackers to camp here and there was a trail marker indicating where to find the tent sites.  We walked along the trail past these campsites and continued around the lake to find where it emptied into the creek.  An amazing amount of water shoots through a narrow canyon to start its descent down to Kenai Lake.

Across the Seward highway from the trailhead there is access to a boat launch for an opportunity to explore Kenai Lake, the beautiful green body of water that your saw from the highway if you came from the north.  But the best place to launch a boat would be off the beach at Trail River Campground about a half mile north on the Seward Highway.

Last Visited: August 2000

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