Carter Lake Trail to Crescent Lake
Carter Lake Trail is an easy and gorgeous hike in the beautiful and lush Cooper Landing. This trail passes Carter Lake and leads to the larger Crescent Lake. The entire hike is scenic and full of wildlife with options to fish and enjoy the views. The hike took about 3-4 hours total.
- Difficulty: easy to moderate
- Location: Cooper Landing (roughly two hours from Anchorage), Alaska
- Kid Friendly: yes
- Dog Friendly: yes
- Distance: roughly 7 miles round-trip
- Elevation Gain: 1259
- Season: spring, summer, fall
- Lat/Long: 60.507291, -149.444600
- Directions: If you have GPS look up “Carter Lake Trail Head Parking.” From Anchorage, drive south on Seward Highway towards Girdwood (this is the last place to fill up on gas and snacks before Cooper Landing). Continue on the freeway as if you were heading to Seward. You’ll stay on the highway for almost 89 miles until you reach a curved T in the road. If you head right toward Sterling Highway you’ll make it into the little tourist town of Cooper Landing for some food and gas. To make it to the trailhead, on the other hand, you just need to stay left on Seward Highway toward Moose Pass. Roughly 4 miles later you’ll see a sign on the right that reads, “Carter Lake Trail,” and, “Carter Lake Public Access.”
We decided to visit Cooper Landing as a last-minute weekend adventure to take advantage of our days off and the warm weather. Thanks to our new adventure van, Aurora, we knew we’d have no problem camping out at the trailheads.
The first thing I should mention about hiking in the Chugach National Forest (or most places in Alaska) is that there are a ton of bears and moose wandering around. Especially in Cooper Landing! If you have a dog, make sure they’re trained well enough to avoid chasing wildlife or keep them on a leash. This also means that you and your group need to continuously make noise, either by talking or singing. And finally, you should have bear spray on you at all times for protection in case you get charged by a moose or bear.
I mention that because within the first half hour of hiking on this beautiful trail, Zuko suddenly froze and backed up nervously. His tail went between his legs and he whined quietly. Since Zuko doesn’t act this way in any other circumstances, we immediately pulled out our bear spray and loudly said, “Hey bear!” and waited to see how Zuko reacted. After a couple minutes of this, Zuko regained his normal cheerfulness and continued walking down the trail. We assumed the bear ran away after getting scared off, and sure enough we passed fresh bear prints in the mud.
This trail goes through patches of thick trees and open fields of flowers, and it connects to various primitive trails along the way. Carter Lake is small and cozy with white rocks surrounding the water. And it’s full of fish, which is a plus for campers. Then when we made it to Crescent Lake we felt blown away not only by its size, but also by the gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. After relaxing by the water with some victory beers we decided to wander around the nearby primitive trails. At one point we found some trees that formed a natural frame so we took an adorable picture (posted below).
Something you should note about visiting these lakes is that the trail will most likely be muddy. If you’re planning on relaxing with a beer or going fishing, I highly suggest packing in a portable chair because there isn’t much to work with naturally. Also, avoid trying to take a shortcut to the lake through the thick bush… it doesn’t work and it sucks trying to get back out.
Kevin and I loved this hike because it was easy to get to, full of lovely views and wildlife, and it felt very Alaskan. This is a great trail to take your friends on if they’re visiting from out of state.
We spotted six moose total in that small amount of time in Cooper Landing. Pictured above is one of the moose that trotted in front of us for a couple minutes on our drive out. And more moose in the slideshow below!