“A scenic backcountry point to point ride connecting Cooper Lake to Lower Russian Lake.
— Leslie Kehmeier
Upper Russian Lakes is an excellent backcountry ride on the Kenai Penninsula. Expect spectacular views throughout the route. Although long, it's not technical.
Pedaling Russian Lakes Trail from Cooper Lake to Russian River Campground takes advantage of a mostly downhill route with a fun, flowy section to finish.
Russian Lakes trail can also be ridden in the opposite direction or as an out and back.
Need to Know
This ride requires a car dropped at the end of Snug Harbor Rd.
Wildlife - this is bear and moose country. Bells and pepper spray are good options when riding alone. Keep the conversation going if traveling in a group.
From the trailhead at the end of Snug Harbor Rd, Russian Lakes trail travels through a forested valley to start. The route alternates between narrow singletrack and wider winter trail, rolling up and down over small hommocks and across shallow slopes. There are a few open views of the surrounding mountains as well as a few small lakes.
Continue on into an open grassy meadow and stay right to start a short sustained climb. You'll be pedaling up through dense evergreen forest. Enjoy a ripping descent that breaks out into a small canyon with rock walls and open canopy.
From here you'll roll out to an intersection with the Upper Russian Lake Cabin. Stop here if the site isn't occupied, it has a great spot on the lake for a snack.
Roll out through grassy meadow with Cottonwoods to the Aspen Flats Cabin intersection. Along the way you'll start to parallel the Russian River. The trail eventually climbs up the very lower slopes of Cooper Mountain to a viewpoint above the river.
From here there's a quick descent followed by a short punchy climb. You'll descend again through a small gully before breaking into the wide glacial valley above Lower Russian Lake.
The home stretch of the ride is a very enjoyable 5-ish miles of contouring hillside singletrack through a quintessential alpine landscape.
The singletrack jumps out onto wider trail near the very end. This section (crushed gravel) is accessed from the Russian River campground and is frequented by hikers, fisherman and dog walkers.