Somewhat difficult - Some elevation gain here and there. The difficulty lies in navigating to the right trail.
Miles from Anchorage
20; off the Seward Highway (Turnagain Arm)
May to September (If there's a lot of snow be avalanche aware!)
This could be a pretty good hike once you get away from the roads and onto the trail. The problem is finding it! What was once a mining area, the first part of the valley is literally criss-crossed with dirt roads. These roads have no markers or trail directions, and many dead end into the river. While a great adventure of fun for mountain bikers, it's an extremely frustrating experience for backpackers.
When my friend and I did this hike in June of 2001, we thought we were on the right track; we were following what we thought was the river but wound up along one of its tributaries where the trail petered out. We even thought we had passed the ford marked on the map. We must have done the route that curved off (see the topo map). While we had a great spot by the river, and a great time nonetheless, we were hoping to get into the real backcountry.
Coming back was a complete nightmare. We kept on taking dead ends to the river. I finally whipped out my compass and tried to keep south as long as we could and finally found the bridge that led to the parking lot.
I'd like to try this trail again, definitely with my bike, but also with a backpack, where I truly get all the way into the backcountry.
Go to the second parking lot; what looks to be a big field.
There are extremely swift, deep, and cold sections of this river. Know the basics of how to ford a river. There is one ford marked on the map but be prepared for more.
Depending on rain or breakup, be prepared for marsh and newly made ponds on the trail. Gaiters are highly recommended for this hike.