Gorgeous 5 mile circuit around Byers Lake, providing stunning views of Denali over the Lake.

The Byers Lake Loop Trail begins in the Byers Lake Campground. If you're not planning on camping, you can park in the day use area (the first right hand turn, off of the campground entrance), pay the $5 fee, and walk towards the campground loops. At the bottom of B loop, there is a sign which simply reads "To the lake". Follow this down to the water, and voila! You're at the trailhead, complete with kiosk and simple trail map.  

Once you reach the water, you can go either left or right. As of summer 2016, the suspension bridge on the northeast end of the lake is out, so if you're not feeling particularly adventure-y, your trip to the left may be cut short - not to worry though, the bridge is set to be fixed in the summer of 2017! From the campground to the suspension bridge is just over a one mile hike, with the a really neat old trapper cabin, still mostly intact, on the way. Though the trail is somewhat primitive and there are no shortage of tree roots, there is negligible elevation gain and this trail is fairly mellow.

Once you reach the water, if you choose the path to the right hand side, the first half mile or so of the trail stays right on the edge of the water, before wandering slightly more inland into a forest. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you will likely find some interesting wildlife. Spruce grouse are incredibly common, and will stop right in the trail and hold still for plenty of time to whip out the camera and snap a few photos.

Once the trail again meets the lake, you cross a long wooden foot bridge over Byers Creek. This is another exceptional spot to spot wildlife, if you've got time to sit down and hang out for a while. Trumpeter swans make a summer home on this lake, and bears and moose are known to travel through and across the creek, right underneath the bridge. (And on that note, as always when hiking in Alaska, be sure to bring your bear spray! Always exercise caution: alert the bears of your presence by talking loudly, singing, clapping, etc.)

Once across the bridge, you are rewarded with glorious views of Denali and her sister mountains, perfectly framed over Byers Lake. From this side of the bridge, the trail is travelled less frequently and thus becomes narrower and slightly more overgrown, though remains relatively flat. You'll follow the edge of the lake, passing over small creeks, and passing by a backcountry campground, until the trail leads into a swampy forest. Not far into the forest, you'll come across a sign post, indicating a number of different options, including the Cascade Trail, the Ridge Trail, and the end of the Loop Trail. The Cascade Trail is only about 3/4 of a mile, and leads you to a thundering cascade which you can hear long before you are able to catch a glimpse of it. If you've got the energy, it's well worth the few extra steps.

Continuing on the Loop Trail, you'll wind through the forest until you reach the suspension bridge. If you're up for the adventure, and the bridge is still out, provided the water isn't too high, it is absolutely possible to ford the creek. During summer, the deepest part of the creek is only about three feet deep, and moves slowly. Exercise caution if it has been particularly rainy, prior to your trip, or if the water looks muddy, as the creek fills with mud when the water is high.

Once across the bridge, you've got a mile left of trail, alternating between forest trail and lakeshore, before you find yourself back at the campground. While you're in the area, make sure to check out the Alaska Veterans Memorial, it's a beautiful monument to fallen soldiers and a little insight into the history of Alaska's participation in WWII.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots/trail shoes
  • Water
  • Extra layer
  • Camera
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RT Distance 5.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 100 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Summer, Autumn
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Wildlife

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