Moose Valley Trail ideal for a beautiful autumn weekend
The moderately difficult Moose Valley Trail is 6.5 miles long, with 1,200 feet of elevation gain. It leads you through lovely and varied forest and meadow environments. Along the way, you will have great views of Poot and other Southern Kenai Mountain peaks, pass by the historic Moose Valley cabin, be treated to large wildflower meadows and enjoy cool stream and lake-side hiking.
In the autumn, Moose Valley, located just northeast of Poot Peak, offers an exceptionally colorful hike through a series of large, open, stream-crossed wetlands and meadows. This trail provides a nice combination of intimate views of lowland marshes and grasslands, on the northern trail section, as well as expansive, breathtaking mountain peak and ridgeline views from its higher-elevation, southern section.
Travel by water taxi from Homer Spit to the Halibut Cove Lagoon public dock. Hike about two miles along the China Poot Lake Trail to the intersection with the Moose Valley Trail.
The Moose Valley Trail begins by meandering along the north edge of Two Loon Lake, offering nice views across the water and of China Poot Peak. The path then slowly winds uphill along an alder-choked stream.
A side trail at about mile one takes you down to the Moose Valley public-use cabin; an old, renovated trapper's cabin maintained by the state park system. About 1.5 miles you enter a large, grassy meadow that's carpeted in wildflowers throughout most of the summer and eye-popping colors in the fall.
If you hike here in early morning you'll likely end up with wet legs, so wear your gaiters or don rain pants. High grasses sometimes make the trail difficult to follow, so look for the orange trail markers. The trail continues through meadow lowlands as it parallels and crisscrosses Moose Valley Creek.
Around 2.5 miles, where you cross a bridge over the creek, you have a splendid view of a 100-foot tall waterfall on the left side of the trail. At three miles, you'll find the Moose Valley campsite, an easy spot to reach on day one of a two-day hike, and a pleasant place to stay for some quiet solitude.
If you are a photographer, this is a great base camp, with early morning access to sunlight, wildflowers and wildlife. Continuing past the campsite for about 0.5 miles, you hike through spruce trees and some spectacular cottonwoods. From here, you, hike south and gain elevation gradually - and then rapidly as you enter the alpine zone of the trail. The trail traverses across and up the fall line of the slope, with many changes in grade.
As you hike up and through the forest, you are treated to many fine views of Moose Valley and the glaciated mountain terrain to the north, as well as the Wosnesenski Glacier to the east. For about the last 1.5 miles prior to the intersection with the Poot Peak Trail, you hike above tree line through alpine meadows and lakes.
The views are breathtaking, the hiking is easy, and the opportunities for landscape photography are nearly endless. The rounded nature of the topography here is the result of the smoothing effect of glacial ice that scraped these high areas clean. The lower-elevation lakes, marshes and grasslands are formed on top of the thick layer of sediment deposited by these retreating glaciers.
When you reach the Poot Peak Trail intersection, you can turn right to hike up the challenging Poot Peak Summit Trail and then down the steep North China Poot Peak Trail, or go left to hike down South Poot Peak Trail. I like to take the latter, easier-on-the-knees, trail to enjoy the spectacular views of China Poot Lake and the Wosnesenski Valley. Both routes eventually take you back to China Poot Lake.
Hiking from the Halibut Lagoon Cove Dock into and around the Moose Valley Trail and back to the dock is a 13.8-mile trek including the two miles into the Moose Valley Trailhead on the China Poot Lake Trail, 6.5 miles along the Moose Valley Trail, 2.5 miles on the Poot Peak Trail down to China Poot Lake, and then 2.8 miles back along the China Poot Lake Trail to the dock.
This is a challenging single-day hike that will not leave you much time for noodling around. Consider taking at least one overnight stay at the either the Moose Valley or China Poot Lake cabin or the Moose Valley campsite. To check for availability of the cabins, access this link: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/kenai in your browser, scroll down to the Moose Valley or China Poot Lake Cabin, click the "See Cabin Availability" link and then follow the Reserve America links. Prior to planning this trip, be sure to check with Alaska State Parks, Kenai Area Office (907-262-5581) about the condition of this trail.