I grew up in Alaska. I’ve been to many a body of water and on more trails than I can count. We recently took a trip down the Russian River Falls trail in Cooper Landing, Alaska, Catherine, Danielle, and I. It was about an hour from Soldotna (probably an hour and a half from Anchorage) and was an awesome workout. I loved it and plan to go again later this summer.
Russian River Falls Stats5
Elevation Gain: Russian River 500 feet.
Start Elevation: 1,400 feet
Rating: Russian River Falls: Easy.
Distance: Russian River Falls 2.3 miles one way.
Nearest Landmark: Cooper Landing, Alaska
Season: Mid-May through mid-September
Popular: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Fishing, Camping, Boating, Horseback Riding, Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing.
Where is the Russian River Falls trail?
Once you hit Cooper Landing, you will find the Russian River Campground access road at milepost 53 of the Sterling Highway. The access road is narrow at points, so go slow to prepare for oncoming traffic. There is very limited parking at the trailhead and the trail tends to be very crowded when the salmon runs are in. Get there early and get a spot, but keep in mind there may be parking fees depending on the time of year. There is overflow parking available, but it is further from the trailhead and not as convenient!
What is the Russian River Falls trail like?
The Russian River Falls trail is about two miles long and is covered in gravel. The trail is a popular one and as such, is very well maintained. In some areas, the gravel felt a little deep for our wagon wheels and it took some force to pull/push through it with the two toddlers in the wagon. The trail is decently wide and comfortably able to accommodate two people walking side by side, maybe even three in some areas. The trail does have slight changes in elevation, which for normal non-wagon-pulling hikers, shouldn’t be an issue. On the way back, we were getting pretty sore pulling the wagon uphill. At the end of the trail, there’s a viewing deck and platform with a couple areas you can stop at to view the falls. The falls can be loud and wildlife viewing is common.
What kind of plants and animals can be seen on the Russian River Falls trail?
Catherine and I went semi-early in the season, so the foliage wasn’t quite showing off in full effect. We found labrador tea, horse tail, crowberry, cranberry, willow, yarrow, devil’s club, mushrooms, ostrich fern, tree fungi and more.
As far as wildlife, many animals call the areas near the trail home, including many species of birds (you may even see eagles!), squirrels, moose, ducks, caribou (if you’re lucky!), black bears, brown bears, and salmon in the falls! The salmon who make it to the falls, have managed to evade fisherman and bears along the Kenai river and are in the final stretch of their journey to spawn and die.
Is the Russian River Falls trail a good trail for kids?
Catherine and I took two toddlers in a wagon and a baby in a carrier on the trail. While the wagon got heavy on some of the uphill parts, it was a relatively easy and kid-friendly trail. There were a few points where the gravel felt a little too deep for the wagon wheels, but overall, it was easy enough. It is a long walk (2.3 miles one way) and older children may not do as well walking on their own if they aren’t used to it.
Can I camp at the Russian River Falls?
There are campsites available, as well as cabins that can be rented near the falls and the lake. These campsites may have fees associated.
Where there are fish, the bears and wildlife will follow. Bear sightings are common on the Russian River Falls trail and it’s a good idea to brush up on bear safety practices. If you are able to, it’s not a bad idea to bring guns with you on your hike. It’s better to have weapons and not need them, than to need them and not have them.
As always, never hike alone and always bring a buddy. Tell people when you leave, where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Be sure to bring plenty of water with you, especially in warmer weather. There are no fountains along the way and it’s not wise to drink water from the falls without adequate filtration.
Mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Be sure to use bug repellent to keep them at bay. Depending on the time of year and the weather on that particular day, the mosquitoes may be more or less of a bother. Best to be prepared!