Cooper Landing, Alaska, a small town on the beautiful Kenai Lake, is two hours south of Anchorage. With hiking, fishing, and boating available, there are plenty of things to do in Cooper Landing to quench the thirst of any outdoors enthusiast. We visited in the middle of May 2021 and found that while tourism hadn’t ramped up yet, there were still a lot of sights to see.
Keep reading for mesmerizing photos and things to do in Cooper Landing. I’m sure you’ll love this quaint little town like we did.
My Favorite Things to Do in Cooper Landing, Alaska
Outdoor Adventures in Cooper Landing
Hike Slaughter Ridge Trail
One of the most beautiful hikes in Alaska, this short, 2-mile hike will get you above Kenai Lake for gorgeous views. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. You gain about 1,000 feet per mile. Thankfully, the views are surreal enough to make your breaks worth it. There are a couple of false summits near the end, but once on top, you’ll have your breath taken away.
With views of the lake and river winding from left to right, you may even see Mt. Iliamna on a clear day. It was one of the best and favorite views of the trip to Alaska.
Take a Float on the Kenai River
Soak in nature. Enjoy the weather. Spot some wildlife. It’s all there with a float on the Kenai River.
We wanted a quieter activity to wrap up the trip on our last full day. Overall, we spent three hours floating around the river, learning about the area, and getting a chance to exhale. Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife as we were still early in the year (early June), and the salmon were not running yet. My parents did this years back and said they spotted countless bald eagles and other wildlife in late June. If the time is right, this is a great place to bring the long lens and snap some photos.
I should note that fishing is HUGE in Cooper Landing, Alaska. With no salmon running, we weren’t able to do that. I’d probably recommend a fishing trip and not the float.
Hike the Russian River Trail
If you’re looking for a short hike just outside Cooper Landing, Alaska, that could lead to some bears; this is it. Russian River Trail, which leads to Russian River Falls, is one of the best places to see salmon running in the region and bears.
At about three miles round trip, the trail is primarily flat and suitable for families. Two things to note, however. The parking lot is tiny, so be prepared to walk .75 of a mile from the lower parking lot. And, as always, don’t forget the bear spray!
Looking for more Alaska content? Read it here.
Drive the Skilak Lake Road
This road is another excellent place for wildlife and beautiful views of the turquoise Skilak Lake. We drove up and down this road several times, looking for animals. Overall, we struck out on the road but saw a black bear at our Upper Skilak Lake Campground site. If you’re looking for a great place to camp on a lake, this is it! In addition to wildlife potential, we did some nice hikes.
More things to do in Cooper Landing
With the salmon running, Cooper Landing is a hot spot for fishing enthusiasts or those just wanting to experience it for the first time. You can book half and full-day trips. However, I would recommend waiting until the second week of June to ensure the Salmon are running decently!
Cooper Landing Alaska Hikes
I recommend two Cooper Landing hikes: Skilak Lake Lookout and Kenai River Trail. The first meanders through the forest before bringing you to the top of the hill with lovely lake views. The latter follows the Kenai River as it winds through the landscape.
The Kenai River Trail has bear potential as we found fresh scat as we started the hike. Be warned; it is a recent burn area, so many dead trees are nearby.
Lastly, the 18-mile road is not the best. It’s not horrible, but some sections have some big potholeBut, again, if you have an SUV, you’ll be fine. If you have a car, you’ll probably be good but use your best judgment. To hike the Kenai River Trail, though, you only have to be on it for about half a mile, and that part is perfectly driveable.
Where to stay in Cooper Landing, Alaska
Thanks to all the things to do in Cooper Landing, there are also numerous places to stay.
There are a handful of campgrounds within 20 minutes of the town for the campers.
- Russian River Campground
- Cooper Creek Campground – I stayed here a night and had a near-riverfront view.
- Cooper Creek South Campground (across the road)
- Upper Skilak Lake Campground – I stayed here, and it was fantastic. Even had a black bear wander into camp (see photo a couple above)
- Lower Skilak Lake Campground
There is lodging in the area, but most won’t show up on national sites. Expedia only has one spot listed. However, I trust you can work with Google to find a place.
Wrapping up – Things to do in Cooper Landing
The vast amount of things to do in Cooper Landing will blow you away and help you reconnect with your true outdoor self. Whether it’s amazing hiking, getting out onto the river to fish or float, seeing bears, or just camping in the forest, you’ll love your time in Cooper Landing!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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