Spotlight: Snowmachining at Turnagain Pass, Alaska
What You’ll Find
The Kenai Peninsula is known for its wealth of recreation and scenery. Not only is Turnagain Pass the gateway to the Kenai Peninsula and the Chugach National Forest but it also harbors some of the best and most consistent snow in Alaska.
Just 50 miles south of Anchorage, Turnagain Pass marks the highest point on the scenic Seward Highway, about 30 minutes south of the town of Girdwood. The Turnagain Pass snowmachine area is west of the Seward Highway, beginning at Bertha Creek Campground and extending north to the forest boundary near Turnagain Arm. (NOTE: east of the Seward Highway is closed to motorized use).
Make Sure You
Consider a stop on your way to Turnagain Pass! Not only might you see moose along the route, but you can visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center year-round to view Alaskan wildlife up close. Inquire about other wildlife-viewing and recreation opportunities on the Chugach with a stop at the Glacier Ranger Station in Girdwood, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. You can also check the Forest Recreation Updates page for up-to-the minute news about recreation on the Chugach.
Mountain snowmachiners can tackle the common “up-track” to access Seattle ridge and Turnagain’s back bowls. For the meadow-skippers and trail riders, head south from the parking lot, stay in the flats and ride toward the Johnson Pass trailhead. There are four bridges along this route allowing riders to cross several creeks with ease on this moderately difficult cross-country ride.
With all that snow is an inherent risk of avalanche danger. Visit the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center for daily avalanche danger ratings in the Turnagain Pass area. Forest Service avalanche forecasters post the day’s danger rating and snowpack discussion by 7:00 AM each morning. This is also where you will find the most up-to-date information regarding the opening/closure status of snowmachine riding areas on the Chugach National Forest.
Ensure you and your riding partners are well equipped for a day in the backcountry. If riding in avalanche terrain, make sure you have an avalanche beacon, shovel and a probe pole, as well as an understanding of how to use these tools. Bring extra dry clothing, food, water and a communication device (cell phone coverage is spotty). Ensure your snowmachine is maintained and full of fluids, carry extra parts such as spark plugs and a spare belt and don’t forget to leave a travel plan with a loved one. With these bases covered you’ll be well on your way to an unforgettable day of fun at Turnagain Pass!
Did You Know?
Turnagain Arm is an extension of Cook Inlet, named after Captain James Cook who explored the area in 1798. Cook’s party traveled up two promising “arms” of the inlet hoping to find a Northwest Passage. The first attempt was up the northernmost arm, where they found only a river. Next came the southern arm where they had to “turn again” when they ran into another unnavigable dead end. Today, most of Alaska’s population surrounds Cook Inlet.