Monday, June 30, 2014

12 Local (Mostly Easy) Homer Hikes

My in-laws visited in June and were game to go on at least a hike a day, so in 2 weeks we went on every short hike in the Homer area I could think of. Although I have blogged about most of these at one time or another in the past 7 years, I thought I would include all of them in one blog post for visitors who might like an overview of the local hikes, with pictures to go with each. These are listed in no particular order.

Bear Creek Winery Trail
Beautiful view from beginning of Bear Creek Winery trail
About 3 miles out East End Road up Bear Creek Drive is Bear Creek Winery. After a wine taste-testing session, we wandered around the short path on the winery grounds. Huge quantities of rhubarb are planted around (They are constantly in need of rhubarb, paying 75 cents per pound and processing 11,000 pounds of rhubarb last year. My son has earned some easy money harvesting rhubarb and taking it in.), as well as flowers, herbs and more. The resident cat followed us around the trail, taking the opportunity to rub against our ankles if we paused.

Calvin & Coyle Trail

An platform overlooks the swamp above Beluga Lake
Just over a mile out East End Road, past Paul Banks School, the Calvin & Coyle Trail has been improved to the point of being passable, with boardwalks over most (not quite all) the mucky spots on the trail. It is flat and only 1.5 miles total for the loop. I like the first part of the hike before it gets into the muddy section; it is a pretty, open woods. In my mind I still steel myself for the mud, but it really isn't bad.

Ray Clapp Trail-Stream Hill Subdivision

Birch and lupine are features in the Stream Hill Subdivision (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

A mama moose with newborn were the highlight of this trail (Photo by Phil Waclawski)
This trail is nearly across the road from the Calvin & Coyle Trail. It crosses a bridge, climbs the ridge through a birch woods, and then you have the option of cutting over and descending on the road to the parking area or just turning around and retracing your steps. As we were climbing, we saw a mama moose and baby ahead of us on the trail. We continued to climb, and then cut over to the road, where we once again saw the duo trotting down the road, mama in the lead. They settled down to hide in a grove of trees next to the parking area.

Homestead Trail

The Homestead Trail starts at the Roger's Loop Trailhead (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

"The Bench" is a popular destination on the Homestead Trail (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

A sunny day offers a beautiful view of the Kenai Mountain Range from The Bench
(Photo by Phil Waclawski)

An inviting tree that calls someone to sit under it (Photo by Phil Waclawski)
With so little snow this year and not much rain, the Homestead Trail was drier than it normally is. The hike is 1.5 miles one way to the bench, or 3.0 miles round trip, with an option to do a loop back, though we opted to take the same route back. The trail has many roots tangling its surface once we get past the boardwalk, so we step with care. Some boardwalks are rotting out. This was a bit more challenging for our flatland visitors as it does have a bit of an elevation gain, which we hardly notice anymore. The way out is mostly uphill past the initial downhill to the pit toilets from the trailhead, so coming back we made it back in 30 minutes, though it took us an hour to get to the bench. This is still one of my favorite hikes.

Homer High School Trails

The view of the Spit from Homer High School ball fields, where the trails begin
(Photo by Phil Waclawski)
These are by no means "official" local trails, but they are popular. If you park in the high school parking lot (or the swimming pool parking lot) on Fairview Avenue, walk across the bridge to the baseball and soccer fields, then up to the left toward the tennis courts. Past the tennis courts a labyrinth of trails criss-cross the area. Home cross-country running meets are held on these trails. The trails are muddy in places, there are likely to be loose dogs out being walked by their owners, and moose wander through as well. These trails border private property so you're in people's back yards at times. It is still a nice quick in-town option for a walk, and the view is amazing.

McDonald's Trail
A small shelter offers a spot to have a campfire (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

A short trail leads to a public dock on Beluga Lake (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

Floatplanes often tie up on Beluga Lake (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

I don't know what this trail is really called, but right next to McDonald's at the only light in Homer is a public restroom and a small parking lot. A short trail heads out to Beluga Lake and a public dock. There are also other trails that head into the woods, which were a little boggy so we skipped those but they will be worth exploring someday.

Wynn Nature Center

The Wynn Nature Center officially opens in mid-June (Photo by Phil Waclawski)
A bear cache sits just past the Wynn Nature Center on Skyline Drive (Photo by Phil Waclawski)
The Wynn Nature Center wasn't officially open when we came by the second week of June (it was scheduled to open that weekend), so we just walked up to the Daisy Lee Bitter Cabin, then around on the raised boardwalk overlook. We didn't have much time so made it a quick excursion. The trails are flat and, for us, too short, so we don't often get up there anymore. But they are mostly flat and wander through some interesting terrain (cedar woods, open fields, etc.) so this is a nice place for a hike. It is pricey once the season officially opens, at $10 per adult to walk the trails, though it is money raised to support the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Homer.

Eveline State Recreation Area

Eveline State Recreation Site has had trail improvements in the past couple years
(Photo by Phil Waclawski)

Views of the Kenai Range are gorgeous from Eveline (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

Some trails are newly graveled and wheelchair accessible at Eveline (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

Here the clouds obscure the mountaintops of the Alaska Range (Photo by Phil Waclawski)
The Eveline Trails are hillier than many of the previous hikes I've mentioned, but still not difficult. Trail conditions are good, with new trails being built over the past couple years. The longest outside loop is still about a mile. There weren't a lot of flowers blooming yet in mid-June when we hiked it, but soon enough it will be a fury of competing flowers in this alpine meadow.

Bishop's Beach

Bishop's Beach looking north (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

Scenery on Bishop's Beach (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

Bishop's Beach looking south towards the spit (Photo by Phil Waclawski)
Bishop's Beach is always a popular walking destination, but it is more comfortable walking at a low tide when firm, wet sand is exposed than higher tides when the loose rock makes walking laborious.  Views are always a treat, and the beach is ever-changing as the tides bring in a take away things from the sea or the water reshapes what is there.

The Spit Trail

View of Mud Bay at the base of the Homer Spit (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

More mud, the spit and mountains (Photo by Phil Waclawski)

A bald eagle can often be seen perched on this tsunami warning device
(Photo by Phil Waclawski)

The Homer Spit Trail has been 3.2 miles of pavement from the base of the spit at Kachemak Drive to Pier One Theater. However, this year the paved trail has been extended to the end of the spit at Land's End, as well as around the harbor to the Deep Water Dock where the cruise ships come in. This is a  flat trail bordered at this time of year by lupine with Jacob's Ladders and sea peas adorning the trailside too. Birds (and birders) are often seen, and sea otters are a regular sight as well. If you don't like car traffic, the Spit Trail can be annoying, but one can tune out the constant stream of vehicles to some degree. There is nearly always a stiff breeze on the spit, so even if it is warm in town, always bring a sweatshirt, hat and gloves. This trail is great for walking/running, biking, and rollerblading.

Pratt Museum

We didn't get a picture from this path even though we did hike it. After taking in the Pratt Museum's displays and interpretive cabin, we took 5 or 10 minutes to walk the cute path on the grounds. It usually has some sort of "natural art" along the trail which is fun to see. The labyrinth has been overgrown though it is still visible to the discerning eye. The awesome part is seeing the size of the tree trunks of the fallen trees: huge!! Stunning to imagine so many large trees standing.

Fernwood-Portlock Roads Loop

Nice views of Kachemak Bay and the mountains from roads on the bench
This is a locals trail 6 miles out East End Road, with rights-of-ways connecting the Taku's and Glacierview's between Fernwood and Portlock Drives. Right now the lower connector trail is a boggy mess, with the trail a river, so we attempted it once, but only once, during the relatives visit. The loop is about 1.5 miles, with it being mostly uphill or downhill with one little section of flat.

Diamond Creek Trail
According to the paper, the Diamond Creek Trail is now closed due to extensive landslides that have obliterated the trail, making it dangerous to travel. This is very disappointing news as the Diamond Creek to Bishop's Beach 7-mile hike is one of my favorites (not one I would take company on).


Amber said...

My husband and I are seriously considering moving to Homer. We currently live in Utah, but lived almost 3 years in Kodiak, AK and LOVED it. We really got into hiking there and absolutely loved the variety of trails and frequently went hiking 4 days a week. Some of my favorite trails were steep and long, but the kids enjoyed the easier ones. I know there a a ton of great trails across Kachemak bay, and you've kindly pointed out the easy trails on the Homer side, but are there any challenging trails on the Homer side? Homer seems to offer most of what I want out of a home, but I haven't been able to find very much information about hiking on the Homer side. There seems to be a large expanse of land between Homer and the Tustumena Lake that can't find much information about. Is that open to hiking/hunting? In Kodiak you were on a trail/road or you were bushwacking, effectively limiting you to the trail. Is Homer the same? Thank you, and I'm sorry to bombard you with questions I'm just having a hard time finding the information I'm searching for.

Michelle Waclawski said...

Amber, The lack of difficult hikes is truly the biggest downer of living in Homer for me and which bugs me regularly. The hikes I listed for Homer are all the hikes I know of in the area that are "hiking" trails. What is left is snowmachine trails that might or might not be accessible in the summer. A lot of area is boggy (more accessible this year as it is very dry, but not normally), and most is grown over with tall grass or shrubs. You could ferret out places to hike, but it will probably have a bushwhacking feel to it (even the trails across the bay can have a bushwhacking feel to them as they get grown over as trail crews can't get to all the trails and focus on the most used ones).
The area you are referring to between Homer and the Tustumena Lake is the Caribou Hills. There are trails out there that people 4-wheel in the summer, hunt in the fall. It's main access points are Basargin Road at the end of East End Road, and off of Oil Well Road in Homer. They could be hiked too I suppose, but again it depends on how wet of a summer it is. And some are torn up from 4-wheelers which doesn't feel good to hike on if you know what I mean.
So there you have it. Sometimes I dream of moving to Anchorage for the amazing access to hiking the Chugach Mountains. Girdwood would be a small-town alternative which still is fairly close to those trails along the Turnagain Arm.

Hope this helps! Personally, I've just resigned myself to the water taxi across Kachemak Bay or the 2+ hour drive to the harder trails north of Soldotna. I love Homer; it's hard to find a "perfect" place to live!