Slaughter Gulch is a steep hike in Cooper Landing that rewards you with stunning views of Kenai Lake, Kenai River, and Cooper Landing.
This trail is one of the best hikes in Cooper Landing and makes a great early season hike on the Kenai Peninsula since the peak has a south-facing slope, which means the snow melts quicker than north-facing slopes.
This hike is #57 in the Southcentral Alaska 100 Hikes Challenge.
In this post, I’m going to share how to hike Slaughter Gulch in Cooper Landing, Alaska.
Hike Slaughter Gulch in Cooper Landing
Traditional Land: Dena’ina (Visit Native-Land.ca to identify whose land you live, work, and play on.)
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Time: 4 hours
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet
- Bring trekking poles
- Carry water
- Stay off private property
How to get to Slaughter Gulch From Anchorage
Slaughter Gulch is located 101 miles south of Anchorage, which is less than a two-hour drive.
- From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway
- Stay right at “The Y” and continue on the Sterling Highway
- In around 10.6 miles, turn right onto Stetson Circle in Cooper Landing
- Drive to the end of the road to find the parking lot
If this parking lot is full, you can park off of Langille Road and walk along the DOT road clearing area to meet up with the trail.
Slaughter Gulch Trailhead
The Slaughter Gulch Trail starts at the dead-end of a dirt road and parking is very limited. There is no clear signage to mark the trailhead but there is a small, blank wooden sign off the to the right side where the trail begins.
Through the Woods
The beginning of the trail will take you through a wooded area and around the backside of a few homes in the area. It is fenced off but please be respectful of private property.
Soon the trail starts to gradually gain elevation and you’ll have to cross the clearing operations area where they are currently clearing the trail to build a new road through Cooper Landing. It’ll be interesting to see how the trail is routed once the construction is done.
If you continue straight up, you’ll follow the trail until you reach a split. There is a small wooden sign posted on a tree that says Slaughter Ridge Trail to the right.
This is where we had to cross a wet, swampy area that had scattered logs in place to help us get across the area. You can try to hold onto some of the nearby trees to help you keep your balance while crossing.
A Steep Climb
After a little over a mile, you’ll reach a clearing and you’ll start to see some of the incredible views of Kenai Lake and Kenai River.
The views do get better as you continue the steep climb up but if you don’t have it in you, this is a good place to turn around.
The trail reenters the forest before continuing up the ridge. There is another area where the trail splits. You’ll want to stay left.
The rest of the trail to the summit is steep, but the trail was dry and there weren’t any slippery spots.
I also spotted lots of wildflowers along the trail, including Forget Me Nots, Lupine, and Violets.
Once you reach the summit of Slaughter Gulch, you’ll get some incredible views of Kenai Lake, Kenai River, Cooper Landing, and the surrounding Kenai Mountains.
The weather was cloudy for us on the way up and we were able to spot one Bald Eagle soaring above us. It was also windy and very chilly on the summit.
Slaughter Gulch Trail is 5 miles out and back and it will take you around 2 hours to reach the summit from this trail.
I’ve rated the trail as difficult as it’s a really steep 2,600-foot climb to the summit. Trekking poles are really useful, especially if you don’t have the best knees.
The views are definitely worth the climb to the top! If you want, you can continue hiking along the ridge.
A Steep Descent
The trail down is also steep and there are some areas where trekking poles are super useful. It’s also a really fun trail to run down if your knees are up for it!
The sun started to shine as we made our way down and the jackets came off.
It took us four hours to finish the trail and we ended the day with some beers from Cooper Landing Brewery, which is on the way back to Anchorage.
Other Hikes in Cooper Landing
Cooper Landing has a ton of other awesome hikes. Check out Skilak Lookout, Resurrection Pass, Skyline Traverse, Crescent Creek, Hideout Trail, Russian Lakes, and Russian River Falls.
Southcentral Alaska 100 Hikes Challenge
Backpacking Resurrection Pass Trail in Alaska
What to Wear Hiking in Alaska (Summer)
Pin For Later
Do you have any questions on hiking Slaughter Gulch in Cooper Landing? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks SO much for this blog, I did this hike several times in 1984 and it remains a true highlight for my stay there on the Kenai Peninsular. That view is totally worth the steep climb!
Cheers Tricia in Queensland, Australia
That’s so cool! How often are you in the Kenai Peninsula?!
Hi, I love your blog, so much information! If we take the slaughter gulch trail, is it possible to appreciate the landscape even thought we do not take the full trail? Is there any safe parking lot around to leave the car? Thanks
Thanks Fernanda! Yes, you can still get some good views if you hike about a mile up. You can leave your car in the small parking lot where the trailhead is. Keep any valuables out of sight. Happy hiking!