Johnson Pass Trail is a popular mountain biking and backpacking route on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
This well-maintained multi-use trail is a 23-mile route that offers fun riding through beautiful scenery.
It’s also part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail – Southern Trek (INHT), a 180-mile
section of the 1,000 mile-long Iditarod route.
There are plenty of designated campsites along the way which make it a great multi-day backpacking trip, but I prefer to bike this trail.
In this post, I’m going to share everything you need to know to bike Johnson Pass Trail in Alaska.
- Biking Johnson Pass Trail in Alaska
- Planning Your Johnson Pass Bike Ride
- Johnson Pass Trailhead North Trailhead
- Additional Information
Biking Johnson Pass Trail in Alaska
Traditional Land: Dena’ina (Visit Native-Land.ca to identify whose land you live, work, and play on.)
Distance: 23 miles one-way
Time: 5 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
Johnson Pass Trail Map
- Check the weather forecast before you go
- Carry bear spray
- Wear bug repellant
- Plan your vehicle shuttle
- Ride early in the season
- Avoid riding after rainy days
How to Get to Johnson Pass Trail North
Johnson Pass is located 64 miles south of Anchorage. From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway. Follow the Seward Highway for 63 miles until you reach the Johnson Pass North parking area.
How to Get to Johnson Pass Trail South
From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway. Follow the Seward Highway until you reach the Forest Service signed pullout for trailhead (west of Upper Trail Lake) at Mile 32.5.
Planning Your Johnson Pass Bike Ride
Although this trail is open year-round, it’s best to go earlier than later. The best conditions are usually mid-June (when the snow has melted and the trail has dried out) to very early July (before the trail gets insanely overgrown).
You’ll also probably come across some downed trees and small stretches of water to bike though.
Where to Start From
Johnson Pass is 23 miles long and the two main trailheads are Johnson Pass Trail North and Johnson Pass Trail South.
It can be completed both ways but it’s way better to start from the north trailhead so you can enjoy more downhill sections.
How to Shuttle Vehicles
Since the trail is completed one-way, you need to arrange a vehicle shuttle and it’s best if you have two vehicles to do this. You can drop off one car at the south trailhead and drive to the north trailhead
If you don’t have access to two vehicles or any vehicles, you can arrange a shuttle through Wildman’s Store on the Sterling Highway or plan an out-and-back instead.
Johnson Pass Trail Weather
To check the current conditions, you can contact the Seward Ranger District (907) 288-3178.
Johnson Pass Trailhead North Trailhead
Starting from the north trailhead, you’ll follow a single track through forest and open meadow. Some sections can be rooty or rocky and you’ll find sections of flooded, muddy areas if it’s been raining.
The trail crosses Center Creek and Bench Creek on bridges and you’ll reach Bench Lake at mile 9. This is a great place to stop and eat lunch.
There’s nothing too technical along the trail but if you aren’t used to mountain biking for 20 miles, you may find it challenging and you’ll be ready to be done by the time you make it to Johnson Lake.
You’ll reach the top of Johnson Pass at an elevation of 1,450 feet.
All of the downhill sections make this trail super fun to mountain bike. After reaching the lakes, the rest of the trail is mostly downhill dropping into a dense spruce forest, and the last five miles are pretty flat.
The last two miles have views of Upper Trail Lake before finishing at the south trailhead. It’ll take you around 5 hours to bike the entire trail from north to south.
Designated Camping Sites
There are 7 designated backcountry campsites along the trail. Most sites have a bear resistant food locker and a backcountry toilet.
Here is a list of designated campsites with mile markers and GPS coordinates:
Mile 7.2 N 60° 33’ 21.09” W 149° 18’ 22.08”
Mile 11.7 N 60° 35’ 56.3” W 149° 15’ 17.1”
Mile 12.5 N 60° 36’ 35.2” W 149° 14’ 57.3”
Mile 4.0 N 60° 41’ 5.4” W 149º 13’ 36.4”
Mile 5.3 N 60° 40’ 07” W 149° 13’ 53.5”
Mile 7.9 N 60° 38’ 18.4” W 149° 13’ 17.3”
Mile 8.24 N 60° 38’ 2.3” W 149° 13’ 12.1”
Wildlife in the area includes moose, wolves, black and brown bears, Dall sheep, Willow Ptarmigan and Spruce Grouse.
You can fish in Bench Lake for grayling and in Johnson Lake for Rainbow Trout. Check Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) regulations for more details.
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Do you have any questions about biking Johnson Pass Trail in Alaska? Let me know in the comments.
Be helpful if cost & where to get the required bike pass for the lift was listed.
There is no required bike pass or lift for this trail.
Hello! We are going south to north as our itinerary has us heading to Girdwood with 18 family members, none of whom do mountain biking. Grandmom is concerned that this trail will be too much. We will be on it on June 22nd 2022. Do you know if the entire trail length can be van supported? Is there another bike trail heading that way that you could recommend? Thankyou so much.