-THIS PAGE WILL UPDATE AS INFORMATION IS IMPROVED AND EXPANDED ON-
I moved back to Cordova in 2013. It’s been a challenge trying to figure out a way to get more people on bikes here. Cordova sits on the coastal side of the Chugach National Forest, second in size only to the Tongass as far as US National Forests go. We are “landlocked;” surrounded by mountains and glaciers to the North and East, and the waters of Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska to the West and South. In all of it’s beauty, it doesn’t seem all that plentiful when it comes to mountain bike and cycling options. Our road- the Copper River Highway (Alaska State Route 10,) follows the old railroad bed east and north, and ends just north of Miles Lake and Childs Glacier approximately 50 miles. Unfortunately- the changing currents of the mighty Copper River washed out a bridge at mile marker 36. In the summer there is a shuttle service that takes people across on an airboat, otherwise you can take a skiff, packraft, or other watercraft. In the winter, snowmachiners can travel across.
*As of spring 2018 there has been talk to install temporary access across the water at 36 mile to help repair damage caused to the icebreakers in front of the Million Dollar Bridge. Due to very limited state funding, we’ll see how this goes- but as much of our National Forest access is on the far side of the washout- I am hoping that something happens in the near future.
The Copper River Highway begins at the Alaska Marine Highway with Mile 0. The Merle K. Mudhole Smith Airport is at Mile 13. Just beyond the airport the highway turns to gravel. Our city dump is at Mile 17 and is often the last road maintenance by AK DOT that occurs once the snow flies.
We have only one “bike trail” in the Cordova Ranger District- Saddlebag Glacier Trail. An out and back, 6 miles in length. There are other options available- but they are geared towards hikers which means stairs, narrow bridges and 2×10 boardwalks (step & run trails.) All that said- riding in Cordova is awesome. Double down with a packraft and it has me thinking like Dr. Seuss “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!”
I’ve been using Gaia GPS and it’s a great tool. The “USFS Classic” layer is badass as it shows all the old logging roads that have been grown over. Some have been totally reclaimed by nature but many have a solid road bed that the alders are just growing over. Some have been sort of maintained by ATV riders and some by cyclists or hikers. The old logging roads give some pretty great options for loop trails over native lands. The Eyak Corporation asks that you first pick up a (free) permit from the office before traveling on their lands. Their office is located at 901 LeFevre in Cordova. You can also stop by the USFS Ranger station on Second Street. Be sure to tell the rangers that you’re wanting to ride bikes in the area and you’d like to see more trails!
A word of caution: Cordova is in Alaska. Alaska has bears. Take the steps you need to in order to be safe. Strap a bear bell to your bars, keep bear spray handy, or pack a sidearm (provided you know how to use it,) pay attention. Bears often use the same trails as us and bikes can come up on them pretty quick.
Click on the hyperlink text to be taken to the GaiaGPS page, click on the image to be taken to a larger image of the map.
McKinley Trail 2.4 miles (one-way) USFS Trailhead on the north side of the road. There is a USFS cabin (McKinley cabin) about 100 yards from parking area, and another cabin back at the lake- both rentable through the USFS. Not a lot of elevation gain, it bobs and weaves through the forest along the lake. Though not designated as a MTB trail it’s mostly rideable, full of really fun sections that are linked by sections needing quite a bit of work. Much of the trail is cut into a narrow & deep rut full of slippery roots and log waterbars. The USFS is replacing the old “corduroy” with bridges and new sections of trail for safety in some areas and to protect the old trail built for mining in the early 1900’s. A trail extends beyond the McKinley Lake cabin, up to the old Lucky Strike Mine, but it needs a lot of work as well.
McKinley trail has some of the best potential in the area for a good trail, even as a loop- as it connects with the Pipeline Lakes Trail to the west. In speaking with our local USFS trail leader, he is supportive of bikes on the trails and the construction that is taking place seems to be reflecting that.
Fun fact: You can ride back to McKinley Lake cabin and packraft out, making a fun multi-modal loop day trip.
Saddle Bag Glacier Trail 3.8 miles (one-way.) USFS Road from highway ends .9 miles in, trail begins. Easy/Intermediate. Mostly flat, slow rise as you head towards lake. Baby head size rocks and very rooty in sections. A couple narrow footbridges. The only trail in our forest that the USFS designates as a “bike trail.”
Scott River Trail 3.5+ miles (one-way) Easy to Intermediate trail. USFS Easement. Large parking area built in 2017. Often used by ATVs. Slow flat climb north on sandy trail. Trail can become saturated depending on rainfall, river height and season. Trail heads towards Scott Glacier.
Stuck Lake Boulder Alley loop. 12-ish mile loop. Mostly flat with large rocks on the trail. Crosses Eyak Corp land so a permit is necessary. Options to extend or shorten loop along the way. A couple water crossings may leave you with wet feet certain times of year. I often park at 18mile, where the USFS marker for road 450 is.
There are other trails in the area, some easier to ride than others. I hope to add to them in the future and I REALLY hope that the Forest Service starts to plan their trail building to support bicyclists as users. We’ve got great potential here in Cordova for some amazing trails, it just takes a little support.