Bikes and bunks

by • May 29, 2017 • Highlights, Single-track mindComments (0)27

Combine two summer favorites in one memorable getaway

There’s lots of room for bike parking under the eaves at the Serenity Hut at Eklutna Lake. Courtesy Rose Austin.

There’s lots of room for bike parking under the eaves at the Serenity Hut at Eklutna Lake. Courtesy Rose Austin.

You have visitors coming this summer and want to take them on an overnight bike adventure. But where to go? When your choices include car camping with day rides, backcountry tent camping, and cabin-to-cabin trips, how do you decide? A cabin camping experience can be a great choice because there is less gear to haul. Plus, in rainy conditions and when traveling in bear country, I am especially happy to have a roof over my head. Other factors I consider are the skill levels of my visitors. For the best and most accessible overnight mountain biking cabin trip that gives riders a manageable distance, my choice is the Eklutna Serenity Falls Hut.
I’ve made the trip to the hut several times in the last dozen-plus years. Each year, my friends who ride with the Alaska Dirt Divas mountain bike group schedule an overnight trip in the late summer or early fall. For many of us, it was our first biking overnight camping trip and the event has become so popular that we easily fill all 10 bunks.
The Serenity Hut is designed so that more than one group can occupy it simultaneously. There are two cooking and eating areas, cubbies for personal gear, and the sleeping area is divided into three bays. You can rent a bunk, a bay, or the entire cabin.

Corinne Smith tries to keep her feet dry where Eklutna Lake overflowed the trail. A biking/camping trip at Eklutna Lake is a great way to kick off the summer recreation season with visiting friends and family. Courtesy Rose Austin.

Corinne Smith tries to keep her feet dry where Eklutna Lake overflowed the trail. A biking/camping trip at Eklutna Lake is a great way to kick off the summer recreation season with visiting friends and family. Courtesy Rose Austin.

In my years of visiting the Serenity hut, I’ve biked in rain, sunshine, and even snow flurries. I’ve experienced dusty trails and lake water levels that overflowed the trail and came up to my hubs. I have seen the Eklutna River running in two different channels and have observed the rebirth of an avalanche zone and burn area. Each year is different and makes it well worth returning.
The trail is a short drive from Anchorage or the Valley, yet the hut is far enough from the trailhead to feel remote. The ride begins just beyond a drive-in campground and follows Eklutna Lake for about eight miles to the head of the lake, then continues for another four bringing you closer to the glacial source of Anchorage’s tap water. Sections of the first eight miles have narrower alternative trails closer to the lake that are reserved for nonmotorized users and are often less steep than the wider main trail. The ride is not overly technical or strenuous, yet the payoff in scenery is off the charts.
Once you reach the cabin, there is ample room to park bikes under the overhang outside of the sleeping side of the cabin. From there, you can take a hike or ride farther up the trail toward the waterfall and the glacier. Other activities include wildlife viewing – scan the slopes for Dall sheep – and exploring the riverbed. The back deck is a great place to spend time reading, writing or having a post-ride yoga session. I like to spend at least two nights at the hut since it allows for one day of exploring the area before returning home.
You and your visitors will remember a trip to the hut for years to come. And you might just start a new tradition.

 

If you go

For details on how to book the Serenity Hut or other cabins at Eklutna Lake, visit dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/anch#seren. Reservations must be made in person.
Gear: If your guests need bicycles, rentals are available from Lifetime Adventures, located near the trailhead. www.lifetimeadventure.net/eklutna-trips-and-rentals/
Getting there: From Anchorage on the Glenn Highway, take the Thunderbird Falls exit and continue past the falls on the Old Glenn Highway. Just after the bridge over the Eklutna River, turn right on Eklutna Lake Road. From the Valley, take the Eklutna exit, cross the highway, turn right onto the Old Glenn and watch for the intersection with Eklutna Lake Road, where you will turn left. The fee area and trailhead are approximately 9 miles up the road.

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