Bears and Blossoms : Rainbow to Windy (May 2016)

May 9, 2016 at 2:21 pm (Alaska, Travel) (, , , )

Tracking the Seward Highway south of Anchorage, Turnagain Arm Trail is a 9.4 mile stretch from Potter to Windy Corner.  It’s a great spot for a scenic hike without necessarily having to climb a mountain (you can ; Rainbow Peak is accessed from this trail, a hike that our trusty guidebook rates as ‘Strenuous’, i.e. most likely involving actual rock climbing).  The undulating trail wraps around the side of the mountains bordering the inlet, with a maximum elevation gain of ~1400ft, a leisurely stroll by Alaskan standards.

Rainbow - View

We start out from Rainbow Trailhead at mile 108, headed for Windy corner, a round-trip of about 4 miles.  The terrain is surprisingly varied across a short span of track and we find ourselves alternately ducking into forested lows and climbing up to exposed ridges to enjoy sweeping, panoramic inlet views.

Spring is a great time of year for exploring this area.  Lengthening days and decent rainfall have transformed bare slopes into lush forest in no time at all, a blanket of greenery dappled with new spring foliage in various stages of growth and the occasional pop of purple and yellow blossoms.  Even the un-forested portions of the track are popping with color after a bit of rain, the rocky outcrops flanking the trail strikingly mottled with rust-colored lichen and deep greens and reds of alpine vegetation.

Rainbow - Tracks

Rainbow - View 2

Rainbow - Foliage

Rainbow - Foliage 2

Rainbow - Foliage 3

Rainbow - Lichen

Rainbow - Fungus

At the Windy end, the trail splits into two, the right hand path heading downhill to the Windy Trailhead parking area.  The left fork leads to a rocky platform, covered in slabs of black slate that have been eroded from the sheer cliff face.  It’s a good spot for stopping to take in unobstructed views of the valley on the other side of Cook Inlet.  Not for long though, as Windy Corner is aptly named.

Rainbow to Windy is easy walking for the most part.  There are a couple of muddy sections, bubbling snow-melt creeks that may result in wet boots and some scrambling, gravelly climbs requiring more caution.  It’s packed dirt the majority of the way along, with some roots and loose rocks to navigate… which can be a hazardous combination in an area frequented by wildlife.  Be aware that the dirt trail muffles the sound of footfalls, especially near running water, and being too focused on where you’re putting your feet can make it easy to inadvertently sneak up on something, which is exactly what you do not want to do.  We learn from experience as a startled black bear rushes out from the undergrowth no more than about 10ft ahead of us near the Windy turnaround.  Thankfully, the bear spray stays capped as we move to distance ourselves and the rest of the walk is free from wildlife encounters.  Definitely more than we bargained for when planning for a quiet, Sunday morning stroll.

Rainbow - Snowmelt




  1. leaf (the indolent cook) said,

    Lovely pictures – what a gorgeous hike!

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