Devil’s to Summit Creek Mountain Biking – Alaska

While not known as a mountain bike trail, and “not recommended” for biking by the USFS, the Summit Creek trail is a gem of a trail!  Big wilderness feeling, enough hike-a-bike to feel like you’ve earned it, and a descent that keeps you on your toes to the very end.  It’s not for the faint-of-heart and requires advanced bike skills. 

The Basics:

This ride is best done by riding up Devil’s and down Summit Creek, using the Resurrection trail for a bit to connect the two.  The Summit Creek trailhead is between Summit Lake and Devil’s Creek trailhead, about 5 miles before Devil’s.  It can be easily pedaled or easily shuttled.

Timing for this trail is the tricky part!  You need to go late enough for the snow to have melted from the pass, but early enough that the brush at the bottom isn’t too overgrown.  It can get gnarly and completely obscure the trail – an added hazard due to some tricky water bar rock sections that are super technical to ride when you can see them and would be a true hazard if you couldn’t.  

This ride report is from June 11, 2020 and is about as early as I’d want to be there given the snow.  Perhaps a good rule-of-thumb is that when ALL of the snow is clear from Devil’s-to-Res (there’s 3 patches still to walk through now), then Summit Creek is likely ready-ish.  I think it’s hard to nail perfectly.  The first time I did the route we had no snow, but the brush was more of a challenge . . . 

About 2 hours to Devil’s Creek intersection with Resurrection, another 1.5 hrs to pass above Resurrection, 2ish hours to the final pass – a solid 5.5 hr day if you’re moving . . . we took 6.5 hours total with stops, views, eating, etc.

 

Accessing the route:

The Summit Creek trail is best accessed by riding up Devil’s Creek and turning on Resurrection toward Hope. 

Devil’s climb . . . so wide and rideable in comparison to what comes! Enjoy this part 🙂

Get your feet wet on Devil’s so you don’t flinch later when crossing bogs and swamps!

Near Resurrection Pass, at the low point in the ridge to the East, there is a faint ‘unimproved’ trail to the ridge, at which point a more developed (though still primitive) trail emerges.  The switchbacks can be seen from the Resurrection Trail, coming into view across the flats just after you pass the small lake.  

The route climbs just looker’s left of the drainage to the low point in the center of the photo – taken from the spot on the Resurrection Trail where we departed and crossed the bog.

Look closely and you’ll see the trail to the looker’s left of the drainage

The primitive trail actually connects with the Resurrection Trail near Resurrection Pass (about 15′ south of the sign), we crossed the boggy flats to the base of the switchbacks off-trail.  Prepare for wet feet (if you don’t already have them from the ride up Devil’s)!  Once you navigate the brush to the actual climb, it’s a straightforward push to the top.  

The trail heads south from the Resurrection Pass sign

 

Crossing the flats – Res trail in the background.

 

Minor schwack, not bad with this amount of growth.

 

Once on the switchbacks, it’s a straightforward push to the ridge . . . Res Trail looking toward Hope in the background.

The top of the hike-a-bike section is a beautiful plateau on a nice ridgeline and has great views!  The trail is clear from here and goes down the creek, traversing around a mountain down to the lake on East Creek, which is also super pretty!  

The trail, though primitive, is quite obvious once you reach the top of the hike-a-bike

 

Eddie on the ‘pass’ after the first hike-a-bike section . . . the trail descends to teh valley off his right shoulder and up the drainage to the East (the final pass isn’t seen in this picture)

The descent to the lake is very rideable and fun because it makes you pay attention!  

Primitive trail, though super fun to ride!  Eddie in the initial descent to the lake in East Creek drainage

Perhaps the best part of this route is the big wilderness feel between the Resurrection Trail and Summit Creek drainage . . . big country out there.

 

This section is super fun and very rideable . . . though never a ‘gimme’

After the fun descent to the lake in East Creek drainage, the trail climbs up to the pass at the head of the creek, a gentle grade even if the trail isn’t all pedal-able due to narrowness, rocks, tussocks – definitely a primitive trail and will be varying degrees of walking your bike depending on skills.  

East Creek lake in the background . . . the trail came out of the drainage to the looker’s left of the lake.

Looking up the valley of the final climb . . . while not totally obvious from this point, there’s a low point in that ridge where the trail tops out.

 

Eddie climbing, low point more visible . . . snow of June 11, 2020 in the route made for a spicy final ascent!

We did the ride on June 11, 2020 and there was a decent amount of snow on the final climb to the pass.  It was navigable by piecing together dry patches with hike-a-bike bootpacking through the snow, though this was about as much snow as I’d want to deal with.  We started in the sunshine, and by this point in the  day it felt like a ‘real’ Alaska summer – cold, wet, buggy and a little miserable!  I was super glad to have layers in my pack, and was certainly reminded to always be prepared! 

This was the only real ‘dicey’ section – bootpacking with a bike . . . kick steps, lift bike, kick more steps . . . fun!

 

The final snow field was an easy cross to the pass 🙂

The fun part: Summit Creek Descent

From the final pass, the trail drops into the Summit Creek drainage and is essentially all downhill.  There are short punchy climb sections, though no additional sustained climbing.  It starts super alpine and rocky, then transitions to brushy and kind of narrow and enters a section of super tricky small stream crossings.  These ‘water bars’ typically have rocks on both sides and are front tire grabbers and tire slicers – most, if not all, can be ridden with expert bike skills, though it’s worth being sure you can repair a tire if needed.  Also, beware if the brush is overgrown because these can get you easily if you can’t see them coming (this was the case the first time I did this ride).  After the water bar section, it’s some fun forest-y riding to the power lines and parking lot. 

Down we go! With this amount of snow, we had very minor crossings as the trail takes the rider’s left wall of the creek

 

It’s worth noting that the day started sunny . . . not an ideal trail to be on with wet rocks, but still rode ok.

 

More technical than your average Kenai trail 🙂

 

And maybe more fun, too!

The final descent is so scenic – to watch the trail or the views?!?!? Trail!

 

Lovely, lovely green on a super fun descent!

Descending through the final section – Summit Lake in the background

Wrap-up:

The whole trail is about 10 miles but it’s not a fast 10 miles, especially with the snow crossings and rain we had . . . it took us 2 hours to get to the Resurrection ‘departure’ and another 4 hours to get to the car . . . I bet the snow added an extra hour.  So, I’d say the whole route is a solid 5 hours.  That said, it’s such cool country that if rain and snow don’t slow you down, it’s worth making a day of it for the views and experience anyhow.  

While not well-known as a bike trail, I do think this is one of the classic Kenai rides.  There is sensitive tundra and perhaps that’s why it’s ‘not recommended’ for bikes.  Or maybe the hikers want to keep it bike free.  To that end, I feel a bit conflicted in posting this info . . . though I’m a biker who believes in access and spreading people out across trails, and I think this is a great ride that many will enjoy 🙂  So please enjoy it ethically and with trail etiquette to hikers!

Because it’s a lesser traveled route and the section from Resurrection to Summit Creek is really remote, this ride has a big wilderness feel to it and riders should definitely be prepared for wilderness travel – navigation capability, wildlife preparation, wilderness medical, communication, etc.

Since it essentially ends at Summit Lake, it’s an easy stop for a post-ride meal or ice cream at Summit Lake Lodge – win!  While I don’t generally think to stop there, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with their food and ambiance when I have!

For more mountain biking trail reports, check out the whole guide to Alaska biking!!!  Ride on and enjoy 🙂

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  1. barb.mags@gmail.com says:

    Great pictures and awesome narration! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Eddie Parks says:

    What a great ride! This reminded me a lot of the typical high alpine rides I’m used to in Colorado; in particular because the trail wasn’t ‘improved.’ I loved how ‘raw’ it became, how there were portions where the trail was so narrow that we couldn’t make a complete pedal stroke, and that there were rocks everywhere – there wasn’t really an ‘easy’ way out – we simply had to rely on skills and experience to get us through it. I suspect this will remain high on my list of AK rides. Looking forward to going back for more in another week or two!

  3. Kyley says:

    Love 💗 the write-up, thanks for sharing.

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