Johnson Pass mountain biking

Mountain biking Johnson Pass Alaska is definitely one of the classic mountain bike rides on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and certainly one of the most scenic.  Traversing the pass from Turnagain to Trail Lake/Moose Pass parallels the Alaska Railroad and Seward Highway corridors for a unique and beautiful route through the mountains!  It’s a segment of the Iditarod National Historic Trail as well!  I do it as an out-and-back mountain bike ride from Turnagain most often, though love the through-ride of Turnagain to Moose Pass as well.

Trail thoughts . . .

  • This ride is best done around mid-June . . . once the snow melts from the pass, and before the growth becomes excessive.  Every few years the Forest Service clears the vegetation, but if it hasn’t been done, it’s not worth riding mid-summer (in my opinion).
  • This ride, especially the Turnagain side, doesn’t hold up well in really rainy conditions – gets sloppy and muddy rather than tacky, so I’m a fair weather rider on this one – there are other trails that hold up better (like lower Hope Point, lower Crow Pass, lower Winner Creek)
  • This is one ride for which dropper seat posts are a game changer!  It’s a true cross-country ride with plenty of ups in the downs, and vice versa!

Mountain biking Turnagain Pass to Johnson Pass

This section is the most crowded.  While mostly a climb, there are some flat and downhill sections as well, which make it pretty rideable.  There are also some punchy climbs that will challenge a technical climber or offer a chance to push for those less ambitious!  It’s about 2 hours to the lakes, give-or-take.

Near the Turnagain Pass trailhead, and easy to see why mountain biking Johnson Pass trail is such a classic!

 

I love the lush greenery and amazing amounts of water on the Turnagain side of this mountain bike ride . . . it can also get pretty rainy and sloppy too though 🙁

 

Eddie is so happy with the sun that he smiles while climbing!

 

Up, up, and away! This section just after the bridge gets super steep on the up, and rides super fun on the down!  Mountain biking ain’t all fun and games 😉

 

One final punchy section before the downhill to the lakes!

 

Between the lakes, nearing the actual pass. The amount of grass helps understand why this ride is typically not great in the height of summer!

The ride back out is super fun – never too technical but offering some tech challenge to keep you paying attention, I think it’s a great section of trail.  For this reason, plus the simplicity of not car shuttling, I usually ride this trail as an out-and-back.  Plus, it’s a shorter drive from Girdwood!  When feeling super ambitious (in my younger years!), I ride the fun descent toward Moose Pass and then come back out – adds a solid hour plus to the ride though!

Mountain biking Johnson Pass to Moose Pass/Trail Lake

The ride from the lakes/pass to the south Trailhead is super fun, changes scenery as you transition to the wetter south side, and a point-to-point ride is always cool.  Summer 2020, we did it as a key exchange (a friend rode south-to-north and we rode north-to-south and exchanged keys over lunch at the lake!) and that worked pretty well.  It’s a LONG car shuttle otherwise!

Navigating the ‘flat’ section among the lakes and just beyond the actual pass as the trail transitions South

 

The second lake is as or more beautiful than the first!

 

While Johnson Pass can be super crowded, it also means you might encounter dear friends on the trail! The best of Alaska for sure!

 

Transitioning to rain forest loam on the Seward/Moose Pass side

Nearing Trail Lake on the Moose Pass side

 

The views keep getting better til the very end!

Summary

There’s really no way to go wrong with mountain biking Johnson Pass . . . ride in North-to-South, South-to-North, through-ride or out-n-back . . . just ride it and enjoy!!!  Mountain biking Johnson Pass is a must-ride for any Alaska mountain biking bucket list!

If you like this trail report, check out the whole guide to Alaska biking!!!  Ride on and enjoy 🙂

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