Ptarmigan Creek to Vagt Lake INHT

Mountain biking the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT) between Ptarmigan Creek and Vagt Lake in Moose Pass, Alaska is a super lovely bike ride and one I recommend!  Never overly difficult, it winds through the forest between a beautiful stream and a lovely lake . . . punchy climbs, smooth riding, lovely scenery.  The ride is made possible by the summer 2021 construction of an extremely impressive bridge over Falls Creek at about the midpoint of the ride.

I rode from Ptarmigan Creek to Vagt Lake Trailhead (about 1.3 miles beyond Vagt Lake) and back and it would also be a great ride from Vagt Lake Trailhead to Ptarmigan Creek and back . . . perhaps better!  About 12 miles total riding, it took me about 2.5 hours (including the ride out Vagt Lake) and was a bit faster from Vagt to Ptarmigan than Ptarmigan to Vagt.

Staring at Vagt Lake: Trailhead is on the east side of the Seward Highway at mile 25.4 just south of Trail River bridge. Park outside of the railroad gate.  Trail starts near lakeshore.

Starting at Ptarmigan Creek: At Mile 23, Seward Highway, and turn east into Ptarmigan Creek Campground. Begins at the south end of the campground.

The best map of the trail is this one posted at a trail junction, with the INHT connector drawn in with Sharpie! It does give a good idea of the whole network, and supporting detail can be found at the Vagt and Ptarmigan NFS Recreational Opportunity Guides.

Ptarmigan Creek TH to Vagt Lake TH

The trail starts out from the campground and is wide and smooth.  There’s a junction to Falls Creek about ¾ mile in – turn left!  The trail has some moderate growth initially and then transitions to lovely open forest riding.  Some sort of punchy sections in the climb, it crosses a 4 wheel trail at about 1.9 miles (go straight) and then winds pretty gradually to the bridge across Falls Creek (about 2.8 miles in).  Constructed in summer 2021, it’s a pretty amazing bridge and the ticket to making this ride connect!  From the bridge, there’s 3 steep switchbacks that I was off the bike for, and then it’s about another 0.4 miles mostly up to the Crown Point ORV (4 wheel) trail.  Cross this trail and begin the descent to Vagt Lake.  At the junction, turn left to descend the final 1.3 miles to Trail Lake and the Seward Highway.  Never 100% up or down, the trail essentially climbs from Ptarmigan Creek to hte Crown Point ORV trail and essentially descends from there.  The descent to Vagt Lake and the Seward Highway are steep-ish at times with switchbacks, but it all rides well.  It’s definitely the more challenging downhill (and the more challenging uphill on the return!). 

Well built and super clear of brush! This is what Southcentral Alaska dreams are made of 🙂

 

After the Falls Creek ORV crossing, the trail continues to gradually wind up through the forest.

 

It’s a push up the switchbacks after the Falls Creek bridge! (photo: Chris Jung)

 

The Vagt Lake side of trail is a bit more greasy! Still fun tho 🙂

Vagt Lake TH to Ptarmigan Creek TH

The Vagt Lake trail starts with a mellow pedal along Trail Lake and then starts climbing!  The uphill is steep at times and I walked a bit of it as the trail ascends a creek.  The dirt is also greasier on this side (vs the Ptarmigan Creek side) so a bit harder to grip if it’s been raining recently!  A right at the lake itself (junction to INHT under construction – see below) and the climb continues with varying degrees of steepness – I walked another switchback, but it otherwise is pedal-able (for me).  Cross the Crown Point ORV, and descend to the Falls Creek bridge – the 3 switchbacks to teh bridge ride just fine!  A short uphill off the bridge and your reward is a wonderfully flowy and beautiful section of riding through the forest.  To me, this was the most fun part of the whole trail (and by this logic, worth an out/back to the bridge if you’re short on time or energy!).  Mostly downhill, there are a few short climbs too.  Right at the intersection with Ptarmigan Creek takes you to the trailhead along a very improved section of trail that still rides fun 🙂  

Climbing out of Trail Lake and the parking area, the trail is super lovely and mellow 🙂

 

The photo is a bit deceiving, but this section climbing along the creek was pretty steep and greasy – a push for me!

 

Lots of up and down . . .

With fun and flowy sections too!

 

Crossing Crown Point ORV – one more greasy section (it rides!) before transitioning back into the thicker forest canopy!

And then it’s a fun and flowy section on great dirt (drier under the forest canopy if it’s raining!), with great sight lines and no sharp turns that come and surprise you!

Ride Options 

  1.  When I arrived at the Vagt Lake trail junction of the INHT with the trail to the Seward Highway, I took a ride out the new trail along Vagt Lake.  Currently being constructed (so far about 0.5 mi constructed), this section will continue to Grant Creek, and the ultimate construction of a bridge over Grant Creek will connect the INHT much closer to its destination at the Johnson Pass TH.  With the 4 bridges ultimately installed on Turnagain Pass INHT, that will bring connectivity from Moose Pass to Turnagain Arm!  I’m super thrilled with the continued progress on this amazing asset for Southcentral Alaska!

    Some of the prettiest riding, I’m super excited for this section to be complete!

     

Riding along Vagt Lake back toward the Seward Highway junction (photo: Chris Jung)

 

Currently the trail ends at the blue dot at the NW corner of Vagt Lake, and it will continue on to Grant Creek.

2.     Crown Point ORV – you can ride/push up this trail as far as you’d like to go!  It ultimately climbs like 3200’ well into the mountains.  Alternatively you can go up a bit for a view, or go down this trail and make a loop back to Vagt Lake TH.

Overlooking Trail Lake from the Crown Point trail (photo: Chris Jung)

3.   Falls Creek Rd – another 4 wheel trail, you can go up this one about 0.5 miles to a singletrack that will connect with the Ptarmigan Lake trail . . . ride it to the lake and come out Ptarmigan Creek all the way as an alternate ride to do with this section of trail!  The Ptarmigan Lake descent via Ptarmigan Creek rides super well and is similar to the Primrose descent in character, though a bit more tech than Primrose.  I definitely recommend it for those looking for a fun challenge!

Overall, mountain biking the 6 miles (12 miles round trip) of Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT) between Ptarmigan Creek and Vagt Lake is a super worthy mountain bike ride!  At about 2.5 hours of riding, there’s a decent amount of variety and some nice views.  It’s not ever technical or overly challenging (except for a few sections of the climb), but a great ride to add to your list of Kenai Rides!

For more info on southcentral Alaska riding, check out www.AlaskaMTB.com!

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  1. Michael Fenster says:

    Thanks for the news. Looks really fun.

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