Slaughter Gulch mountain biking

First and foremost, it’s safe to say that Slaughter Gulch is not a mountain biking trail.  It’s a hiking trail, parts of which can be ridden!  The trail has two main sections: to the plateau/gulch and to the peak . . . it’s about 50/50 for time it took us to hike each one (about 1.5 hrs each), though it took about an hour to get down the top half and well under 30 minutes for the bottom since the top half is significantly less rideable!  In fact, I really don’t recommend going all the way – Hope Point, for example, is much better riding return on climbing invested if you’re going to walk uphill that long!

Basically, the trail starts just after passing Wildman’s.  There’s a horrific root section out of the gates and then it steepens.  A new road is being constructed which will likely change the access for the trail, but for now (summer 2020), the trail crosses quite nicely and into the forest.  Just beyond the road clearing, there’s a junction and an option to go left along another clearing or right into a creekbed with logs on it: go right.  From here the trail climbs steadily, but views start pretty quickly all things considered.  And it is quite scenic!  It’s a combo push and carry, carry being limited by the trees and push being limited by the rock sections . . . regardless, you’ve got to earn it!

Get your carry on early! Worth carrying a helmet instead of wearing as there is literally no pedaling and it’s HOT to carry a bike!

The plateau is a nice place to chill and a good start point for the ride.  My first time, I stashed the bike and hiked to the peak (totally worthy) and it took me about an hour round trip.  With bikes, it took SO. MUCH. LONGER. and really made the day/ride feel like more of an epic.  The hike up with bikes took just about 1.5 hours as it’s super steep and exposed and oftentimes I had to use my had so that I could get up, while balancing my bike with my other hand!  Kind of ridiculous, really.

This part is significantly steeper carry . . . and not at all rideable through here so a carry back down as well.

Also not rideable on the descent . . . its for this section that I don’t really think it’s worth carrying to the top!


The carry/push improves as you go up . . . and the views are priceless!


Nearing the top!


Summit views are awesome!


Cool summit views to Swan Lake and the Resurrection Trail

The riding off the top was a combo of super-cool-and-totally-worth-it and hike-a-bike-down.  The pictures from that section are pretty rad, and riding with that kind of view is really cool.  And alpine riding is a special kind of joy that I’ve really come to love.  So, I”m not saying “don’t do it” but I am warning that it’s only marginally wroth it!  

The riding off the top is pretty magical . . .

Pretty unreal riding!


Some alpine riding at its finest 🙂 The August light is pretty rad too!


The alpine riding is pretty top notch when it’s rideable!


Some rocky tech to mix things up!


The trail is just demanding enough that you almost forget you’re riding with these views!!!


Descending out of the alpine to the carry section!


Plenty of good riding as you get back into the trees – tech and challenging!


And the views don’t stop! Nor do the tight corners 😉


Getting less and less rideable! The main carry section is just above me – glad to be back on the bike for at least a bit in this part!

The ride from the plateau down is far more rideable that it seems it will be on the way up.  There are about 4-5 features I walk, but there’s some really great riding between them, and the walks are pretty short for the most part.  Just near the end, there’s a rooty/flat rock section that was rideable in the very dry July and slick and slidy (not rideable despite 2 attempts – ouch!) in the wetter dirt of August . . . other than that, the trail held up pretty well in the fall-ish conditions of August.  July was very slip-n-slide with the dry dirt, and really fun!  August had a bit more tack but a bit more grease too 🙂  

Overall, Slaughter is a worthy ride if you like April Bowl, Hope Point, and Crow Pass from the lake style of steep and alpine riding.  It is not a ride worth trying until you’ve done at least a few of those other ones, in my opinion. 

Looking at the start of the trail – not a bad view here either!

Sections like these are visually concerning when you roll into them (sharp rocks), but have a rideable side . . .

Plenty to pay attention to, especially when loose like it was in July, but rideable! Many of the corners, while tight, totally ride. While a lot of the ride is momentum management, there’s enough corners that you never ‘open it up’


A fairly typical section of riding . . . steeper than it looks, a sharp corner up above and likely one just below too!


All in all, mountain biking Slaughter Gulch is an adventure and not for the faint of heart!  It is definitely a hiking trail and getting more and more crowded, so watching for and yielding to pedestrians is important!  I found most people were stoked/impressed to see bikes up there, and was fortunate not to encounter many people on my descents.  The Cooper Landing classics of Crescent Lake, Russian Lakes, & Resurrection, plus the other great rides in the area like Devil’s Pass, Devil’s to Summit Creek, Ptarmigan Lake, Lost Lake, etc. mean that there’s plenty of riding around that’s far more straightforward!!!

It’s also fun to look across the lake/river at Tumble Bear Couloir and remember fun adventures had in the area!  That’s got to be one of my all-time favorite memories!  Cooper Landing certainly has plenty to keep us inspired for all seasons, and now a brewery too (with amazing burgers at the Blue Yeti Food truck)!!!

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

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