If you’re looking for big adventure on the Kenai Peninsula, here’s one for you, but you’ve gotta love bushwhacking.
Start at the Ptarmigan Lake trailhead at Mile 23 of the Seward Highway, roughly 6 miles south of Moose Pass. Follow the Ptarmigan Lake trail upstream along Ptarmigan Creek (which itself looks like a nice float but appeared to have a lot of wood). Continue past the end of Ptarmigan Lake where the trail peters out in a flooded forest. A tremendous gravel bar can be found on the south side of the creek and followed for several miles before you head back into heavy Alaska cactus.
The travel gradually improves as you gain elevation, aiming for the east side of Snow River Pass. Occasional flagging is seen, perhaps remnants of the once-and-future hut-to-hut system. Continue up and over Snow River Pass and drop down to the southwest end of Lower Paradise Lake. Inflate the boats to cross the lake and resume bushwhacking to the Snow River.
The Snow River is Class I, II, and III for the next ten miles as it passes through some spectacular country, with glaciers dropping down nearly to river level. The river also cuts through some incredible mini-gorges that look more intimidating than they are, although the swirlies and eddies are powerful enough.
As the river approaches the toe of Sheep Mtn, it makes a sweeping left turn and enters a very narrow gorge that is less than 10 feet wide. We packed up the boats here and portaged along an intermittent trail on the north side of the river. The trail is flagged but often only slightly better than bushwhacking. The trail skirts close enough to the gorge so that you can feel the vibration of a thunderous falls that looks to drop approximately 80 feet.
We rejoined the river near the 300 ft contour to float a few more mini-gorges before emerging into the broader valley leading to Kenai Lake. We took out at the Seward Highway bridge over the Snow River and finished the two-day, 40-mile route with a combination of running and hitching back to the trailhead. It makes for a nice loop involving roughly equal distances of floating and hiking, although the hiking takes up much more time than the boating.
A number of options seem possible, including coming into the Snow River via Grant Lake to hit the upper reaches of the Snow River.