Winner Creek Trail // Girdwood, Alaska

October 23, 2018

Happy Tuesday friends! I hope that this week has started off well! I am so excited to share with y'all today's post... I have been waiting to share about it with such excitement because it truly was one of my favorite parts of the entire Alaska road trip. I know, I know. *smiles* I have said that before but in all honesty this one captured my heart in many ways and I hope that in seeing these pictures y'all are inspired to go visit because you would love it. 
Winner Creek Trail (unlike our spur of the moment Worthington Glacier Hike or several other hikes that I haven't shared about on the blog) was one that I knew from the beginning stages of planning the trip that I wanted to do. 
We planned this for Monday morning (we were driving back from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage where Ali was flying out later that evening) and left plenty of time to do the hike and spend time on the trail before we had to be at the airport. From the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge (you can read my review of the lodge HERE) it took us approximately an hour to reach the trail. As a point of reference for those of you who are visiting Alaska it would take you about 45 minutes from Anchorage to get to the trail. 
You can access the trail from the Alyeska resort or from the mine end... we started from the mine end (but ended up near the other end) and really just wound around the entire trail so you really could choose what works best for you. Also- if you hike from Alyeska to the mine end there is a transit bus that comes about every 1/2 hour that will take you back to the resort or town depending on where you want to go. Had I to do it again I probably would start in the opposite direction we did and take the bus back but it is a delightful adventure no matter how you do it! 
Depending on how far you go (you could turn around at different times on the trail or not take side trails like we did) the trail could be as little as 2 miles. It truly just depends on what you decide to do and see.
When J first mentioned the trail I immediately was intrigued and convinced that I wanted to add it to the list of places to see. A few weeks before the trip then I also read a little bit about the trail on Julia's blog and thought that the description of the trail would be a great suggestion for Ali and I to hike at this point in the trip (Ali's last day and me having still a few days left in Alaska). So off we went! From the beginning of the drive in it was gorgeous and I couldn't wait to explore.
From the moment that we began I think I felt "at home". To be fair I read that some people had a complaint with the trail as they felt it didn't give views like other trails in Alaska do. I don't really agree... but I guess could see what they were saying as far as "views of other mountains" but ... being in the woods and hiking was an absolute beautiful adventure that I loved so much. I took a ton of pictures because it was so beautiful but then I put the camera away and just enjoyed being fully present. 

I also want to note that if you are familiar with this trail than these pictures are "out of order"...we explored so much here and lived in the moment that these pictures got "moved around a bit". *smiles*
I think that it could depend on what you are looking for in your hiking adventures in Alaska. I think that having hikes with "views of mountains" was amazing, but I also think that including hikes that take you through the mountains and into beautiful places with stunning blue-water gorges are equally as gorgeous that you should plan on. I could definitely see why I was told that this is a favorite place of Alaska residents to take visiting family and friends. *smiles*
These three pictures above make me laugh. It is a bit hard to see in these photos but the trail split here and on the way back you could go up the bank (which was a sort of path) that was very steep or take the actual trail. Ali decided to stick with the actual trail, but I decided to join some of the people we met up with on the trail to go up the steep section. So these guys and girls and I decided to just "head on up". We all were laughing so hard by the time that we arrived at the top of this area...out of breath and ...being passed by a couple of elementary aged children just running up it like it was nothing. Hahaha! We got a good laugh about how we thought it looked "so easy" and then it wasn't. Hahaha- it totally reminded me of playing night games as a teenager and climbing our banks at the cabin with friends. 

A funny extra note about this was that a couple of minutes later the guys and girls headed on and I waited to connect with Ali who was making her way up to where I was. As she and I started walking back together a couple of girls that had been hiking behind us ended up asking for directions on something and about the trail. Hahaha... they referenced that they saw me "off the trail" and thought I was an Alaskan resident who hiked there often. I couldn't stop giggling ...I gave them directions and then shared that it was my first time on the trail. Obviously they missed the little kiddos blazing past the group of us. Hahaha!
I have said this before, but it is moments like these that just take my breath away. For those of you who knew me way back before this blog began... before sickness altered life in unique and long-last ways than you know that I have a complete love affair with hiking and being out in nature. Not having the ability to do these things these last seven years has been one of the hardest things about this journey... and the source of many behind the scenes tears.
Despite some well-known doctors saying that I would never be able to hike again (or walk properly at one point), this has remained a dream that I continued to fight for. It started SLOWLY with learning to walk down our hallway, to months just walking to the mailbox (which exhausted my fragile body), to small walks around the neighborhood (often leaning on someone) to finally starting to jog & run again in small bits last summer. And then this summer...has held so many precious miracles... including hiking this beautiful trail while I was in Alaska.
SO... all of those moments... the laughter... the beauty... the fun of blazing up off-beaten trails and little kiddos running past you... all of it... are incredibly special to me. 
This little pinecone has come home with me from Alaska and this trail and is sitting in my room on display reminding me of this precious place.
And what trail isn't even more fun with the opportunity to do a hand tram? *smiles*
Along the way I saw so many beautiful places on this trail... but on the way back to our car I stopped here specifically. This picture above holds a very special place in my heart. I took the picture specifically for a future birthday gift and just stood there, quietly surrounded by the silence and beauty. It was gorgeous and something I will remember forever. Even as I am writing this I am smiling.
And then I looked up saw this rainbow up above. It is faint in this picture but it was there... a beautiful symbol of hope and promise.
Winner Creek Trail ... you were absolutely stunning. I loved the trail, the rainbow, the flowing rivers , the beauty and being among the trees. We hiked a lot on our Alaskan Road trip and every place was beautiful, but this trail holds a very special place in my heart. J, thank you so much for the recommendation. Like everything else you suggested for the trip... this was beyond perfect.

PS- If you are curious about the specific details of the road trip that we took throughout Alaska or if you are planning a similar road trip (or just want to see and dream about visiting the beauty!) I hope the information below is helpful. You can read all of the posts from the trip by clicking on the links below:

Anchorage: // Anchorage Travel Guide//

Chugach Mountains (Alaska 1-South Drive): // Scenic Seward Highway Drive (Turnagain Arm Drive)//

Chugach Mountains: // Eklutna Lake//

Cooper Landing (Kenai Peninsula): // Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge Nature Trail//

Girdwood: // Winner Creek Trail //

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