I’ve always been a fan of books about thru-hiking (like Wild and Becoming Odyssa) and have fantasized about what it would be like to do a long distance backpacking trip. But I’ve only ever done overnight backpacking trips so I have no idea what it feels like to hike for multiple days with only the the basic necessities strapped to my back. While those short trips have taken me to some cool places, I kept dreaming of going farther. So when I moved to Alaska and heard about the Resurrection Pass Trail, I knew I wanted it to be my first long distance backpacking trip and quickly added it to my bucket list.
Resurrection Pass is a 39 mile trail that runs from Hope to Cooper Landing. Hikers will travel from almost sea level up to 2600 ft, and the trail travels through different layers of forest and then up above the tree line into the tundra. There are 8 public use cabins along the trail as well as lots of small designated campsites with bear boxes. The cabins are notoriously hard to book, especially for the summer, and being able to rent the exact cabins you want for a 2-4 day hiking trip through the pass is almost impossible to do. So when I was casually checking out some cabin availability over the winter and noticed that my three dream cabins (Fox Creek, Devil’s Pass, and Juneau) were all available over a long weekend in June, I almost fell off the sofa! I double checked dates, mileage, and possible weather conditions, and decided that it was meant to be. Those three cabins would give me a pretty equal number of miles hiked each day and would put me in three very different but picturesque locations. Ever since booking the cabins I’ve been looking forward to this trip while also worrying about all the things that newbie backpackers think about: what to pack, how to fit it in my bag, and how I would feel after hiking for days with a big pack through the wilderness. But when Thursday morning rolled around all I felt was excitement to finally be starting my first long backpacking trip with my husband, our dog, and one of my friends!
Day 1: Hope to Fox Creek Cabin (11.5 miles)
Today was the longest day for us on the Resurrection Pass Trail – not only in terms of hiking mileage, but also in terms of how late we’d be arriving at the cabin. We had a “late start” on the trail due to the fact that we had to drop one of our cars off in Cooper Landing (2 hour drive from Anchorage) and then drive back up to the other side of the trail in Hope (1 hour from Cooper Landing). After eating a quick lunch and covering ourselves in sunscreen and bug spray, we finally started hiking around 1:00 pm under gorgeous sunny skies. The trail starts by crossing and then following Resurrection Creek for a few miles while slowly and gradually going uphill through a lush green forest.
Even though the trail was really easy, it was still a rough adjustment for me to go from day hiking with a small pack to carrying a backpack filled with everything I needed to survive for four days. In the first mile I kept stopping to readjust my pack and also had to learn how to use my trekking poles efficiently. Eventually I started to get the hang of it and began to feel more relaxed. We hiked about 2 miles an hour up the trail, stopping for breaks whenever we started to feel too hot or our packs were feeling too heavy. I started to get a headache from my pack, but after taking some medicine and readjusting the way the pack was pulling on my shoulders I felt a lot better. It also helped that we had to stop for longer breaks a few times to filter more water to drink from the creeks that passed under the trail.
Things were going really well, especially around mile 8 when we started hiking through a higher elevation forest that had gorgeous trees and carpets of moss. The breaks in the trees led to occasional views of the high mountains that surrounded the pass, and we started getting excited about the views we were going to see on day 2. But then around mile 10 it began to rain. I almost couldn’t believe it considering how sunny and warm it had been only a few hours ago. We threw on our rain jackets and walked our last 2 miles of the day in pouring rain as fast as we could. At first all I could think about was my gear getting wet and that I hoped that my waterproofing (trash bags lining my pack) would hold up against the rain. Eventually I actually started enjoying myself out there. I mean, how many people get to walk through the rain to a remote cabin in the woods with their favorite people on a random Thursday night? It felt like an extra adventure mixed with a free outside shower. But I was still really excited to finally reach the Fox Creek Cabin after 6 hours of hiking and to take off all of my wet gear.
The rest of the night was spent drying ourselves and our dog off as well as we could, setting up camp (the trash bags kept everything dry!), cooking dinner, and fetching water from the creek to filter for the next day. We didn’t start a fire in the cabin, but it was still warm enough from us making dinner and setting up camp that our clothes and gear were pretty dry by morning.
Day 2: Fox Creek Cabin to Devil’s Pass Cabin (10.1 miles)
Today was the day I was most nervous about because we were going to gain the most elevation and I figured I would be tired from my first day of backpacking. But when I woke up and saw sunny skies and hints of the mountain views that were yet to come, all I could feel was excitement. We ate hot breakfast and coffee, packed up our bags, and started walking again. I was surprised and happy to learn that I wasn’t especially sore anywhere and that carrying my bag was getting easier. Within our first few hours of hiking we stopped to filter more water at a stream and we were all feeling relaxed and alone until my friend started running towards us yelling “grab the dog!”. It turned out that while she was sitting on a bridge filtering water she happened to look up and see a moose that was walking toward her on the trail! It crossed the bridge but luckily headed off to the other side of the trail which allowed us to throw everything back in our packs and run out of there.
After the excitement of the morning, I was happy to see that after a few more miles of hiking in the forest we were finally starting to get high enough for some good views. We were able to see back through the pass where we had hiked the day before and we were starting to see glimpses of the pass ahead of us. I probably said “This is gorgeous!” once every 10 minutes.
It was interesting hiking out from the forest to the tundra and watching the trees slowly disappear from our view. I’ve hiked above tree line on many trails before but it seemed to be so gradual on this trail and I really liked how the pass slowly appeared before us. We were eventually in an area with 360 degree views of mountains and tundra, which made for the perfect spot to stop and eat a small lunch.
We had read recent trip recaps from hikers who had to deal with 4 miles of deep snow at the top of the pass only a few weeks ago, so we started to worry about when we would run into snow and how deep it would be. As we hiked towards the top of the pass we could see that we were approaching a snowy area, but couldn’t tell where the trail was going. Luckily we only had to deal with a few short snowfields that were already packed down and easy to cross. The trekking poles were really helpful in crossing without falling.
When we weren’t crossing snowfields we were looking around for wildlife and enjoying the views. We saw lots of ptarmigan, which kept flying out of the bushes and scaring me and my dog. Eventually we noticed that there was a tiny sign stuck in the ground up ahead on the trail. We ran over and realized that we were finally at the top of Resurrection Pass! We spent a few minutes celebrating and taking pictures from the top.
After all of this excitement, we still had a few miles to go until we reached our cabin. I was starting to get tired of walking and crossing snow fields and was dreaming of dinner. I used this time of mental struggle as practice for Kilimanjaro, which helped me feel better about how tired and hungry I was. Eventually we came around a bend and saw a sweeping view of the other side of Resurrection Pass, including the Devil’s Pass Cabin.
This cabin was a lot older and came with an oil stove that we couldn’t use (there is no wood up there at the top of the pass), but we still loved this cabin. The views were incredible and there were so many windows facing in every direction. We settled into our usual routine of setting up camp, making dinner, and filtering water. At around 6:00 pm it started to rain, so we made hot chocolate to warm up and I spent hours reading a book and staring at the gorgeous views. We hadn’t seen another person for the entire day, and we all had never felt so alone (but in a good way). I had never been this far from civilization on a hike before and I loved that it took two days of walking to finally reach this gorgeous and peaceful place.
Skip ahead to part two of my Resurrection Pass trip report here!