Horse Riding Alaska in Cooper Landing Video
On a Paint horse mix in her teens named Harley, I took to the trails in the Copper Landing area of Alaska. If you want to really get into nature and ride away from it all, Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula is a good choice.
I was riding into the Chugach National Forest, the second largest national forest in the United States. Here glacially carved snow capped mountains dwarf turquoise colored lakes, and you’re more likely to spot bears and bald eagles than people.
We rode horses along the Russian Gap Trail, a route that gold seekers from Russia traversed during the 1850s. By 1896, the Kenai Peninsula was a hot spot for gold seekers, many from the American West and Canada. Watch this travel video of our Alaska horse trek.
Alaska's Cooper Landing Video Transcript
DARLEY: Next, we’re headed to Cooper Landing to explore forests and glacial lakes with Alaska Horsemen’s Michelle Donahue.
DARLEY: So Michelle, who are you riding?
MICHELLE DONAHUE: I’m riding Ellie May today. My favorite horse. You’re on Harley.
DARLEY: So you put Darley on a Harley? Laughs
MICHELLE: Very fitting huh? laughs
DARLEY: Cooper Landing is an old gold rush area. During the 19th century, gold prospectors, including Joseph Cooper, who discovered gold here in 1884, came to this area hoping to strike it rich. Today, people still prospect here, but fishing is the main attraction and the outstanding views.
MICHELLE: I mean look around you. Every corner you go around there’s another beautiful view. And you never know what wildlife you might see.
DARLEY: And we’re going up to see some beautiful views today?
MICHELLE: Some of my favorites.
DARLEY: I love the color of the water. It’s so milky blue.
MICHELLE: It is. It’s glacier fed. That’s Kenai Lake. And the river goes all the way to the Cook Inlet and that’s where you catch the big salmon.
DARLEY: We enter the Chugach National Forest. With millions of acres, the Chugach occupies a land area the size of New Jersey. We’re riding in a temperate rain forest, with soft foliage and wildflowers beneath our hooves, but much of the Chugach is covered in rock and ice.
MICHELLE: You notice on some of these trees you’ll see a bunch of little… They almost look like bite marks. And I’ve heard that those are from moose in the wintertime. When the ground is covered and food get a little more scarce they actually will eat the bark.
DARLEY: They must have pretty strong teeth.
MICHELLE: Well they’re a pretty strong animal. Laughs
DARLEY: Laughs. We’re climbing up, up and up here Michelle.
MICHELLE: We are, but the view is going to be spectacular.
DARLEY: I’m already noticing good views. By traveling on horseback, we travel quietly and unobtrusively through the forest, noticing the smaller things that we may not have seen had we toured the area in another way.
DARLEY: Michelle this is a beautiful spot. We’ve climbed pretty high today.
MICHELLE: We have. This is one of my favorite places. This is Sheep Lookout and if you notice the beautiful glacial carved valleys and the snow-peaked mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful.
DARLEY: It’s so dramatic. Here in Alaska and especially in this area, I love just, all the lakes, the trees. It’s gorgeous.
MICHELLE: It’s peaceful up here isn’t it.
DARLEY: It is really peaceful. Yeah, they’re is no one around. I see that one little house back there and that’s it.
MICHELLE: Yeah. Um this area became real popular, um, basically becase of the gold found here.
DARLEY: And are people still out here looking for gold.
MICHELLE: There are still active mines here in Cooper Landing. Actually, all over Alaska, but here in Cooper Landing we’ve got several active mines and people working their claims.
DARLEY: Any recent big finds?
MICHELLE: No. laughs. No I think its just, um, people get gold fever and like to get out there and get into the wilderness and enjoy this peace. I think it’s more, the enjoyment of what they’re doing anymore than, really hoping for the big find.
DARLEY: I guess it’s a good excuse to get out here into nature.
MICHELLE: It is.
How you can go: Learn more about horse riding in Alaska with Bree Bardardon of Bardy's Trail Rides at www.sewardhorses.com and on Bardy's Trail Rides Alaska horse riding page in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.
About the Author: Darley Newman is the host and producer of the Emmy Award-winning Public Television series Equitrekking®, which takes viewers on horseback riding vacations around the world.