Carter Lake Trail

Area Status: Open

3.4 mile hiking trail to Carter and Crescent Lakes. It is a short but steep climb (first 1.5 miles) through spruce/hemlock forest to a wide subalpine valley of meadows surrounded by mountains. Snow can remain in this area until early June. This trail is well maintained, but is muddy during spring snowmelt and after heavy rain.

Summer acces is difficult from this trail to the west end Crescent Lake on the primitive trail.

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At a Glance

Reservations: No reservations are necessary
Open Season: Open year-round
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Best Season: year-round
Restrictions: Closed to motorized vehicles May 1- November 30. Closed to pack/saddle stock April 1- June 30. Not recommended for bikes or horses.
Closest Towns: Seward, Alaska
Water: Streams and Lake
Operated By: Chugach National Forest

General Information


Trailhead is at mile 34 Seward Highway.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Dispersed Camping

Designated backcountry campsites near Carter and Crescent Lakes include bear resistant food lockers.

Lake and Pond Fishing

Rainbow Trout in Carter Lake.

Grayling in Crescent Lake. Season opens July 1. See ADF&G regulations.

Day Hiking

Steep climb to subalpine area. 2.3 miles to Carter Lake. 3.4 miles to Crescent Lake.

General Info:


An old jeep road. Steep first 1.5 miles, relatively level for remainder. Well maintained, though will be muddy during spring snowmelt and after rains.

General Notes

Trail provides access to sub-alpine and alpine country after 1.5 miles of travel. This is a good trail for day hiking. Multi-day trip with tent camping at designated campsites. Good winter access for alpine activities though the trail may be difficult to travel in the steep sections. For a longer hike it is 17.7 miles from the Carter Lake trailhead to Crescent Creek trailhead via the Crescent Lake Primitive trail, which includes the Crescent Saddle cabin. It is 7 miles from Carter Lake Trailhead to Crescent Saddle Cabin.

During steep first half of trail, hiker passes through hemlock forests with alder and willow. As trail levels out, vegetation changes to the sub-alpine with lower growing shrubs and a multitude of wildflowers. This level terrain offers best camping sites and excellent vistas.


Safety Information

Summer access is difficult from this trail to the west end of Crescent Lake on the primitive trail. Creek crossing on the North end of Crescent Lake does not have a bridge and may be difficult to cross after rains. The primitive trail around Crescent Lake is not recommended for children, horse and bike due to difficult trail, tall grasses and brush that obscure travel. Creek flowing into Carter Lake is wide and without a bridge, expect to get wet.

Use caution with bear and moose. Giardia (a microscopic parasite that can infect warm-blooded animals and humans) could be present in all open water sources, boil surface water for 5 minutes before drinking. Winter travel may be hazardous due to avalanches, thin lake ice, and white out conditions above tree line. Winter travelers need to be able to evaluate avalanche and over-ice travel hazards. Be prepared for rapid weather changes. Remember to pack out your trash. You can contact a U.S. Forest Service office to receive more detailed information on safety precautions and Leave No Trace outdoor skills and ethics.


Combine with Crescent Lake Trail and Crescent Creek Trail for an 18 mile through hike.


This trail has a short, steep climb that can be extremely icy to subalpine area surrounding Carter Lake. Trail also Crescent Saddle and Crescent Lake Cabins via frozen surface of Crescent Lake - Check ice conditions before traversing.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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955 feet elevation gain