Looking for a short hike with beautiful views, and a good possibility of wildlife sightings? If you’re near Palmer, Wasilla, or Eagle River, Reflections Lake Trail is a good, easy-to-reach option. It’s just a short hike around a small lake, but because it’s so convenient, it’s a simple choice.
Reflections Lake is located on an island in the confluence of the Matanuska River and the Knik River, at the northern end of Knik Arm. From Anchorage, travel north on the Glenn Highway, and take the exit marked “Knik River Access”. After exiting, turn left, go under the highway, and follow the dirt road to the Reflections Lake trailhead. Shortly after the trailhead, the road dead-ends at the river.
I’ll readily admit that I did not visit Reflections Lake on an ideal day. I had spent the day driving down from Denali (in rain the whole way). After checking in to my accommodation for the night, I really wanted to do some hiking, even though conditions were not favorable. After poking around a bit, I found the Reflections Lake Trail.
I’m sure, on a better day, you’d be able to see some spectacular mountains. But on this day, it was grey and rainy. I bundled up and hiked the loop anyhow.
There is a nice observation tower about halfway around the loop. I climbed up it and looked around for a while, but didn’t see any exciting wildlife.
Then, I came down from the tower, and continued around the loop. There are several breaks in the vegetation that allow for clear views of the surrounding meadows.
I had made it most of the way around the loop when I reached a wash-out in the trail. A makeshift sign said “detour” and pointed down a slope at the side of the trail. This led to a rushing creek (which was responsible for the washout) and a few limbs that had been stretched across the water. I figured, what the heck, I’d give it a try — and instantly I was submerged up to my knee. I didn’t fall in, and most importantly, my camera equipment stayed dry. I pulled my leg out, immediately gave up on this “detour”, and walked back around the lake, the way I came.
While you’re in the area, drive a bit further from the Reflections Lake trailhead, for a look at the Knik River and the Glenn Highway bridge. Once again, I’m sure the views would be much more stunning with better weather. There are bound to be some impressive mountains up there, enshrouded in grey fog.
The Bottom Line
Reflections Lake won’t be the most exciting destination on your trip to Alaska, but it’s a decent place to squeeze in a quick hike, and maybe spot some wildlife. Just don’t get your feet wet on the detour.
Here’s a time-lapse look at the drive from Eagle River to Sutton — including a crossing over the Knik River: