A backcountry crossing of a low alpine pass surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Trail Running Moderate
- 37 km
- 1.2 km
- 1.2 km
- 6-7 hrs
- Low Point
- 133 m
- High Point
- 453 m
The views along Johnson Pass are absolutely stunning! You'll enjoy brilliant wildflower-filled meadows, deep forests, towering mountain peaks, and crystal-clear lakes. Even though you'll begin and end this route on a paved highway, this is a true backcountry expedition traversing an epic valley and crossing a mountain pass. You are out there on this epic Alaskan backcountry adventure!
There are several different route combinations that are popular on Johnson Pass. First, you could complete this as an epic point-to-point route, using two cars to self-shuttle the trail. The most popular route direction is from north to south, which gets you a little bit more descending than climbing. However, sources disagree on exactly how much elevation gain and loss is found along this trail. Alaska.org claims that there's only 1,000 feet of climbing along this route, but FATMAP shows almost 4,000 feet. Other online sources peg it closer to 3,500 feet, and still others at about 2,100 feet. Your GPS numbers may vary.
Alternatively, if you can't set up a shuttle, many hikers and trail runners begin from the north trailhead and hike or run roughly 11 miles south to the pass, then turn around and return to the northern trailhead. But since this trail is so popular with backpackers, there are many well-established campsites along the trail. You could easily turn this into a multi-day affair, but exactly how many days and how long you want to take is up to you.
The trail normally melts out sometime in June, and the mountain biking is best from late June into early July. However, as July wears on into August, the vegetation gets thick, with towering grasses and flowers leaning into the trail, turning Johnson Pass into a veritable jungle. From August until the frost begins to kill off the undergrowth, hiking or running Johnson Pass is a true bushwhacking excursion. However, this thick undergrowth reduces the bike traffic on the trail, which means that you might have the area all to yourself.
Finally, be sure to remain bear aware, as this is thick bear country and true backcountry terrain. Carry bear spray, and follow all other bear safety tips.