Kanatak National Recreation Trail,
designated in 2012, has been used for at least 2,000 years to cross the coastal
mountains between Becharof Lake and the Pacific Ocean. Archaeologists have
found evidence of villages on both sides of the pass, some repeatedly inhabited
for centuries. Kanatak Village, on the ocean shore, saw its last permanent
residents in the 1950s. Elders in the region today remember childhoods walking
or riding horses over the trail, following the seasonal rounds of their
families as they traveled to find work or subsistence.
The trail today is used most often
by bears and other wildlife. No
road leads here and hikers are unlikely to see other people on the trail. The
challenges of access, weather, and terrain ensure a unique and wild experience. Cairns of piled rocks mark the route through the
pass, past Summit Lake. Scenery is spectacular: glacially-carved Ruth Lake is
surrounded by sharp, iron-stained peaks; and views from the pass encompass
mountains, ocean, lake, and tundra. The pristine water of Ruth River is
seasonally packed with bright red sockeye and draws bears, char, and grayling.