Hiking US

Three Lakes Trail


Try this boardwalk trail for a beautiful hike through the Three Lakes Recreation Area.Combined Length (one way): 4.5 miles
Rating: Easiest
USGS Map: Petersburg D-3

Access: Drive south from Petersburg on the Mitkof Highway. The Three Lakes Loop Road (#6235) meets the highway at both 10 miles and 20 miles from Petersburg. The three trailheads are about 15 miles from the north end of the Loop Road and 6 miles from the south end. You can also reach the trail by hiking the Ideal Cove Trail from Frederick Sound. (See Ideal Cove Trail listing.)

Description/Attractions: You can begin hiking at any of the three trailheads. The trail makes a figure-eight with Sand Lake Trailhead to the north, Hill Lake Trailhead in the middle, and Crane Lake Trailhead to the south. Parking space is available at each trailhead. The entire trail is boardwalk and is mostly flat with a few short, steep sections. The trail wanders through muskeg and timber, crosses creeks and drainages, and passes four lakes.

Each of the lakes has a picnic table and fire ring, and all except Shelter Lake have a small rowboat. A 1930’s three-sided Adirondack shelter sits on the shore of Shelter Lake, about midway between Sand Lake and Hill Lake. Beaver, bear, deer, and eagles inhabit the area, and Sandhill Cranes visit often. Wildflowers and berries abound along most of the trail and all four lakes offer trout fishing.

History: Hunters and anglers hiking to the three lakes from Ideal Cove originally referred to them as the Ideal Lakes. In the 1930’s, District Ranger J.M. Wyckoff named the lakes after the Sandhill Cranes that frequent the area. The Forest Service built the first trail to the lakes from Ideal Cove in 1938.

The Three Lakes Loop Road, built in the early 1970’s, provided access to the lakes from Mitkof Highway and the Ideal Cove Trail fell out of use. A Youth Conservation Corps crew constructed the three trails from the Loop Road to Sand, Hill, and Crane Lakes shortly after the road was completed in 1973. Between 1981 and 1990, Forest Service and Southeast Alaska Guidance Association youth crews added to the trail system at different locations, extending and reconstructing the original trails. Then, in 1991, the Petersburg Ranger District Trail Crew completed the construction that linked the entire back portion of the trail from Sand Lake to Crane Lake.

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