Is Cooper Landing, Alaska, Worth Visiting?

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View of Cooper Landing's Alaska.

Cooper Landing, Alaska, is conveniently located in the center of the Kenai Peninsula. This special place lures visitors year after year to Kenai Fjords National Park, where whales and other marine life gather. 

Tourists also marvel at the Alaska bore tide near Hope and kayak along the coves of Kachemak Bay near Homer. The peninsula has something for everyone! 

Let’s look closer at Cooper Landing and see how you can spend a day or two enjoying the local Alaskan life!

Where Is Cooper Landing, Alaska?

Cooper Landing sits in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula, about two hours from and 100 miles south of Anchorage.

It’s a prime fishing location with the Kenai and Russian Rivers intersecting here. Many also enjoy rafting and hiking. Highway 1 runs straight through the town, Kenai Lake sits to the southeast, and Kenai Fjords National Park lies a bit farther south.

How Big Is Cooper Landing?

Cooper Landing covers about 70 square miles, most of it land. According to the 2020 Census, less than 350 people live here. The center of the community sits at the west end of Kenai Lake. Even though Cooper Landing is a small town on the peninsula, the people who live here fare well.

No one lives below the poverty level, and the median income for a family is around $51,000. A little more than half the population is aged 25 to 64.

Because of Cooper Landing’s convenient location on Highway 1, it’s easily accessible. It takes about two hours and 15 minutes to travel to the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula in Homer. And it takes less than two hours to reach Anchorage.

View of Cooper Landing's Alaska.

Are There Places to Camp in Cooper Landing, Alaska?

There are several places to camp in Cooper Landing, Alaska. We stayed at Quartz Creek Campground in the Chugach National Forest between Kenai Lake and Quartz Creek.

The campground offers beautiful lake views and gives guests prime access to boating, fishing, and hiking opportunities. There are 46 sites, and campers have access to drinking water, flush toilets, a boat ramp, and picnic areas.

Cooper Creek South Campground is another spot in the Chugach National Forest. Like Quartz Creek Campground, it offers sweeping views and outdoor recreational activities, but it’s a bit smaller, with only 20 campsites.

A third option in the Chugach National Forest is the Russian River Campground. This campground has 83 sites and provides guests with water, vault toilets, tables, fire pits, and dumpsters. It’s one of the most popular campgrounds in Cooper Landing.

Are There Hiking Trails in Cooper Landing, Alaska?

Hiking the Kenai Peninsula is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. From forested valleys to open meadows to gem-colored lakes, this area is paradise. Many enjoy both the Russian River Falls Trail and the Johnson Pass Trail.

The falls trail is a 4.7-mile out-and-back hike with a 557-foot elevation gain. Keep your eyes peeled for jumping salmon. The Johnson Pass travels over 22 miles, but numerous paths connect to various waypoints if you don’t want to hike the entire trail.

The Carter Lake Trail will really get your muscles going. With a 1,105-foot elevation gain, your thighs will be burning before too long. But this 3.7-mile out-and-back trail climbs through forests to beautiful valleys and meadow views.

View of Kenai Peninsula.

5 Things to Do in Cooper Landing, Alaska

Cooper Landing, Alaska, may be small, but it’s not short on activities. Whether you’re visiting for a day or a week, you’ll find plenty to do here! Let’s take a look at five of our favorite things.

1. Take a Boat Tour of Kenai Lake

Kenai Float-n-Fish offers sailing tours of Kenai Lake. This two-hour tour departs June through August and costs $80 per person. The company also offers river excursions on the Kenai River. You can book a half-day, full-day, or ice-fishing adventure.

John and Heather, along with their two girls, strive to make your Kenai Float-n-Fish trip memorable while still offering “Mom and Pop” hospitality.

2. Dredge for Gold with Prospector John

Prospector John’s caters to tourists of the Kenai Peninsula near Cooper Landing, Alaska. Try panning for gold or gem mining onsite. You can also take a Dredge Adventure to Devil’s Canyon for a half-day or full-day excursion.

Prospector John knows everything about this region. He obtained a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to prospect streambeds in 2010, so he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Pro Tip: Before you go panning for gold in Alaska, check out these helpful tips!

Rae and Jason dredging for gold on the Prospector John tour in Cooper Landing, Alaska.

3. Drink at Cooper Landing Brewing Company

Cooper Landing Brewing Company sits less than a mile from the Quartz Creek Campground. This microbrewery stays open from 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. daily and offers some of the best Alaskan beers.

Try the Bean Creek Blonde, Hazy Angler IPA, Arterial Red Ale, Cooper Landing Pale, or Porcupine Porter. Enjoy the outdoor patio space, or choose a cozy chair inside.

A beer flight with four different colorful beers at a brewery in Cooper Landing, Alaska

4. Watch Wild Salmon Leap at Russian River Falls

Many enjoy the hike to Russian River Falls because of the wild salmon showfest. The trailhead begins near the Russian River Campground and follows a level gravel path that suits about any ability.

This trail is great for families! Two miles into the hike, you’ll see the beautiful falls and a viewing area to watch the salmon. However, always be on the lookout for bears. Where there’s salmon, there’s bears in Alaska.

View of the Russian River Falls in Cooper Landing, Alaska.

5. Visit the K’beq’ Interpretive Site

Finally, during your visit to Cooper Landing, Alaska, you can also learn about the natives at the K’beq’ Interpretive Site. K’beq’ means “footprints,” and this cultural center gives visitors a glimpse into traditional Dena’ina customs and culture. There are interpretive signs and a boardwalk that encircles the house.

Keep in Mind: Is it Legal to Camp Anywhere in Alaska? Let’s take a look!

When Is the Best Time to Visit Cooper Landing?

Like most of Alaska, Cooper Landing is full of activity during the summer. If you’d rather enjoy winter recreation like ice fishing or snowmobiling, you can make the trek in the off-season.

But with the summer solstice comes long daylight hours — plenty of time to enjoy the beauty, recreation, and culture of Cooper Landing, Alaska.

Plus, many tours and attractions only operate from June to September. Always check websites or make phone calls to get the most up-to-date information about working hours.

Enjoy the Small Town of Cooper Landing the Next Time You Visit the Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula is known for world-class salmon fishing, spectacular scenery, rich native history, and more. Cooper Landing, Alaska, sits in the heart of this region. If you venture south of Anchorage, it’s worth making a pitstop for a few days and soaking in all this community offers.

Have you been to Cooper Landing, Alaska? 

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