For scenic beauty Swan Lake is number one in the Tongass Forest. It also is one of the nicest and newest cabins. In the high elevations all the cabins are A frames because of the winter snow loads. There has been a cabin in this area since the thirties. A major trail was made by the Civilian Conservation Corps, today the trail is still there but many of the original structures have been wiped out due to floods. This trail goes from the ocean to the lake and is rough in places. At the outlet end of the lake there is a boat which allows a hiker to get from the ocean to the cabin. There is another boat at the cabin. In 2010 there were two boats at the cabin and one at the end of the lake.
This lake requires a good pilot understanding of the issues. The lake is at 1525 feet elevation and is surrounded by mountains of 4000 feet and higher. The canyon going in is narrow. Going into the lake you need 2000 feet of elevation. If you find a fog layer on the lake you have the room to turn around. The lake is almost 2 miles long but if you are coming in high you lose altitude and make a turn over the cabin and land going back toward the outlet. Going out can be a bigger issue. The problem is you do not know what the weather is on the outside unless you have a sat phone. If you can get to about 2200 feet you can look out the canyon and make a decision, if you decide not to go you have the altitude to make the turn. If your plane does not climb well consider taking off from the outlet and gain altitude toward the cabin then make the turn over the cabin and go out toward the outlet. Remember the lake can be clear and the ocean can be covered with a cloud base.
Being 70 years old I avoid extreme hiking situations but according to the local forest service employee Brad Hunter there are some good options. Brad says "To me Swan has three valleys that offer excellent cross country hiking, as well as a trail downstream. Years ago when my daughters were young, they hiked with me up both side valleys clear to the head walls. My wife and I have cross-country skied the 5 miles from the headwaters down to Swan Lake. and found it to be a wonderful route if the avalanche danger is low". Behind the Swan Lake cabin is cross country. The route I like is to go west along the lake shoreline, then turn left along the base of the hill, follow that until you almost come to the creek then head right up the steep hill along the creek and on past the waterfall. After that it’s a bit tricky (with the creek still on the left) navigating a moss covered boulder field but then you come out in the upper valley which is fairly easy going for at least a mile through the deglaciated valley.
Link to Forest Service site. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=79042&actid=101
Link to Recreation.gov to book cabin. http://www.recreation.gov/camping/Swan_Lake_Cabin_Petersburg_Ak/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=71836&topTabIndex=CampingSpot
View from sleeping loft.
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