Welcome to Alaska: Backpacking the Lost Lake Trail near Seward, Alaska

When a couple of friends invited me on a two-night backpacking trip to Lost Lake, I jumped at the opportunity. This 15-mile trek is one of Alaska’s prettiest hikes, even though it starts in a subdivision on the fringes of Seward, a pretty cruise port and fishing town.

For the first three miles of trail we tiptoed across shallow creeks that spilled into the path and worked our way through shoulder-high cow parsnip, a plant whose sap causes horrible, blistering burns that are made worse by exposure to the sun. But the minute the trail opened into wildflower meadows ringed with mountain peaks, it was worth it.

After another four miles, we saw the first sliver of blue on the horizon: Lost Lake. You don’t realize its sheer enormity until your GPS tells you that the “little” peninsula you’re looking at extends a half-mile into the water.

The east side of the lake is dotted with primitive campsites set off from the trail, each with the luxury of their own open-air toilet and bearproof locker. But we wanted to be close to the water, so we settled on a high shelf of tundra overlooking the lake.

We thought we’d found the perfect campsite — until the unwelcome visitors swarmed in. Mosquitoes. It was late enough that we just hunkered in our tents. How bad could they be, anyway?

As darkness fell, the mosquitoes went temporarily dormant in the night chill. It was finally safe to creep outside and pee.

In the morning, as the air warmed and the sun colored the sky, the mosquitoes slowly came back to life. I could hear their little mosquito engines revving back up into that strident whine, a sharp contrast to the brilliant blue waters of Lost Lake right in front of us.

We held a shouted discussion through the walls of our the tents, deciding to hunt for a less-buggy campsite. After several miles of walking we found ourselves on the massive peninsula we’d admired the other day. We moved our tents and lazed in the sun on a tiny, almost mosquito-free gravel beach, listening to the gentle lap of the water and watching a pair of float planes come and go on the lake.

The next morning, we awoke to fog so thick you could see water droplets streaming through the air. That thick fog, so common in the mornings, is why some people say they’ve been to Lost Lake but never seen it.

The lake had gone eerily still, the currents and plant matter on its surface frozen like swirls in a Van Gogh painting. But slowly, as the sun crept higher and the fog lifted just a little, those swirls started to move again.

The lake took its first breath of the morning as we emerged from our tents to see a fogbow — a sweeping arc of fog, tinged with the faintest of rainbow colors — and begin packing for the 8-mile walk to the far trailhead.

Trail: Lost Lake

Closest town: Seward, Alaska

Distance: 15.6 miles one way

Elevation gain: 2,340 feet one way

[Lisa Maloney]