Ground Truth Trekking

Tutka Backdoor information page

The trail is ready to use! To find the start, you'll need to take a boat to the head of Tutka Bay. The trail begins about 150 feet to the right (south) of where the river leaves the trees and goes into the grass flats.

The trail is well-marked and continuous for the first 5.4 miles, then goes through alpine terrain for 5 miles with no markings or tread, and picks up again on the far side for the final 8.7 miles of trail down to Taylor Bay.

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Spring on Lunch Mountain

Photo by Andy Banas: In late May, snow can still be thick on this 1200 foot peak. GET PHOTO

Photo by Andy Banas: In late May, snow can still be thick on this 1200 foot peak.

source: Copyright held by photographer


Knowing the tide is critical to getting to the trailhead. At below about a 10 foot tide the best approach is just to land somewhere on the south side of the bay, then walk the beaches and flats up to the trailhead. From about a 10 foot to 14 foot tide you can land at a beach on the right side near a park campsite (the campsite isn't visible from the water). However, at about 14 feet the water in a slough between the campsite and the trailhead gets too high to cross, cutting off access to the trail. So above about a 12 foot tide it's best to go more towards the trailhead, landing in the grass flats. At around a 17 foot tide, it is possible (but tricky) to get a boat into the main channel very near the trail. Some of these notes are drawn on a simple map here.


Currently the trailhead on the Tutka end is marked only by flagging tape, which may be knocked down by weather or animals. However, it's not that hard to find. Looking up the bay, it's about 150 feet to the right of where the river leaves the trees and runs next to grass. There's a clump of trees on a rock outcrop sticking out of the grass nearby.

The Trailhead on the Taylor Bay end is on the right edge of a small stream that is usually just a dry wash. As of late 2017 there was a large cairn on the beach about 25 feet from where the trail went into the forest at the edge of this stream.


Once you're on the trail, it is pretty straightforward to follow. A little over a mile in there is a stream crossing, but some people have been corssing on a fallen log next to the ford. Four miles up there is a ford over the main river which can be difficult at high water, but there is a steep trail along the river that makes the crossing unnecessary. In places the trail follows steep, narrow bear trails. If you go beyond the upper end of the built trail from Tutka about 5.4 miles in, you will need to navigate without a trail through the pass. The navigation is not very hard - you need to go through the left pass of the two that are visible from near the end of the trail, then drop down the other side. At a constriction in the valley on the far side a few miles from the pass, carins on the right (southwest) side of the river will mark the start of developed trail that goes another 8.7 miles to Taylor Bay. This part of the trail has 5300 feet of elevation change going up and down complex cliffy slopes. All of it is marked, and much of the steep traverses have tread, but some places require climbing sloping rock or traversing on slippery grass. Most of the time (but not late summer 2017) there will probably be patches of snow on the route, and we recommend an ice axe.

Lunch Mountain

About halfway along the new trail, Lunch Mountain provides views of where you've come from, and also looking back into the mountains. GET PHOTO

About halfway along the new trail, Lunch Mountain provides views of where you've come from, and also looking back into the mountains.


Bringing a packraft can simplify the approach to the beach. Also, there are several sections of river that can be packrafted:

The last mile of the Tutka River is packraftable - you can float from a nice gravel bar to the mouth of the river. However the river is more challenging (class II) than it appears in the places where you see it from the trail - there are fast sections and many sweepers, use caution!

Packrafting is also an option in the tundra valley, where there's about 1.2 miles of class II water and possibly other runable sections.

The Taylor River is floatable for 1.1 miles down from the trail crossing toward Taylor Bay. The river then descends into a bouldery canyon that is probably unrunnable, but a steep bear trail provides a portage to below the rapid on river right. From there it's a short float to the bay with one class II rapid. For a packrafter, this is a significant shortcut to the ocean, cutting off an entire climb and descent. Note the Taylor River can experience extreme flooding that completely changes the river - nobody has tried floating it in conditions other than very low water.

Transport to and from the trail

Currently, to get to the trail you will have to either take a boat or a plane. You can take your own boat or a water taxi to the head of Tutka Bay, or take a boat or float plane to Taylor Bay.

With some bushwhacking and off-trail navigating, it is also possible to enter or exit the trail system in other ways. You can walk from near Jakalof Bay to Tutka Lagoon, then up the Tutka Lakes Trail and beyond until you reach the mountains above the Tutka Backdoor Trail. On the south side of the peninsula, boat or plane pick-up is possible in other bays, though Taylor Bay is one of the most protected. Note that float plane landings are not permitted at Gore Lake.

Tutka Lake Trail Extension

In October 2016, we cleared and marked an extension to the Tutka Lakes trail, covering about half the distance and 2/3 of the work needed to extend that trail to alpine tundra. When complete (summer 2018) this will provide an alternative route to reach the passes above Tutka and ultimately the trail to the Gulf of Alaska coast. Right now, the route is well worth following - providing new views, off-trail hiking opportunities, and beautiful meadowlands.

Helping out

The trail could use your help! If you want to join a work-party, email us at Here are some things you can do any time:

Maps and GIS data:

Trace of the trail as built in 2017, with plans for 2018 and beyond to open in Google Earth or a map just of the trails built as-of 2017 to upload to your GPS. If you want to print a map, perhaps this one or one of these (300 dpi jpgs) of the trail as-of 2017 from Tutka Bay to Taylor Bay would work. There's also one of the 2017 work, and some additional maps that may be useful to hikers.

Tutka Backdoor trail

What we've built, and planned improvements for 2018. GET PHOTO

What we've built, and planned improvements for 2018.