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Alaska Canoe & Campground. Whether you're looking for a canoe, kayak, raft, or drift boat—or tackle or camping gear—this company comes highly recommended by locals and travelers alike. They'll properly outfit you and send you on your Refuge adventure, on your own or with a guide. 25292 Sterling Hwy., Sterling, AK, 99672. 907/262–2331. www.alaskacanoetrips.com. Call for prices.
The best way to experience the refuge's backcountry is by canoe. The Swan Lake Canoe System and the Swanson River Canoe System are accessed from the road system at the turnoff at Mile 83.4 of the Sterling Highway. Several loop trips enable visitors to fish, hike, and camp away from the road system and motorized boat traffic. Fishing for trout, salmon, and Dolly Varden is excellent, and the series of lakes and portages offer access to more than 100 miles of waterways. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center has a list of canoeing outfitters.
Hiking trails branch off from the Sterling Highway and the Skilak Lake Loop. Degree of difficulty ranges from easy half-mile walks to strenuous climbs to mountain lakes. Bring topographic maps, water, food, insect repellent, and bear awareness. You won't find toilets, water fountains, or signposts. Remember: brown and black bears are numerous on the Kenai Peninsula.