The Willow Trail Committee (WTC) West Gateway Trails

Are you ready to try possibly the best South-Central Alaska groomed trail system?  Then head to Willow.  The Willow Trail Committee (WTC) grooms an extensive system of multi-use trails.  The West Gateway Trails are to the west of the Parks Highway and border the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area.  They call these "gateway" trails because they give one access to many of the 2000 plus miles of winter trails that are in the Mat-Su Borough, and the Susitna River trails in particular.  To the east of the Parks Highway are more trails that the WTC marks.

This is the Willow Trail Map.  It can be obtained for free at many places around Willow.

On the back of the Willow Trail Map is a blow-up of the area near Willow.  Free parking is available at the Willow Community Center and at Crystal Lake.

Here is a fun 28 mile loop that I did recently starting and ending at Crystal Lake.

This panoramic shot is in the Willow Swamp.  If you click on the picture you will see how nice the trail is.  They groom here once a week.

The WTC trails are really well marked.

And there are quite a few information kiosks with maps.

Over by Rolly Creek the trail was awesome as it wound through groves of spruce.

Willow Trail Committee trail marker with Mt. Susitna in the distance.

Out on a completely flat and wide open section of trail there was indication that a snowmobiler crashed and burned.  At least it was only a hit to the head, hopefully the snowmachine wasn't damaged.

Dorky looking?  You bet.  But even dorkier is not having a nose when you are 85 because you sun-fried it too many times when you were a young and dumb.  Here I am, completely by accident, wearing a red shirt on Red Shirt Lake.

WTC - Willow Trail Committee.  They've got it going on with trails in the Valley.

Help out the WTC with a donation.  I skied 30 miles, donated 15 dollars - 50 cents a mile.  It was worth it.

Or ... get yourself a snowmobile and register it.




Snowmobile Relay Skiing on the  Lower Susitna Drainage Association (LSDA) Trails

If you want a unique way to team up with a spouse or friend and ski way off the road system for a day - give snowmobile relay skiing, or snomo-skiing, a try.  By taking turns skiing and riding you can ski out 50, 70 or more miles and see a lot of new sights.  When you are ready to return - change from ski clothes to Carhart overalls and sno-go helmets and blast back before it gets dark.  I've done snowmo-skiing by mileage - where a person drives the snowmobile for 2 miles then gets off and starts skiing as the other person skis to the snowmobile and then drives it the next 2 miles.  And I've done it by time, such as person A skiing for an hour, then driving for 20 minutes as person B drives, etc.  Either way - it is fun to ski way out into the boonies and not have to carry a pack or pull a sled.  And you get more respect from snowmobilers when they realize that you are one of them.  Well kinda, sorta one of 'em.  Bring lunch money so you can fill up on fine Su-Valley burgers at places like Luce's Lodge or Yentna Station.

Full tank, gear tied on, clear skies and great trails ... let's snowmo-ski !!

Cruising down the Susitna River from Deshka Landing, heading for the Yentna River.

"But snowmobile trails are narrow, bumpy and noisy!"  Time to wake up, snowmobiling in Alaska has changed.  This trail is groomed flat and 50 yards wide.  Go during a weekday for lots of quiet.

What's your deal dude, are you a skier or a snowmobiler?  I'm a skier.  But in about two minutes I will likely be a psycho motorhead punching full throttle as I scream past scared little forest fairies!

Beautiful snowmo-skiers wear Carhart overalls.

Steve Charles and his pals head back to Willow after a multi-day mushing and camping trip.

Trail markers are good if you need an artsy photo fix.

Yentna River looking south to Mt. Susitna.

Just before I took this picture 3 snowmobilers went by.  One guy did a quick stop, pulled out his camera and started taking pictures of my wife.  Oh well, that stuff happens when you are married to a super-model.

Remember: Always wear red when skiing in the Valley. OK, forget what I just said.  DON'T wear red when skiing in the Valley !! But ... if you have roots in the Valley, PROUDLY wear red !!!!



Back to 2006 Skiing Photos Photos and web page by Tim Kelley