Chugach State Park
Alaska’s second-largest chunk of state-owned land, Chugach State Park (907/345-5014, www.alaskastateparks.org) encompasses nearly half a million acres—half the size of Delaware. The park covers the entire Chugach Range from Eagle River, 25 miles north of Anchorage, to Girdwood, 35 miles south. It could take a committed hiker years to explore all its trails, ridges, peaks, and passes.
From the short but steep 1.5-mile trail up Flattop Mountain in Anchorage to the 25-mile trek from the Eagle River Nature Center over Crow Pass down to Girdwood, there are a wide range of trails to choose from, each varying in length, elevation, difficulty, access, and congestion.
Pick up hiking brochures at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Anchorage, decide on a trail, then dress for rain. The clouds often sit down on these city-surrounding mountaintops, and when it’s sunny and hot in Anchorage, it could be hailing only a few minutes away on the trails.
But don’t let that stop you. This whole park is within a few miles of where half of Alaska’s population huddles, but up in these mountains it’s easy to pretend you’re a hundred years behind the crowds, and all the hustle and bustle on the Inlet flats is far in the future.
Jenny Zimmerman’s A Naturalist’s Guide to Chugach State Park, Alaska tells the full story on the park.
Chugach State Park Camping & Cabins
Developed state park campgrounds are found at Eklutna Lake ($10) and Eagle River ($15) north of Anchorage, and at Bird Creek ($15) to the south. All three have four-day limits, outhouses, and water, and are generally open May–September. Located just off the Hiland Road exit 12 miles north of Anchorage, the often-full Eagle River Campground can be reserved (907/746-4644 or 800/952-8624, www.lifetimeadventures.net).
A wonderful cabin (www.dnr.alaska.gov/parks, $50) is available on the shore of Eklutna Lake, and three yurts and an eight-person cabin (907/694-2108, www.ernc.org, $65) are near the Eagle River Nature Center.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition