Best Sights And RV Campgrounds In Chugach State Park, Alaska

One of the most accessible natural areas in Alaska is Chugach State Park.  This vast park allows visitors to explore the Chugach Mountain Range just minutes from the population centers of downtown Anchorage, Palmer, or Girdwood.

Chugach State Park offers access to all levels of adventure including hiking, biking, fishing, camping, glaciers, gold panning, berry picking, horseback riding, snow machining, and countless scenic areas.

Chugach State Park
The USS Anchorage departing its namesake port of Anchorage, Alaska, framed by the city’s downtown and the Chugach Mountain Range. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

Chugach State Park—the third largest State Park in the US—encompasses 495,000 acres with environments ranging from the coast of Turnagain Arm to the alpine tundra on the high peaks overlooking Anchorage and the Cook Inlet.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Chugach Mountains is that they are over 8,000 feet in elevation from sea level at the Cook Inlet.  Bashful Peak is the tallest mountain in the park at 8,005 feet.

Chugach State Park
Bird Ridge Overlook. Chugach State Park. Photo by Paxson Woelber

Chugach State Park can be broken down into roughly 4 regions to explore.

The Turnagain Arm area is accessed by the scenic Seward Highway along the southern edge of the Park.  The park is bounded roughly by Girdwood to the east and Anchorage to the west.

Access to Crow Pass (the historic trail across the Chugach Mountains to Eagle River), Bird Valley, Indian Valley, Falls Creek, and McHugh Creek trailheads are along this stretch of the Seward Highway.

Beluga Point is a popular viewpoint along the Seward Highway.  Another good vantage is Bird Point, where you can watch the bore tide come in.  The bore tide is created because the tide (the second highest tide in North America) comes in so fast in this location that it produces a linear wave across the Turnagain Arm.

Bore tides happen every day on the Turnagain Arm, most producing modest waves.  Sometimes extreme sport surfers and kayakers ride the icy waters of the bore tide wave.  You may also see beluga whales after the water gets deeper or harbor seals that sometimes ride the tide in.

Note: NEVER walk out onto the mud flats.  People have died after becoming stuck in the thick mud and silt and subsequently drowning in the tide!

Chugach State Park
Gentoo Peak overlooking the Turnagain Arm (Photo by Paxon Woelber/Wikipedia)

The Hillside area has an extensive trail system and can be accessed by the Flattop Mountain Shuttle that provides round-trip transportation between downtown Anchorage and the Glen Alps Trailhead.

Flattop Mountain is one of the more popular peaks for hiking in the state, giving views of the Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range in the distance.

The Eagle River access point gives access to the central portion of the park.  Crow Pass connects over to Girdwood, a 28-mile hike with outstanding views of wildlife, several glaciers, and alpine peaks.

The Eagle River Nature Center hosts educational programs and outdoor excursions.  Mountain goats and Dall sheep are often seen in this area, as well as moose, black bear, grizzly bear, and numerous birds.

The Arctic Valley area offers extensive trails with light traffic.  Views of Rendezvous Peak, Mount Gordon Lyon, Eagle River, the Cook Inlet, and even Denali on clear days as well as the multitude of wildflowers make for excellent photography.

Chugach State Park
Autumn colors in the Eagle River area of Chugach State Park (Photo by Diego Delso/Wikipedia)

Eklutna Lake and vicinity are access points for the northern part of Chugach State Park.  Access up the Lakeside Trail to Eklutna Lake and the Eklutna Glacier can be by foot, bike, ATV, horseback, or snowshoes, skis, or dogsled in the winter.

An estimated 80% of Anchorage’s drinking water comes from the Eklutna Glacier, and the recession of the glacier during the past decades is a source of concern for city planners and scientists.

Small craft boats (non-motorized) are allowed on the lake and bush planes can land at the southern side of the lake on an unpaved airstrip.  Thunderbird Falls is a highlight of the area with a short walk through birch and cottonwood trees before finding a 200-foot waterfall.

Chugach State Park
Eklutna Lake and Bold Peak (Photo by Spireguy/Wikipedia)

The State of Alaska operates three RV campgrounds that give access to Chugach State Park.  Campgrounds are in wooded areas with fire rings, picnic tables, water and latrine services.

Eklutna Lake Campground does not take reservations and has 50 sites.  The Eagle River Campground has 57 sites and a dump station. Bird Creek Campground on Turnagain Arm is also first-come, first-served and has 24 sites and a paved parking lot for overflow camping.

See also: What You Need To Know About RVing In Alaska



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The Best Places To RV Camp And Visit In Juneau, Alaska

Though you can’t drive all the way to Juneau, Alaska from the lower 48 without taking a ferry somewhere along the way, once you’ve arrived in the remote Alaska state capital, there’s plenty to see and do.

Alaska
Mount Roberts Tramway

RVers will appreciate the incredible natural beauty of Mendenhall Campground. Set on the shores of Mendenhall Lake, this U.S. Forest Service campground presents Mendenhall Glacier in full view.

The glacier sits within the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest national forest in the United States, and visitors can watch icebergs calve off its frozen face into Mendenhall Lake. Mendenhall Glacier is just one of 38 major glaciers that extend from the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield. Many visitors to the area enjoy flightseeing tours where helicopter tours land on the glaciers, offer glacier treks and even glacier dog sled rides.

Mendenhall Campground offers 69 sites, most with full hookups including 30/50 amp electrical, sewer, water, showers, a dump station, interpretive trails, and paved roads.

Golf is another activity you don’t normally expect to see in Alaska, but there are several courses around the state. Mendenhall Golf Course in Juneau offers a par 27, nine-hole course that measures 1,400 yards. It’s a great little course, especially if you need to improve your short game.

Speaking of short game, golfing in Alaska has a short season, usually May through September, weather permitting, of course.

Juneau
View from the Mendenhall Golf Course driving range

Another popular attraction in Juneau is the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway. Beginning at the cruise ship dock, cars travel 1,800 feet up to the Mountain House which offers spectacular views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel.

Just walking through the picturesque downtown area of Juneau is a great way to get acquainted with this compact city. Many of the main attractions can be found in this area including the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, several museums, the state capitol building, and century-old buildings that today are gift shops, restaurants, pubs, and other specialty stores.

For more information about the Juneau area, visit the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau. You can also read more about Mendenhall Campground on RV Park Reviews.

See also: What You Need To Know About RVing In Alaska



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