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.

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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!

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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.

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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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RV Campgrounds In Denali State Park: K’esugi Ken Campground

Alaska’s newest state campground, K’esugi Ken Campground, opened in 2017 in Denali State Park, operated by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Denali State Park borders the much larger Denali National Park on the west side, about 2.75 hours drive north of Anchorage.  The campground offers astounding views of the Alaska Range and Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) to the west and the Talkeetna Mountains to the east.

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A hiker takes in the views of Denali on the K’esugi Ridge in Denali State Park (Photo by Paxon Woelber//wikipedia)

K’esugi Ken is an Athabascan place name, translating to mean “base of the ancient one”.  This refers to the southern lobe of K’esugi Ridge that lies between the Susitna and Chulitna Rivers.  This ridge has been carved by glaciers and rivers over time.

In clear weather from this location, stunning vistas of the Alaska Range and Denali can be seen.  Denali’s summit is at 20,310 feet and is the highest mountain in North America.  It stands over 3.5 vertical miles above its base—taller from base to summit than Mt. Everest (29,028 ft elevation).

Denali is tall enough to create its own weather.  Wind speeds over 150 miles per hour and temperatures of -93F have been recorded on the north face of Denali.

The K’esugi Ken Campground has 32 RV sites that can accommodate up to 100-foot long RVs with electric hookups, non-potable water pumps, fire pits, picnic tables, and bear-proof food lockers.

There are tent sites available on a separate loop, but no dump station.  Users will find the campground well-designed.  Three public-use cabins are available as well, including the Denali Cabin that is built to ADA standards for accessibility.

An interpretive pavilion showcases some of the area’s interests with interpretive displays.  This area is also available to rent for group events.  Future plans include the construction of a new visitor center.

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The Alaska Range (Photo via Wikipedia)

The K’esugi Ken Campground offers impressive trails that offer some of the best views of the Alaska Range in the state.  The Moose Flats Interpretive Trail is ADA compliant and covers about a half mile around two ponds.

The Curry Ridge Trail is more challenging with several switchbacks that climb 1100 vertical feet over 3.5 miles (one way) to a beautiful alpine lake at 1787 feet elevation.

Timberline is around 1500 feet, allowing hikers to explore the boreal forest before emerging from the woods into sub-alpine and tundra terrain.  Future trails are planned to extend the trail past the lake, deeper into the State Park.

The Denali State Park is often less crowded than its National Park neighbor and offers many of the same wilderness experiences.  The State Park encompasses 325,240 acres and a host of recreational opportunities from wilderness exploration to fishing, small craft boating, and wildlife viewing.

Wildlife includes moose, bear, wolverine, wolf and many birds and fish.  Most of the park is undeveloped wilderness.  The Curry and the K’esugi Ridges form the backbone of the park.

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The Alaskan Veterans Memorial in Denali State Park commemorates Alaska’s military veterans. (Photo by Beeblebrox//wikipedia)

Within Denali State Park is the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial, constructed in 1983.  The Memorial is an outdoor facility that honors Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and Alaska National Guard veterans from Alaska as well as Alaskans who were awarded the Medal of Honor.  The visitor center at the Memorial is open daily during the summer.

Byers Lake Campground, Denali View North Campground, and the Lower Troublesome Creek campground also provide camping experiences in the State Park.  You can find out more here.

You can explore Denali State Park and other Alaska State Parks with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources State Park and Trail Map Viewer here.

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



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How to Get Free National and State Park Entry Passes

All parks budgets are squeezed to the max, but free national and state park entry passes are still a relatively easy thing to get. You’ll need to plan your RV trip carefully to do it, but the effort is worthwhile when you save the cash.

3 Tips for Free National And State Park Visits

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Image: National Park Service.

Before getting started in your search for a free national and state park visit, remember a couple of things. First, you’ll save money with a free entrance pass, but in most cases the savings only apply to the actual park entry fee. Camping and other recreational fees like fishing usually apply once you’re inside the park. Second, those free park days tend to be quite busy, so don’t expect a ton of solitude once you arrive. Aside from those two limitations (and maybe others depending on the specific pass and location), scoring a free visit is pretty easy. Here’s how.

Go RVing on Free National Park Days

Unless you or a close family member qualifies for the free national parks pass for military members, or you have a child who qualifies for the free annual pass for fourth grade students, national park visits are more expensive all the time. The best way to get around the increases is by planning your adventure around any of the National Parks System’s free days that take place every year.

Drive into a national park on one of five annual free entry days and you’ll get a free ride for as long as the usual entry fee is good for (often up to seven days), as long as you never leave the gates. Keep these U.S. National Park Free Days in mind when planning your next adventure:

 January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
April 20 – First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
August 25 – National Park Service Anniversary
September 28 – National Public Lands Day
November 11 – Veterans Day

Look for Free Days at Your Nearest State Park

Just do an internet search for “(your state) state park free days in (year)” and you might find a list of free park entrance days somewhere you want to camp.

For instance, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is legally required to give residents 12 free Washington state park free entry days per year.

Oftentimes, free days coincide with some sort of state celebration. Places like Vermont and Colorado offer free admission on or around their statehood day celebrations. Other states like South Dakota have an Open House weekend with free admission to state parks. And Nevada offers free state park entry on Nevada Public Lands Days. Thankfully many of these celebrations are during the summer camping season!

Last but not least, most states offer free park entry all year round for military members.

Volunteer at National and State Parks

free national and state park entry
Image: NPS.gov

Perhaps the best way to get free national and state park entrance is to help the park systems with your time and labor. Many states like Georgia offer free days for volunteers on certain days of the year. And the National Park Service gives a free entry pass to volunteers who log 250 or more hours of work with the parks.

Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in states like Connecticut and New Hampshire, which offer free state park entry to residents with valid car license plates. That’s when an internet search engine can be your best friend to help you find free park entry fees that work with your travel schedule. Good luck and happy camping!



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4 State Parks In Georgia Off Interstate 75 With RV Campgrounds

Outside of Georgia’s city centers of Atlanta, Athens, and Macon—and beyond the busier, trendy tourist areas, the Peach State encompasses more than 45 State Parks (with six offering RV campgrounds).

All of the parks are ideal for RVers to take a welcome rest from the road. Many of the State Parks are also easily accessible off I-75, further combining convenience with practicality.

State Parks
Paddling in Reed Bingham State Park.

While you can stay and explore on Georgia’s Jekyll Island, or visit historic Savannah, there are many other regions of the state that offer relaxing breaks from the road.

“Georgia has a vast State Parks system with campgrounds that are well-furnished,” Kim Hatcher, Public Affairs Coordinator for Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division, told RV Life. “We have modern campsites and many parks are easily accessible, even for larger rigs.”

“There’s a wide range of activities,” adds Hatcher. “Many parks offer kayak, bike, paddleboard, and boat rentals as we are very focused on outdoor recreation. The parks have also recently hired many rangers to provide various educational experiences, including archery, astronomy courses, and many kids programs.”

Outdoor activities abound and many campgrounds are full-service with a range of available services. There are several attractions RVers can experience along U.S. I-75, but when visiting Georgia, you just may want to plan a visit to these areas on your next RV trip in the south.

1. Red Top Mountain State Park

Known for its 12,000-acre lake, Red Top Mountain State Park has more than 15 miles of trails.

Georgia State Parks
Red Top Mountain State Park. Photo by TranceMist/Flickr

In fact, a popular hike is the Homestead Trail. It’s a five-plus mile hike and meanders through hardwood, pine forests with historic homesteads along the way.

Also, the fishing for bass, catfish or crappie is great. So, if you have a boat or an inflatable bring it along. The 111-site campground offers big rig access with pull through sites, 30/50 amp, plus a boat ramp and a marina that are nearby.

Additionally, the park is just 16 minutes from the nearest community of Acworth, in Cobb County. Exit 285 at Acworth

2. High Falls State Park

High Falls State Park is known for its cascading waterfalls on the Towaliga River. It’s even considered one of the “Top 100 Family Fishing Destinations” for its active species of hybrid and white bass.

Georgia State Parks
High Falls State Park. Photo by Yinan Chen/Wikipedia

Additionally, the full service campground in the park offers big rig access, pull-through sites, and a dump station. Activities around the campground include pool access, mini-golf, a playground, hiking trails, and more.

Just 36 miles northwest of Macon, the park’s campground also features lakeside yurts (that are similar to canvas and wood tents). Each features a small deck, a picnic table plus a grill, furniture, and electrical outlets. Exit 198 at Jackson

3. Georgia Veterans State Park

In honor of Georgia’s veterans, this is one of the State Parks that highlights a golf course, plus a military museum that reflects the conflicts from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War.

Georgia Veterans State Park. Photo by Courtney McGough/Flickr

What’s more, it’s on Lake Blackshear where boating and fishing are popular pastimes. Hiking trails and the on-site golf club (featuring 18-holes) are also popular.

The club has 78 lodge rooms, 10 cottages, and 2 restaurants. At the campground are 77 full-service sites with pull-through and big rig access.

Many other amenities include beach access, a boat ramp, playground, a pet area, and workout facilities. Exit 101 at Cordele

4. Reed Bingham State Park

Located at the south end of Georgia, Reed Bingham State Park also offers excellent fishing. In addition, there is great kayaking and canoeing (that are available for rent).

Reed Bingham State Park. Photo by Michael Riveria/Wikipedia

Further, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the park’s Coastal Plain Nature Trail. This features one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country.

Additionally, swimming, mini-golf, geocaching, and birding are other activities. The 46-site pet-friendly campground offers pull-through sites with big rig access, plus a boat ramp. Exit 39 at Adel



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RV Camping At Makoshika State Park

If your travels take you through Glendive, Montana in the eastern part of the state, take some time to explore this geographically diverse area of the country.

Located about 40 minutes from the North Dakota border off of Interstate 94, Glendive will appeal to hikers, photographers, history buffs, and golfers, too.

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Makoshika State Park

You’ll have to endure a few days of dry camping if you stay at Makoshika State Park, but it is well worth the minor inconvenience. There are 15 sites available at Makoshika, which is the largest of Montana’s 55 state parks.

Featuring incredible badlands formations and the fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, history and paleontology buffs can spend weeks exploring this picturesque area. You can find the visitor’s center at the entrance to the park; kids will enjoy the interpretive exhibits. Before venturing out into the park, this is a great place to get some background details and history about the park.

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Cottonwood Country Club, Glendive, MT

If after visiting Makoshika State Park and you still haven’t had enough dinosaurs, head to the Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum. Featuring 24 full-size dinosaurs and numerous singular fossils, Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum is impressive in its authenticity.

The Frontier Gateway Museum in Glendive also gives a great overview of life as it was and is. The museum covers prehistoric times right on through to the 21st century. Major displays in the main building include fossils, Native American artifacts, homesteaders, cattlemen, settlers, and the railroad.

Opened in 1962, the 9-hole, par 36 Cottonwood Country Club in Glendive measures 3,163 yards from the tips. Available to members and the general public, Cottonwood is always in immaculate shape and features mature cottonwood trees, challenging elevation changes, and undulating greens.

In addition to the golf course, facilities include a driving range, practice green, pro shop, patio for dining and viewing the course, and a fully-stocked lounge.

For more information on the area, check out VisitGlendive.com. You can also read more about Makoshika State Park on RV Park Reviews.

See also: Exploring The Other Montana



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Best State Park On The Washington Coast For RV Camping

Washington State doesn’t have as many state parks on the coast as Oregon and California, but we recently found one in a scenic, remote spot. Grayland Beach State Park is located off Highway 105 along the Pacific Coast and is only a ten-minute drive from Westport and a half-hour from Aberdeen.

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A coastal state park with full hookups and smooth paved roads. All photos by Nikki Cleveland (author)

Grayland Beach SP has a wide open sandy beach that you can drive on and a wooded campground that is very RV-friendly.  The roads and sites are smoothly paved and large enough for rigs up to 60 feet long.

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Some sites have full hookups, some sites are without sewer. (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

The campground has 55 full hookup sites and 38 sites with partial hookups, including pull-thrus and back-ins, along several loops.  They also have 16 yurt rentals, four primitive sites in the woods, four restrooms, and eight coin-operated showers.

There is also a trailer dump station near the campground exit and a camp store in the main office that sells firewood, propane, ice, beverages, and snacks like ice cream.

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Yurts also available (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

Five trailheads around the campground will take you out to the beach.  The wide open beach has wind-sculpted dunes and soft sand that you can dig your toes into.

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Take the trail to the beach (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

Head out past the dunes to the shore and watch the seagulls flying overhead and the sun setting over the horizon.  During the day this beach is ideal for flying kites, walking your dog, or building sandcastles.

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Watch the sunset over the ocean (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

The state park is open year-round, but the beach can get rainy and cold by winter. You can learn more about the current Washington State Park camping fees here.

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Van life (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

The state park is a great home base while you visit all of the attractions nearby in Westport.  During the day, drive north to see Twin Harbors State Park and Westport Light State Park.

You can learn more about camping at Grayland Beach on RV Park Reviews.



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Wheelchair Friendly State Park In Colorado: New Track Chair Program

For those who have mobility issues, taking a hike down a wooded trail may sound like a distant dream. In Colorado’s Staunton State Park, a newly launched Track Chair Program now allows trail access to those who cannot explore under their own power.

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Track chairs can take you off the beaten path (Photo by TC Wait)

Staunton State Park is Colorado’s newest State Park (opening in May 2013) encompassing over 3,800 acres of dramatic mountains, historic cabins, mountain meadows filled with wildflowers, and breath-taking waterfalls.

It lies about 40 miles southwest of Denver in the Elk Creek Valley between 8,000 and 10,000 feet elevation. Staunton boasts an extensive trail system for riding horses, hiking, or biking, areas designated for rock climbing, and ponds for fishing.

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Enjoy scenic natural views at Staunton State Park (Photo by TC Wait)

The Staunton family, who donated the initial 1,700-acre parcel of land to become a State Park, have a healing history in the local community dating back to the 1900s. Dr. Rachael Staunton treated everyone from local ranchers to those with tuberculosis and shared healing strategies with Ute tribe members who taught her about using local herbal remedies.

From this history, Staunton State Park now offers the use of donated Track Chairs so that everyone can experience the healing magic of the trails and woods of the area.

In 2017, Staunton State Park initiated its Track Chair Program. Over 150 people participated in the program in its first season. The program relies on donated Track Chairs and volunteers. People can sign up on a first-come basis to use a chair (free of charge) to explore the park in one of the three chairs. The chair units were made available through donations to the Mark Madsen Accessibility Fund, managed by the Friends of Staunton non-profit organization.

The chairs are easy to maneuver and also have controls that the volunteer can use in the event you are not able to on your own or grow tired during your trip. The program volunteer will provide you with instructions on how to operate the chair and travel with you to ensure you have a successful adventure.

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Use one of these Track Chairs free of charge at Staunton State Park (Photo by TC Wait)

Mike, one of the program volunteers, is a former LA firefighter whose wife has Multiple Sclerosis. He is enthusiastic about the success of the program and the freedom it allows people to explore or just BE in a natural area.

He says that some of the people he has accompanied in the Track Chair want to go over every rock and bump in the trail, while others want to enjoy getting out to sit in a quiet place and listen to the birds sing.

He has taken people of all ages and abilities out and each person has their own unique and beautiful experience. He says one person got caught in a brief Rocky Mountain rainstorm and laughed about getting soaked while out on a “hike.”

To reserve a Track Chair, you visit the Staunton Track Chair page. You will need to answer the questionnaire to ensure your needs can adequately be met. You will also need to have a caregiver to accompany you on your hike, in addition to the Track Chair program volunteer. A $7.00/car park entry fee is charged to all visitors.

Be sure that you bring with you what you may need to be comfortable during your hike. Water, sun protection, medical supplies, layers for inclement weather, and of course a camera are recommended.

See also: Resources For RVers With Mobility Challenges



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RVing And Camping Near Iron Goat Trail In Washington State

Railroads conquered the mountain passes of the west long before highways were constructed. Much engineering was required to construct a rail grade gentle and straight enough to accommodate the locomotives along with the freight and passenger cars they carried.

The railroad over Washington State’s Steven Pass was no exception, requiring extensive tunnels, fills and soaring trestles. The initial line which was opened in 1893, went over the summit of Stevens Pass via a series of switchbacks. To improve the line, the digging of a 2.6-mile long tunnel to eliminate the switchbacks was commenced in August 1897 and completed on December 20th, 1900. While the tunnel improved travel times across the pass, snow slides plagued the line eventually resulting in one of the worst train disasters in history.

Early on the morning of March 1st, two trains, which had become trapped on the pass by snow slides, where caught in a massive avalanche which swept both trains off the tracks into the canyon below killing most of the people on both trains. The final fatality count was 96, which included passengers and railroad employees that had come to help clear the tracks.

Disaster interpretive panel. Photos by Dave Helgeson

To prevent a repeat of this tragic event, extensive snow sheds were built over the rail line while a longer tunnel that would be built at a lower elevation to avoid avalanche prone areas was planned. The new tunnel with an impressive length of 7.8 miles was opened in 1929.

Today the abandoned portion of the old rail line, including the area where the disaster occurred, has been turned into an interpretive trail known as the Iron Goat Trail. The trail offers miles of hiking opportunities from three trailheads including a section suitable for those using a wheelchair. Interpretive panels along the way tell the story of construction challenges and the disaster.

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Section of trail

When you go:

As mentioned, there are three areas to access the trail.

Scenic Trailhead just off Highway 2: Easy RV access at N47° 42.680 W121° 09.790

Martin Creek Trailhead: Several miles on a gravel road to reach, use your tow vehicle or dinghy. N47° 43.764  W121° 12.409

Wellington Trailhead: Rough asphalt to get there. N47° 44.834 W121° 07.655

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Trail through old snowshed

A great option for enjoying the whole trail is dropping your RV at the Scenic Trailhead and taking your tow vehicle or dinghy to the Wellington Trailhead and starting your hike there, which results in a one way downhill hike.

Iron Goat
One of several tunnels

Stevens Pass Ski area offers overnight electric sites for $25 per night. There is also a large place to disperse camp just off Highway 2 on Forest Service Road 6095 between the Scenic and Wellington Trailheads at N47° 43.196  W121° 07.270

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Boondocking

Note that the turnoff for this spot is only accessible via eastbound Highway 2. There are also additional places to disperse camp farther up Forest Service Road 6095 but are best scouted out in advance before driving to them with your RV.

Hiking historic rail lines and remembering those that perished on them years ago, a solemn adventure in RVing!

See also: This Trail Leads To An Old Washington Railroad Tunnel



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