Located in southwestern Alaska, Lake Clark National Park is a place of beauty. With breathtaking scenery, thrilling wildlife, and cultural significance, it offers a wilderness experience like none other.
If you’re looking to learn more about camping in Lake Clark National Park, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for an overview of what to expect, where to camp, things to do, and other useful tips.
What to Expect at Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park offers a true Alaskan wilderness experience. Situated among lakes, snowy mountains, and steaming volcanoes, the park invites visitors with a stunning natural landscape.
Of course, wildlife abounds, and enjoy the landscape, too. Brown bears, black bears, moose, caribou, salmon, and trout are just a few of the animals that consider the park home.
Calling the park remote is an understatement. Lake Clark National Park does not have any roads, so it can only be accessed by boat or plane. It has very few hiking trails, meaning that hikers and backpackers will have to find their own paths. There is no Wi-Fi and extremely limited cell phone service.
The park also preserves the homeland of the indigenous Dena’ina people. Before Lake Clark was part of the national park system, it was called Qizhjeh Vena, which means “a place where people gather lake.” The area holds cultural significance to the Dena’ina people to this day.
Lake Clark National Park Camping
One of the best ways to explore Lake Clark National Park is to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness and camp overnight. However, camping at the park may be different from camping you’ve done before.
Keep reading for an overview of camping options at Lake Clark National Park.
Lake Clark National Park is unique in that visitors can camp almost anywhere they like. The majority of the park is trailless, so you’ll rely on your own hiking and wilderness skills as you explore.
This means if you plan to camp in Lake Clark National Park, you’ll need to do plenty of research and preparation. For example, you’ll need to plan to bring your own food and gear. Additionally, the Alaskan terrain can be quite challenging, so you should plan to be flexible with your timing. Difficult routes, weather, and unexpected landscapes may slow you down, so it’s best to expect the unexpected.
If that sounds intimidating, you can always hire a guide to help you navigate and backpack through the park.
If you want a more organized campsite, there are a few options:
- Port Alsworth – This part of the park has a campground that is owned and operated by a private, third-party company, Tulchina Adventures. Tulchina Adventures’ campground is more of a “glamping” experience, offering visitors 10-by-12-foot huts immersed in the wooded forest.
- Hope Creek Primitive Camping Area – This campground doesn’t offer much, but it does have the basics! The spot is first-come-first-served, and it’s great for tent camping. Bear-proof boxes are available at the campground, and visitors can drink water from the creek (though you should treat it, first).
If camping and backpacking aren’t your things, there are other options, too. Several companies operate lodges, bed and breakfasts, and cabins within the National Park.
Port Alsworth offers the most options, though there are various lodging options throughout the park, including on different creeks, lakes, and bays.
Because all of these destinations are offered by third-party companies, pricing, and availability may vary.
Things to Do at Lake Clark National Park
Now that you’ve got the basic logistics covered, it’s time for the fun part! With so much to do and see at Lake Clark National Park, you really can’t go wrong. But below are a few highlights and recommendations for what to do at the park.
5 Best Hiking Routes
As mentioned above, the majority of Lake Clark National Park doesn’t have any trails. This means that hikers and backpackers are free to roam and find their own paths.
If you’re looking for a little more direction, hiking the park’s beaches, lake shores, and tundra are good places to start. Here are a few common (but still off-trail) routes:
1. Low Pass Route
The Low Pass Route is located in the high country above Upper Twin Lake. Hikers start at the brush-filled lake shore and climb into the mountains, getting breathtaking views along the way. This hike can take anywhere from one to three days to complete.
2. Upper to Lower Twin Lakes Route
Hike from the Proenneke Cabin at Upper Twin Lake to the Lower Twin’s outlet at the Chilikadrotna River, or vice versa. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning scenery, and possibly some bears or sheep, too. This ten-mile route can take up to two days to hike.
3. Telaquana Route
For both scenic views and Dena’ina history, the Telequana Route has you covered. This hike starts and ends at two separate lakes, crosses a river, passes through tundra, and more. It can take up to a week to hike from start to finish.
And if you do wish to hike established trails, you can do so near Lake Clark’s headquarters at Port Alsworth. Most of the hikes along these trails take half a day to a full day. Here are a few we recommend:
4. Tanalian Falls
The Tanalian Falls hike is a four-mile, half-day hike. It crosses hills, offers views of Lake Clark, and culminates in Tanalian Falls, a 30-foot rushing waterfall that you won’t want to miss.
5. Tanalian Mountain
The eight-and-a-half mile round trip up Tanalian Mountain is challenging but worthwhile if you’re up for it. The hike passes through forest and tundra, offering spectacular panoramic views at the summit. If you’re lucky, you may encounter wild sheep, too.
Lake Clark National Park is an ecosystem full of sub-arctic wildlife. Whether you want to spot a bear or go bird-watching, there’s something for everyone. And you may be in awe of what you find.
Animals that populate the park include brown bears, black bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and Dall sheep, just to name a few. For bird watching, highlights include swans, ducks, eagles, and various types of songbirds.
May through October is the fishing season in Lake Clark National Park, and if fishing is something you enjoy, you won’t want to miss it.
Throughout the park’s lakes, rivers, and creeks, you’ll find a plethora of fish, including several species of salmon and trout. Crescent Lake, the Mulchatna River, Silver Salmon Creek, and Twin Lakes are just a few places to try.
Visiting Twin Lakes
The Twin Lakes are two stunning, turquoise-colored lakes, known as the Upper Lake and Lower Lake, nestled in the mountains. Not only is it a place of beauty, but Twin Lakes also offers visitors many things to do.
For starters, visit Proenneke’s Cabin at Upper Twin Lake, built in the 1960s by Richard Proenneke. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the cabin is most notable for its craftsmanship. In fact, Proenneke built it himself using basic tools and mostly local materials.
Twin Lakes also offers activities like kayaking, hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, and more.
What to Pack
Your packing list is an essential part of planning for a Lake Clark National Park camping trip. When determining this list, the most important factors to consider are weather, what you plan to do, and wildlife safety.
As far as the weather goes, prepare for a wide range of conditions. While at the park, you may experience sunshine, rain, snow, or heavy winds, and different seasons and geographies within the park can bring even more variation.
Coastal areas of the park are rainy, wet, and foggy, though their winters are milder. In the park’s interior, you’ll encounter less rain, but winter can bring temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Summers are much warmer, with typical temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
With all that said, be prepared. Layers, rain gear, and sturdy waterproof shoes are all must-haves.
Of course, your other gear will depend on what you plan to do during your visit. For example, if you’re camping or backpacking, bring the appropriate equipment like tents and sleeping bags. If you plan to go fishing, bring some fishing gear. Additionally, if you plan to bring electronics, bring extra batteries, as they may not last as long in the colder environment.
Lastly, because of the wildlife in the park, it’s recommended that you pack food in bear-resistant containers. However, if you don’t have your own bear-resistant container, the park can provide you with one to use during your visit, free of charge.
Wrapping Up Lake Clark National Park
As you can see, camping in Lake Clark National Park is an adventure like no other.
Fully immersed in the Alaskan wilderness, you’ll have the opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And on top of that, you’ll view stunning scenery, forge your own hiking and backpacking paths, see spectacular wildlife, and more.
Ready to plan your next camping adventure? Visit our national parks camping page for even more places to camp, including tips on where to stay and what to do.