Where is Chugach State Park
One of the largest state parks in the United States, Chugach State Park resides in Southcentral Alaska. The park mostly lies in the municipality of Anchorage. However, a small portion of the park near Eklutna Lake lies in the Matanuska-Susitna area. The US State Park is home to several biological ecotones and as a result a large array of wildlife species. Residing in Southcentral Alaska, the park also features a variety of landforms. The park is surrounded by the Alaska Range, the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains, and the Prince William Sound.
How Big is Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park contains 495,000 acres of land and is the third largest state park in the United States. Only Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California and Wood-Tikchik State Park in Alaska contain more acres. The highest point in Chugach State Park is Bashful Peak, sitting at 8,005 feet. The park offers its visitors over 280 miles of hiking trails, several biking trails, waterways to kayak and canoe on, and more.
Chugach State Park Weather
The weather in Chugach State Park is highly variable. Due to the park’s enormous size, several completely different weather events could be happening in different areas of the park simultaneously. The variety of elevations present in the park also make weather hard to predict. The temperature on the peak’s and in the range can be excessively cold when the meadows and valleys feel almost warm. The park’s highest summer temperatures approach 55 degrees Fahrenheit and occur in June, July, and August. Winter falls upon the park starting in November, where temperatures frequently approach the teens. Below freezing temperatures continue in the park until late April. Springs and Falls in the park provide transition between Summer and Winter temperatures.
When did Chugach become a State Park
Chugach State Park became a part of the Alaska State Park system on August 6, 1970 when Governor Kieth Miller signed the park into law. The park was established for several reasons. The most poignant of these reasons was to provide recreational activities to Alaskan citizens, protect several geographic features, and safeguard the water supply of Anchorage.
Things to do in Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park offers its visitors a wide array of recreational opportunities. Below are some of List of Parks favorite adventures present in the park.
The Eklutna Lake area in Chugach State Park allows visitors to become acquainted with several different species of Alaskan vegetation including deep forest tree species and wildflowers. The lake also offers visitors the opportunity to kayak and canoe within the park. Several outfitters in the area offer kayak and canoe rentals.
The Lakeside Trail explores the perimeter of Eklutna Lake. This shoreside trail is 12.7 miles long and connects to the Eklutna Glacier Trail. The glacier trail continues for another mile and ends at the base of the Eklutna Glacier.
Eagle River Nature Center
The Eagle River Nature Center is a great place for visitors and families to gather and learn more about the park’s wildlife and geological features. The nature center is maintained and staffed by a non-profit organization.
Winter not only brings colder temperatures and snow to the park, but also several additional recreation opportunities. The most popular winter activity in the park is Cross-Country Skiing. The park offers opportunities for skiers to travel in the front country and backcountry areas of the park. Anyone venturing into the backcountry should be familiar with the park’s permit system and knowledgeable of wilderness survival practices.
Historic Iditarod Trail
The Iditarod Trail is one of the most popular trails in the entire state of Alaska. This trail has become famous from its series of long distance dog sled races. Visitors to the park can experience the trail for themselves by visiting the Eagle River Nature Center.
Hillside Trail System
The most hiked peak in all of Alaska is Flattop Mountain, which the Hillside Trail system provides primary access to. The trail system is close in proximity to downtown Anchorage, and Hillside features several wheelchair accessible viewing platforms that provide views of the Alaska Range and Cook Inlet.
Potter Section House
Located along the scenic Seward Highway, the Potter Section House is a State Historic Site and home to Chugach State Park headquarters. The site, which now provides visitors with important and educational information about the park, once was a worker camp for the Alaska Railroad.
Along the Seward Highway, there are also several other popular viewing areas. One of the most visited is Beluga Point. The point earns its name from the pods of Beluga whales that frequent the area. Beluga Point is located at mile marker 110.5.
Camping in Chugach Park
Chugach State Park contains four campgrounds. The Eklutna Lake and Bird Creek campgrounds are the most popular. Camping in the park is on a first come first serve basis. Fees vary from campground to campground but hover around $20 per night for a campsite and $5 per day for parking.
Chugach State Park is home to a variety of Alaskan wildlife. The park provides visitors with the opportunity to spot moose, wolves, red foxes, marmots, bears, lynx, and many more mammals. The park is also home to the Alaskan state bird: the willow ptarmigan.
When to go to Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park is best visited in the Summer. The higher temperatures in the summer season allows the park to thaw and for wildlife to begin to explore. The Summer is also the most comfortable time of year for visitors. Spring and Fall are second best and allow visitors to avoid the crowds that flock to the park in the Summer. Winter is a great time to visit the park for anyone looking to cross-country ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile. However, winter snowfall closes the park’s hiking trails and many other park features.
Must-Have Things to bring to Chugach State Park
Anyone planning to visit Chugach State Park will want to pay attention to this part of the national park visitors guide bring a few supplies with them. The most important supplies are outlined below:
Just because temperatures in Chugach State Park are always somewhat cool doesn't mean water is not important. Hiking and other activities in the park can become extremely strenuous and dehydrating.
The town of Anchorage is the best place to fuel up on food and snacks before visiting Chugach State Park. Visitors planning to hike should choose to bring energy filled snacks with them like beef jerky, trail mix, and fruit.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
A sturdy pair of hiking boots is a must have for anyone looking to venture into Chugach State Park. The park’s various levels of terrain can become highly treacherous. Visitors looking for added comfortability and protection should look to invest in a lightweight and waterproof pair.
It’s no understatement that Chugach State Park can become cold very quickly. With this in mind, visitors of the park will want to bring a heavy winter jacket with them. Ideally, this jacket should provide protection from wind, rain, and freezing temperatures.
Multiple Clothing Layers
Aside from a winter jacket, visitors of Chugach State Park should also wear a variety of other layers. These layers of clothing are the best way to protect against freezing temperatures and sudden precipitation. A series of layers is also the best way for visitors to adjust their temperature levels at will.
Visitors to Chugach State Park, especially ones looking to spot several of the park’s various wildlife species, will want to bring along binoculars. A lightweight and powerful pair of binoculars is the perfect addition to any hiker’s daypack.
Winter visitors to Chugach State Park will want to bring snow chains to attach to the tires of their vehicle. Snow in Chugach State Park can fall quickly and without warning. Snow chains provide much needed traction to vehicles traveling in the snow.
Chugach State Park is enormous and offers its visitors over 280 miles of hiking trails. This size makes the park extremely difficult to become oriented with. Hikers and other visitors of the park should visit the park’s headquarters to receive trail maps and other information.
Where to Stay in Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park offers visitors the option to stay in one of its four campgrounds. These campgrounds feature views of Eklutna Lake, the Alaska Range, and several other dramatic geographic features. The park’s campgrounds can be viewed on the park’s website. Visitors looking to spend the night in a hotel or other lodging facility will want to visit Anchorage.
Food Nearby Chugach State Park
The closest opportunity for food near Chugach State Park can be found in Anchorage. The city is Alaska’s largest and features several restaurants, bars, pubs, and grocery stores. The city lies about 20 minutes from the park’s center.
Airports near Chugach State Park
The closest airport to Chugach State park is the Ted Stevens International Airport located in Anchorage. The airport is a 20 minute drive from the park. The next closest international airport to the park is located in Fairbanks. The Fairbanks International Airport is a six hour drive away from the park.