Chugach National Forest
|Floatplane on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (Robin Hood/courtesy, Alaska Travel Industry Association)|
The litany of place names found in the Chugach National Forest reads like an adventurer's honor rollthere's the Kenai Peninsula, where anglers wrestle with 60-pound king salmon; there's Prince William Sound, held in awe by sea kayakers and whale watchers; there are the powder-draped spires of the Chugach Range outside of Valdez, worshipped by fearless skiers and snowboarders; there's even a road, the Seward Highway, that's often singled out as one of the all-time great scenic drives.
At 5.4 million acres, the Chugach National Forest is the nation's second-largest national forest. Its mountains and immense rivers of ice cradle Prince William Sound in south-central Alaska, spreading from the Kenai Peninsula in the west to tiny Cordova and the nearby Copper River Deltathe largest contiguous wetland area on the U.S. West Coastin the east.
One-third of this majestic and rugged land is rock and moving ice. In the wooded mountains and crystal waters of the Kenai Peninsula, wildlife is abundant and includes moose, Dall sheep, mountain goats, a small but thriving caribou herd, two packs of wolves, and brown and black bears. In the watery realm of Prince William Sound, with its calving glaciers and splintered array of islands, you may see orcas, seals, and immense colonies of seabirds. And there are few wildlife spectacles like the annual gathering of millions of shorebirds on the tidal flats of the Copper River Delta.
Drive the Seward Highway
Driving south from Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, to the fishing community of Seward, it's hard not to slow down traffic: Down the cliffs to your right, the chilly waters of Turnagain Arm stretch out before you, harboring white beluga whales and hardy windsurfers. The Chugach Mountains rise up from the road on your left, dotted with trickling waterfalls, clusters of Dall sheep, and enterprising rock climbers. After curving back and forth between this rock and a hard place, the road cuts through the heart of Chugach National Forest until it reaches Seward and Resurrection Bay. To get the most out of your trip, pull over frequently. Take a better look, snap some pictures, and let all the cars behind you get by.
Hike Portage Pass
Many travel far and wide to see Alaska's massive, mouth-gaping glaciers. One of Alaska's most famous attractions is Portage Glacier, located in the Glacier Ranger District. You will follow the diverse and exceptionally scenic trail to a renowned view of this glacier. Connections to footpaths along the way allow for a more comprehensive view of the area. Other attractions on this path include a taste of the Glacier Ranger District's wildlife.
Bike Devil's Pass
This 10.1-mile trail traverses some of Chugach's famous boreal rainforests. Sightings of both moose and bear are frequently reported on this path. At the finish, it leads into the famous Resurrection Pass Trail, a 38.8-mile biking trail in excellent condition. Both moderately paced routes in this part of the forest typically provide excellent scenery and fishing.
Paddle Prince William Sound
Alpine mountains and the occasional playful sea lion are surrounded by 3,500 miles of northern shoreline. As you kayak along the icy route, you must remember not to go breathless as you traverse blue-white glaciers and a skyline of white mountaintops. A brown bear may await you on the shore as you take to some of the nearby hiking paths.
Fish Copper River
Alaska's lakes and streams are famed for their prize salmon. Chugach is no exception to this premise—especially in the Cordova Ranger District, where sockeye, pink and chum salmon, as well as Dolly Varden, char, and cutthroat trout are all inhabitants. Other interest may lie in the halibut, bottomfish, crab, shrimp, and clams found here. Once in a while you can find king salmon and steelhead trout in the Copper River.
Camp the Kenai Peninsula
The Kenai Peninsula has 15 campgrounds that include accommodations for over 2,000 people. Every year, from Memorial to Labor Day, you can enjoy the glacier-decorated outlook, the cry of the loon, and the close proximity to Anchorage that these campgrounds offer. The Russian River Campground, which is located off the Sterling Highway, offers 84 sites and easy access to the Russian Lakes Trail.
Meet a Moose
Wildlife in Alaska is by no means ordinary. Resurrection Bay, in the Seward Ranger District, is a great area to experience a mix of ocean and land wildlife. As you kayak or paddle the Bay, you can catch a glimpse of sea lions, sea otters, orcas, all sorts of fish, and perhaps a humpback whale. While hiking its shores, you may bump into a horned puffin or catch sight of a soaring eagle above. Farther inland, the region is known to have many moose. And don't forget that Alaska is bear country.
Ski the Lost Lake
Ice-tipped mountains, majestic ravines, and elevated views transform this cross-country path to an alpine wonderland. Sporadic fir and glacier lakes cover the higher elevated parts of this 7.5-mile trail, making it a popular cross-country skiing destination for those traveling the Seward Ranger District during the frigid winter months.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication