Lake Clark National Park & Preserve Overview

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Anyone who says America no longer has any frontiers obviously hasn't been to Lake Clark. Little wonder those wags haven't, since it takes a flight aboard a small, chartered aircraft just to reach this roadless park. But once here, surrounded by the crags and unnamed peaks of the unsung Chigmit Mountains, you'll meet face-to-face with the "Last Frontier."

For the self-sufficient adventurer, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a paradise found. It's a wild land in which—unlike many other national parks—no "improvements" to nature have been made. All camping is primitive and there is only one maintained hiking trail.

The Aleutian and Alaskan Mountains join within the park, and two active volcanoes form an important link in the Pacific "chain of fire." Alpine lakes dot the landscape and rivers run freely through it. Tundra, coastal, forest, and riparian zones coexist here as well, sustaining an incredible array of plant and animal life over Lake Clark's 2.6 million acres.

Take a map and a compass and learn the lay of the land as you slog through wet, trailless tundra. Navigate one of the three National Wild Rivers on kayak or canoe and absorb the wildlife and scenery around you. Fish for trout, pike, and salmon, or relax lazily by a crystal blue lake and breathe the clean mountain air.

The ranger station and some comfortable lodging are nearby in Port Alsworth. There are also many high-quality tour companies, outfitters, and trip providers available for adventure at Lake Clark National Park. Contact the National Park Service for a list of guides in the area.

Chill Out on the Chili
Put in at the Twin Lakes headwaters with a raft or kayak and paddle all or part of the 70-mile Chilikadrotna River, a narrow, twisting river with beautiful views, swift rocky flows, and plenty of sweepers. This breathtaking National Wild and Scenic River cascades down the west side of the Alaska Range and flows through gentle upland forests of spruce, aspen, and birch. A note of caution: Hypothermia should always be considered when floating these waters. Go prepared.

Seek Some Sockeye
The gateway to this national park is its namesake, Lake Clark. Considered by many to be the most scenic lake in all of Alaska, Lake Clark is also home to a wonderful variety of fish. Cast for lake trout, grayling, pike, Dolly Varden, and sockeye salmon in these glorious turquoise waters. The mountains and blue sky provide the perfect backdrop for a day of angling. An Alaska State fishing or hunting license is required and should be obtained in Anchorage prior to your departure to the park.

Make Tracks across Tundra
The topography at Lake Clark makes all kinds of trekking—whether rambling through the tundra, circumnavigating a lake, or exploring a black forest—an easy possibility. Get dropped off by boat or take a plane from Port Alsworth for limitless hiking options. There are even hikes into the park from Port Alsworth itself, such as the Beaver Pond Loop trail. Start in Port Alsworth behind the Homestead Cafi and follow the trail up a steep hill close to a mile. The trail then slopes downward and comes to a junction with the Tanalian Falls Trail, the one maintained trail in the park. Make a left at the junction and stay right as the loop trail disappears. Walk toward the beaver dams—the only dams in this part of the world—to get above the pond. Head east, rejoin the trail near the dam, and follow it back to the trailhead. Keep an eye out for moose, beaver, lynx, and waterfowl during the hike.

Camp Lakeside
One of the hardest decisions for the backcountry hiker in Lake Clark is where to go first. Glacial valleys, tundra foothills, river gravel bars, and old-growth forests are among the many choices. You may bushwhack through the south or wander through the open tundra in this trailless wilderness. One of the most popular overnighters is the trip to Twin Lakes. Brush-covered slopes that lead to open ridge tops provide good opportunities to spot caribou, red fox, and white sheep. The hike is moderately difficult, but the scenery is unsurpassed. Jagged peaks of the Chigmit Mountains stand behind green forests and fields of wildflowers here at the head of the Chilikadrotna River. Backcountry permits are not needed and leave no trace ethics are strongly encouraged.

Visit a Zoo without Walls
This place is just waiting for a National Geographic film crew to set up shop. The diversity of terrain, climate, and habitat that makes exploring the park such a joy is responsible for an astounding variety of wildlife. Turquoise and Twin Lakes are exceptional places to spot bear, moose, caribou, and elk wandering the park. In the bushy areas of the park, you may find a coyote howling or a red fox hunting. Wolves wander stealthily through the tundra or in the mountains below the tree line. Wolverines, lynx, and beavers are sometimes found on the same trails that hikers like to traverse. Mammals of the sea, from harbor seals to beluga whales, come through Chinitna and Tuxedni Bays. There are more than 125 bird species to be found around and above the park, including peregrine falcon, ptarmigan, and a large variety of waterfowl.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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