Located 10 miles due east of downtown Anchorage, this fourth-largest U.S. state park sits on 495,000 acres in Southcentral Alaska and features a broad range of natural environments, such as shoreland, mud flats, lakes, glaciers, and icefields.
Chugach (pronounced CHEW-gatch) was established in 1970, thanks to the ceaseless efforts of the Chugach State Park Ad Hoc Committee, created to stop Anchorage’s encroaching urban sprawl—as well as logging operations—from swallowing up vast tracts of this rugged, mountainous region.
This Alaska state park’s diverse ecosystems and topography provide a veritable natural wonderland for a host of activities all year long.
Wildlife is abundant in Chugach State Park, which is bordered by the Alaska Range to the north and west, and by the Prince William Sound as well as the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains to the east. Eklutna Lake as well as the 200’ Thunder Bird Falls are popular in-park attractions year-round, and both offer just as many activities in the summer as in winter.
With the wide variety of ecological features and natural wonders, Chugach State Park offers a spectrum of outdoor experiences for visitors, including biking, trail hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, bird-watching, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, ATVing, kayaking, skiing, and much more.
Boating and Rafting at Chugach State Park
Boating within the state park is limited to the use of kayaks, sailboats, canoes, or other non-motorized boats (except for on Eklutna Lake, where electric motors are permitted). There is a boat launch for hand-carried vessels only, and both kayak and canoe rentals are available.
Rafting and pack rafting on the Eagle River are very popular at Chugach; there are put-ins at mile 7.4 ($5 parking fee) and mile 10 on Eagle River Road, and take-outs at Briggs Bridge and Eagle River Campground, the latter of which is far more difficult.
Horseback Riding at Chugach State Park
There are four areas and trails set aside for horseback riding which also permit the use of burros and mules: Powerline/Gasline Trails, Eklutna Lakeside Trail, Bird Valley, and Indian Valley. Riding is not permitted on other trails due to erosion issues; do not tie off animals within 100’ of fresh water sources.
Mountain Biking at Chugach State Park
Recreational biking and mountain biking are permitted on many of the trails within the park and are clearly marked on any of the website maps; skill levels range from paved/easy to technical/hard. Fat-tire bikes are also allowed on any bike-friendly trail.
Hiking at Chugach State Park
Offering more than 280 miles of hiking options—many of which are multi-use—Chugach State Park’s vast trail network provides routes ranging from easy to advanced. Some of the sights you can expect to encounter along the trails include views of Alaska’s renowned Flattop Mountain, waterfalls, abundant springtime wildflower displays, and a variety of wildlife.
Here are some of the more popular hiking-only trails at Chugach State Park:
- Rodak Nature Trail: Easy, ⅔-mile loop trail with a 100’ elevation gain that offers views of a salmon-rearing stream.
- Bird Ridge Trail: Moderate, 3-mile out-and-back trail with a 2,500’ elevation gain that includes scrambles and steep terrain.
- Twin Peaks Trail: Difficult, 5-mile out-and-back trail with a 1,500’ elevation gain with in-season berry picking and lake views.
ATVing and Snowmobiling at Chugach State Park
ATVs are permitted at two trails at Chugach; the logging road portion of Bird Valley and the Eklutna Lakeside Trail. ATV use is restricted to April 1st through November 30th and there is a fee for the Eklutna ATV trail.
There are 6 areas for snowmobiles in the park. All snowmobiles must be registered, and no one under the age of 14 is permitted to operate any vehicle within the park without direct adult supervision.
Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Other Winter Activities at Chugach State Park
As the park is open year-round, this is a prime location for all manner of winter locomotion activities. Cross-country skiing (both classic and skate style) is permitted throughout Chugach, and there are several popular traverses and trails within the park, such as the 22-mile-long Ship Creek Valley traverse.
There is downhill skiing at the volunteer-run Arctic Valley Ski Area, and the Anchorage Hillside trails are ideal for snowshoeing. Dogsledding and skijoring (being towed on skis by sled dogs or horses) are also popular at Chugach, as is ice climbing on the many frozen waterfalls.
Fishing and Hunting at Chugach State Park
Fishing of all species is permitted in Chugach State Park’s water features, including Etlukna Lake, Eagle River, and Bird Creek. State fishing licenses for both fishing and hunting are required, and all Alaska regulations and fishing/hunting seasons must be followed.
Depending on the season, some of the fish found in the park include Dolly Varden, pink salmon, rainbow trout, silvers, and king salmon; hunters will find black and brown bears, mountain goats, moose, and Sitka black-tailed deer in the forest as well as many shorebirds and other feathered game.
Nature & Wildlife at Chugach State Park
The Chugach State Park is home to the Eagle River Nature Center, which offers guided walks along the Center’s 10 miles of maintained trails. There are many interpretive displays and programs, as well as one cabin and three yurts available for rental. Some of the wildlife that inhabits the park and the Prince William Sound include moose, high alpine marmots, mountain goats, beavers, Dall’s sheep, bears, and beluga whales.
Visitors can also view the unique spectacle of a bore tide from Bird Point; this rare, back-flowing wave cannot be seen anywhere else in the country. Another notable natural wonder is the sight of the Thunder Bird Falls during the winter, creating a mammoth, one-of-a-kind ice sculpture.
Pets at Chugach State Park
Dogs are welcome in the state park—as long as they are under control at all times, whether on-leash or off.
Camping at Chugach State Park
There are three ADA-compliant campgrounds at Chugach State Park, all of which charge parking fees, are first-come, first-served, and have varying stay limitations: Eklutna Lake Campground (50 sites), Eagle River Campground (57 sites), and Bird Creek Campground (24 sites, 35’ RV limit).
All sites feature fire pits and picnic tables and are close to fresh water and latrines or flush toilets. Amenities vary depending on the campground; some include firewood for purchase, picnic pavilions, tent platforms, group camping areas, or non-electrified cabins.
Chugach State Park
18620 Seward Highway
Anchorage, AK, 99516
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several trails at Chugach State Park:
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