The Chugach National Forest is located east and southeast of
Anchorage, Alaska. It is comprised of 5,361,803 acres. There
are 14 developed campgrounds, 12 of which meet the selection
The Chugach National Forest (NF) is located south of Anchorage,
Alaska's largest community, in the mountains surrounding Prince
William Sound from eastern Kenai Peninsula and beyond the delta
of Copper River. It is the second largest forest in the U.S.
national forest inventory, and is the northernmost national
forest. The vast and beautiful Chugach NF, with only 90 miles of
Forest Service roads, is largely a little explored wilderness.
With a tapestry of ancient ice, carved rock, blue water, arid
tundra, lush forest, deep fjords, and rushing rivers, the Chugach
NF offers visitors a wide and diverse range of recreational
activities. Whether seen as a "backyard" playground to the
majority of Alaska's residents or a once-in-a-lifetime
destination, Chugach NF's many developed campgrounds provide a
base camp for enjoying all this forest has to offer or a picture-
perfect place to just sit and relax.
The majority of Chugach's developed campgrounds are located on
the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula. Take the Seward
Highway, State Route 1, south from Anchorage, past Girdwood,
following the north shore of Turnagain Arm, to the 1964
Earthquake-caused ruins of Portage. Then, take the turn-off to
Portage Valley, Whittier and Black Bear and Williwaw campgrounds.
These two campgrounds are snug up against the Chugach Mountains
in the shadow of Explorer and Middle glaciers in the Portage
Valley. A visit to the nearby and outstanding Begich, Boggs
Visitor Center will provide a better appreciation of all that is
the Chugach NF (be sure to ask about the Ice Worms). And, maybe
hike to Byron Glacier or take a short cruise to Portage glacier .
Although Black Bear and Williwaw campgrounds are located in the
same valley, and within walking distance of each other, their
differences illustrate the many options campers have in the Chugach.
Black Bear campground is tucked into a dense stand of conifer
trees so views and sunlight are limited. This small campground
has a rustic, undeveloped feel and is great for tent and car
campers. Just down the road, Williwaw (means "big wind" so be
warned) campground is a more RV-friendly place. Williwaw has
fewer tall trees with stubby willows and other shrubs providing
excellent privacy between sites. The lack of overhead means
outstanding views of Middle Glacier. Both campgrounds are linked
to the Visitor Center by the paved, wheelchair friendly Trail of
One thing both campgrounds have in common is they are great base
camps for exploring the area's wonders. From them you can visit
Girdwood and enjoy the miles of hiking trails, including Crow
Pass and the historic Iditarod National Historic trails. Or,
discover a newly added attraction - the Glacier Discovery Train's
Whistle Stop Service. The train runs
from Anchorage to Grandview with stops in Girdwood, Portage,
Whittier, Portage, and the Spencer Glacier and is great to
discover parts of Chugach few experience.
Continue south on State Rt. 1 over Turnagain Pass, a mecca for
snowmobiles and cross-country ski enthusiasts, to Bertha Creek
and Granite Creek campgrounds. Not big campgrounds or very
fancy, these two campgrounds offer campers a pleasant camping
experience not far off the main road.
A little further down State Rt. 1 is the turn-off for Porcupine
campground and Hope, Alaska. Located on a bluff above Turnagain
Arm, the Porcupine campsites are tucked in among birch trees and
wild roses. Getting to Porcupine campground means passing the
former mining community of Hope. Said to be the best preserved
Gold Rush Era town in Southeast Alaska, Hope has a lot to offer.
Campers can enjoy what Hope has to offer or Gull Rock or
Resurrection Pass trails. Both are super trails. Gull Rocks
takes hikers along Turnagain Arm while Resurrection Pass trail
lets hiker explore as much of the interior as they want of this
40-mile trail. Resurrection Pass trail has eight rental cabins
along the trail which can reserve for a multi-day hike.
About halfway between the turn-off to Porcupine campground and
"Y" to Seward, AK is Tenderfoot Creek campground on Summit Lake. This
is great location for tent, car, or rv campers and a perfect
place to introduce new campers to the wonders of the Chugach NF.
Experienced or new anglers will find Summit Lake a rewarding
A few miles south of Tenderfoot campground, at Tern Lake
(outstanding birdwatching location), State Rt. 1 bears to the
west, heading for Cooper Landing and, eventually, Homer, AK.
Continuing straight on to State Rt. 9 and seclude Ptarmigan
campground soon appears on the left and the larger bustling Trail
River campground is on the right. Both campgrounds are good base
camps for exploring the area. Besides hiking, nearby Kenai Lake
offers good fishing but visits to Exit Glacier and the busy port
of Seward are also good destinations from these campgrounds.
Quartz Creek, Cooper Creek and Russian River campgrounds stretch
out along State Rt. 1 and offer wonderfully diverse camping
experiences. The most rustic, least developed camping will be
found at Cooper Creek. With dirt and gravel parking aprons, a
handpump, and a vault toilet, Cooper Creek campground has
retained its original wilderness character. Russian River
campground has five loops, lots of campsites, and super busy
especially when the salmon are running. Campers and anglers come
from all over 24/7 to experience the "Combat Fishing" in the
adjacent Russian River.
What is "Combat Fishing"? When you have hundreds of anglers
standing in the river and maybe a bear or two looking on and
competing for a choice salmon, you have "Combat Fishing."
Quartz Creek campground is well away from the other campgrounds,
and although some regard it as an "overflow" to Russian River
campground, it has a tranquil charm that makes it feel worlds
away from the crowds. On Kenai Lake, it has a boat ramp, RV
waste station, flush toilets, a pressure water system, and is
close to hiking trails as well as Cooper Landing for a cook's night
out. Not as crowded mid-week, it isn't unusual for moose to walk
through the campground just checking on the Quartz Creek campers.
On the east side of Prince William Sound, up the Copper River Delta,
is maybe the Chugach's most unique campground. Childs Glacier
campground was recently expanded to 16 campsites and is located
at the edge of Childs Glacier. How close? It is suggested ear plugs
be used so the sound of the glacier calving won't keep you awake.
Getting to Childs Glacier campground isn't as easy as accessing the
Chugach's other campgrounds. Take a plane from Anchorage to
Cordova or a ferry from Valdez or Whittier to the port of Cordova. It's
a long ferry ride but what a great trip through Prince William Sound
with possible sightings of sea life along the way. Equally as exciting
is traveling by car or RV through Cordova the 49 miles up the picturesque
Copper River Highway to the Childs Glacier campground, the spectacular
Childs Glacier and the historic Million Dollar Bridge. This is a very cool
place to camp and visit! Give it a try. Oh, try and make time to spend a
couple days exploring the town of Cordova and maybe taking one of the
varied rafting trips.
The Chugach National Forest is full of "cool" experiences.
Imagine taking a floatplane, boat, or hiking into a remote cabin
and spending a week digging for razor clams, hunting for sea
glass, picking bowls of wild berries or fishing a snow melt-fed
stream. Or what the impact of a week of birdwatching would have
on your lifetime list. What about kayaking in Prince William
Sound with the possibility of seeing the world's largest mammal,
a Humpback whale, gliding by to say "hello." Or maybe take
advantage of the many commercial enterprises in the Chugach and
raft the Kenia River, take a tour boat and explore the adjoining
Kenai Fjord National Park, or do some "flightseeing" from a
bush/floatplane. You can learn more about the Native People at
the K'Beq Interpretive Site or explore Alyeska Resort's
Interpretive Hut in Girdwood. Maybe you'll get to see a Bore
Tide (like the one in Fundy Bay, Canada) on Turnagain Arm or
observe the "Jokulhlaup," when the natural ice dam breaks and the
Snow River floods.
The Chugach National Forest, with well-placed campgrounds and
many recreational opportunities, has a lot to offer visitors.
Alaska may be called "a-once-in-a-lifetime-destination" but it is
a destination that will call you back again and again.
3301 C Street
Anchorage, Alaska 99503-3998
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
Cordova, Alaska 99574
Girdwood, Alaska 99587
Seward, Alaska 99664