Lake Clark National Park
Tucked in the south-central crook of Alaska, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is an untamed wilderness of epic proportions. It boasts alpine tundra, glaciers, glacial lakes, rivers, and two volcanoes inside more than 4 million acres, and is home to a dizzying array of wildlife. Sighting opportunities ranging from grizzly bears to caribou to wolves, not to mention the sockeye salmon that spawn inside its streams. These fish are critical for the park’s unique ecological dynamics, and also help supply the Bristol Bay fishery, one of the most important sources of salmon in the country.
Because it’s so vast, the weather patterns at Lake Clark National Park can actually be split into two distinct climate areas: the coast and the interior. The coastal region sees frequent rain and fog, averaging between 40 and 80 inches of precipitation annually, while the interior sees only 17 to 26. The coast also offers milder winters, whereas the interior regularly reaches extremely cold temperatures as low as -40 F. Keep in mind, however, that this is Alaska, and freezing temperatures are possible at any time of the year. From late September until early April, you can expect to see snow in the park; the namesake lake begins freezing in November. Because the weather is so extreme and variable in this region, it’s especially important to keep tabs on the forecast as you’re planning your adventure -- and to bring along the foul weather gear you may need. Click here to see the park’s official weather page, which also links to resources for real-time updates.
About a hundred miles southwest of Anchorage, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is actually relatively accessible for an Alaskan wilderness, but you should still plan to have all of your supplies before entering its boundaries. The park is not on the road system, and so is primarily visited by hiring small planes from the nearby communities of Anchorage, Kenai, or Homer.
Visitors to Lake Clark engage with the wilderness by partaking in a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, biking, bear- and bird-watching as well as taking on the water system in power boats, rafts, or canoes. Local tour companies provide guide services to visitors, and park officials may also occasionally offer organized events and opportunities. Check out the official National Park Service calendar for full details, as well as the directions page for more information about tourist resources in the area.
Where To Stay
Because Lake Clark National Park isn’t on Alaska’s road system, there are no RV campgrounds within the boundaries of the wilderness itself -- though tent campers and backpackers are largely free to set up wherever they like, and also have a few developed options to choose from. There are also a number of lodges, cabins, and bed and breakfasts run by private owners inside the park, a majority of which are at Port Alsworth.
Below, we’ve listed a few RV campgrounds in the proximal communities, where you might create a “home base” from which to take a more rugged trip into the park’s interior. For more information and a list of private lodging options inside the park, see this webpage.
RV Camping in the Greater Lake Clark National Park Area
RV Rentals Near Lake Clark National Park
Nearby RV Rentals
Hit the Trails
Lake Clark National Park is a wilderness in the truest sense of the word. There’s only one set of maintained trails in the entire 4-million acre property.
That said, adventurers have avid and endless opportunities to explore outside of the managed Tanalian Trails -- though wilderness survival and wayfinding skills are absolutely critical. For all but the most seasoned outdoorsmen and women, we suggest hiring a guide for your excursion into the park.
Below, find information on the park-maintained Tanalian Trails, and click here to download the PDF map and trail guide
Lake Clark National Park Trails
Beaver Pond Loop
Distance: 1.7 miles (3.8 miles when combined with Falls and Lake Trail)
Terrain: A moderate trail meandering through quiet birch groves and past a beaver pond.
Falls and Lake
Distance: 1.7 miles
Terrain: Take a moderate climb up spruce-strewn hillsides to take in a sweeping view of the park’s namesake lake. See a 30-foot glacial waterfall flowing over a backdrop of ancient lava.
Distance: 4 miles from Kontrashibuna Lake
Terrain: This is a short but very strenuous climb, including steep switchbacks and rocky terrain. But it rewards those who make the effort with some of the most stunning panoramic lake views in the park.
What to Do
Although the park itself is a remote wilderness with little to offer in the way of resources, south-central Alaska is a vacation destination hub, filled with things to see, eat, and do.
You’ll doubtless get sick of sustaining yourself on trail mix and pemmican while within the park’s borders. Here’s where to catch a real meal once you fly back to home base.
Type: Whether your go-to crust is thin or thick, regardless of whether you prefer marinara or barbecue sauce, this Kenai pizza joint serves up pies custom-crafted to your liking.
CK’s Food Truck
Type: This basic outfit offers burgers and other hearty fares within the park boundaries, nestled in the small village at Port Alsworth.
Location: Port Alsworth
Type: If you’re looking for a date night destination, look no further than this Anchorage eatery, which specializes in -- you guessed it -- local Alaskan seafood, as fresh as fresh can be.
Type: Combining local seafood dishes like Halibut Cove mussels with stick-to-your-ribs fare like poutine, this down-home cafe has something for everybody.
Type: A Homer institution, you can’t say you’ve visited the Kenai Peninsula if you haven’t had a bite -- or at least a beer -- at the Salty Dawg. The building was actually one of the first cabins built in 1897, when the town was being established.
You may have come to Alaska to get away from civilization -- but it’s good to be able to pick up those odds and ends you’ll doubtless find you need. Besides, you’ve gotta get a few souvenirs to remember your trek by, right?
If you’re looking for the classic mall experience, head to this Anchorage shopping center, with staples like JCPenney alongside Alaskan-grown outdoor shops and restaurants.
Native American and Alaskan arts, crafts, and souvenirs to take home to your loved ones… or to keep for yourself. (We won’t judge.)
Stashed inside the park proper at Port Alsworth, this small boutique offers T-shirts, gifts, and more.
Location: Port Alsworth
Lake Clark Visitor Center Bookstore
Maps, guides, apparel, bumper stickers, and more… not to mention that all-important national parks passport stamp. You sure came a long way for this one!
Location: Port Alsworth
The wilds of Alaska can take even the most intrepid adventurer to task. Making sure you’re prepared is literally a matter of survival --- and if you’re missing a key piece of gear, this is the place to find it.
While the most magnificent museum in Alaska is the landscape itself, there are plenty of cultural exhibits to tide you over on a rainy day -- or simply to add to your northern experience.
If you’re going to Lake Clark, chances are you’re getting in a small plane. Whether that thrills or terrifies you, this Anchorage museum is a great place to learn a little bit more about the history of aircraft.
Nestled down at the southern end of the famous Sterling Highway, this exhibit reveals the inner workings of the lives of the unique seabirds who populate this area. (Plus, they even have RV-sized parking spots!)
From artifacts of Alaska’s first people to fine art crafted by its citizens today, the Anchorage Museum is a world-class cultural exhibit you don’t want to miss if you find yourself in the city.
Explore a restored railroad house which was once home to the section foreman and his family. You'll also find an old train car and the rotary plow that was used to clear snow off the tracks in winter.
With a mission “to strengthen relationships between people and place through stories relevant to Kachemak Bay,” Homer’s Pratt Museum showcases art, artifacts, and spellbinding historical narratives from the area.
Even at four million acres, Lake Clark is just one of the many life-changing sights to see in America’s final frontier. Here are some other potential stops to add to your itinerary.
See America’s tallest peak and so much more in this vast wilderness, tucked deep within Alaska’s interior.
Salmon, brown bears and 9,000 years of human history are protected in this 6,000-square-mile wilderness.
Considered the state’s vacation capital or “Alaska’s Playground,” the Kenai Peninsula is Alaska’s salmon-fishing headquarters, and is dotted with both thriving communities and amazing outdoor adventure opportunities.
Ever wanted to see a walrus in real life? You may just get your chance at Togiak -- and even spot a few brown bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and wolverines in the bargain.
Bisected by Alaska’s two largest rivers, the Yukon and the Kuskokwim, this delta is home to vast populations of unique seabirds and mammals it’s hard to find anywhere else.
How to Get There
Unlike many of the other American national parks, Lake Clark is a wilderness in the truest sense of the word. It’s not connected to the road system, and so it’s accessible only via boat or small aircraft. In the same vein, there’s no infrastructure for transportation within the park borders; visitors move from place to place by foot, kayak, raft, boat, or small plane.
The nearest international airport to Lake Clark is at Anchorage, which is about a hundred miles northeast of its boundary. There are also smaller airfields at the cities of Kenai and Homer, though service to these may be limited or nonexistent.
Once you arrive in proximity to the park, you can travel to the park itself by air taxi or with a tour guide group. The National Park Service has a helpful compilation of local travel operations at the Lake Clark website. An RV is a great way to establish a comfortable and convenient home base from which to orchestrate your adventures, and you can find RV rental listings through RVshare all over the country -- including in the Alaskan wilds.
Entering the Park
There are no entry fees for Lake Clark National Park and Reserve, nor do you need to obtain National Park Service permits for recreational activities pursued inside including camping, backpacking, river running, or bear viewing.
Regardless of how you get yourself there, we can’t wait to hear all about your wild Alaskan adventure! Send those snaps and stories to us directly at [email protected], or tag us when you post them on Facebook and Instagram. We’ll feature a few lucky readers on our own social media channels, or possibly in an RVshare blog post!