Alaska's Lake Clark National Park

Week of March 13-20, 1996
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Alaska's Lake Clark National Park


Alaska's Lake Clark National Park
Question: I'd like to spend ten days or so in Alaska's Lake Clark National Park backpacking and doing some landscape photography. Got any information regarding how to get there from Anchorage, where to go once in the park, etc.?

Peter Norquist
Pleasanton, CA
norquist1@llnl.gov

A photographer's dream: Alaska's
remote Lake Clark


Adventure Adviser: As the crow flies, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is practically in Anchorage's backyard, a mere 180 air miles west of the booming metropolis. Sadly, though, in the immense, roadless Alaska wilderness, getting there is a little more complicated than just hopping in a rental car. Your only real option is to fly from Anchorage to Port Alsworth on the southeast shore of Lake Clark via Lake Clark Air (907-278-2054). Flights run on a near-daily basis and round-trip fares cost about $375 per person. Plan on bringing all your gear and food with you, since the hamlet of Port Alsworth (population about 150) doesn't have much in the way of supplies.

As for hiking, bear in mind that there's no official trail system and only one maintained trail, so pretrip route selection is essential. For a warm-up, stretch your legs on the two-mile Tanalian Falls trail, an easy walk out of Port Alsworth that takes you through black spruce and birch forests, past bogs and ponds, and along the Tanalian River. Keep your eyes open for moose, Dall sheep, and bears. If you're feeling more ambitious, try a challenging seven-mile round-trip hike that winds along the shore of Lake Clark before climbing a ridge to the summit of 3,600-foot Tanalian Mountain.

Once you've exhausted Port Alsworth-area hikes, consider taking an air taxi to one of the many lakes in the park's interior. One of the less technical routes begins at Turquoise Lake and heads 13 miles south over high tundra benchland to Twin Lakes. The terrain is unusually dry and pleasant and the side trip to the hanging glaciers in Turquoise Valley, at the head of the lake, is well worth the extra effort.

In addition to essentials like bug juice, rain gear, and a camera, you'll want to bring your fly rod; the fishing is best on rivers that flow west from the lakes. The Mulchatna, out of Turquoise Lake, and the Chilikadrotna, out of Twin Lakes, are teeming with grayling, trout, northern pike, and five kinds of salmon--king, chum, coho, humpback, and sockeye. Alaska Wildtrek (907-235-6463) runs nine-day guided raft trips on the Class II and III rapids on the Chilikadrotna for $1,650 per person, including round-trip airfare from Kenai.

Before heading out, call park headquarters at 907-271-3751 for information about air taxis, outfitters, and hiking routes, and to look over the park's official visitor guidebook. Also, check out "Alaska's Untamed Parks" in the Destinations section of our May 1995 issue.

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