Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park
Nestled into the woods at the northern shore of seven-mile-long Eklutna Lake, this campground features all the usual amenities with 50 paved sites and an overflow loop. The spectacular view of mountain peaks surrounding the lake might take your breath and fill your camera—if you weren’t so busy with all the other recreation possibilities. After you park adjacent to your campsite, you can go cycling on a trail system that reaches into remote valleys beyond the head of the lake—the lake is one of the most popular family biking destinations in the Anchorage area. Others like to paddle on the lake (rentals usually available,) hike into the alpine realm on well-marked tails, fish for feisty Dolly Varden or just go exploring (there’s a way cool old dam with a spillway.) The area also boasts four public use cabins, including the Dolly Varden Cabin inside the campground itself. Only 37 miles from downtown Anchorage. Take the Eklutna Road exit off the Glenn Highway.
Granite Creek on Chugach National Forest
This beloved old campground in the Kenai Mountains is vintage forest service: A long narrow gravel loop leading to 18 widely spaced sites, most located only a few yards from crystal Granite Creek. Popular among locals because of its central location in the mountains, it’s a great basecamp for all kinds of recreation up and down the Seward Highway. Located about halfway between Anchorage and Seward, Granite Creek is also only about a half-hour drive from the village of Hope. Consider bringing bikes. The campground is on a five-mile paved trail that connects the northern trailhead of the Johnson Pass Trail to the Hope Cutoff. (This separated trail features an underpass and does not require crossing the very busy Seward Highway.) It’s also easy to pop one mile east for a hike on the Johnson Pass Trail. A few minutes of driving takes you to great berry picking in Turnagain Pass and recreational gold panning on Bertha Creek. (Bertha Creek campground offers a similar vibe.) Located at Mile 63 of the Seward Highway.
South Rolly Lake in Nancy Lake State Recreation Area
At the end of a road 6.5 miles inside the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area, the campground on South Rolly Lake offers 97 sites in a hilly Susitna Valley setting with immediate access to hiking, paddling and fishing. It has a deep-woods ambience, surrounded by thousands of acres of untouched birch-spruce forest. Long popular with families, the campground features a fishing dock and canoe rentals for the 108-acre lake—and a central play area with sand for digging. A three-mile trail to Red Shirt Lake begins just outside the entrance, and other lakes with stocked fish and paddling launch sites are only a few miles back up the Nancy Lake Parkway. The campground is nicely laid out, with some sites backing up to the lake itself. In general, the campground offers a convenient and comfortable car-camping nexus for doing day trips exploring the 22,000-acre recreation area. Located off Mile 67.5 of the Parks Highway in the Willow area.