Located at the back of Eklutna Lake, Serenity Falls is one of Alaska’s largest huts. With an enormous bank of windows facing the falls and a mountain so high as to nearly block the sky, the place feels as though you have crossed into the alpine realm. Yet it’s a relatively easy 12-mile hike or bike along the wide, flat Eklutna Lakeside Trail, making it a great choice for families with kids or large groups.
Serenity Falls is your true Alaska mountain outpost tucked into the mouth of a canyon that once served as walk-up access to Eklutna Glacier and the ice field beyond. The seclusion fosters a yearning for camaraderie. Indoors there is laughter and stories. Outside it’s silent except for intermittent rock fall, or the pitter of water.
There’s lots to do in the area:
- Spend an exhilarating day exploring the now-dangerous approach to the glacier, or ice climbing on the frozen waterfall.
- Visit the waterfall up close — one of the most spectacular in Chugach State Park.
- Bike, ski or motor around one of the park’s most isolated valleys with multi-use trail access.
- Explore raw terrain that was under glacial ice only a century ago: a forest dominated by alders and bare ground, a creek still carving glacial till.
- Join a potluck dinner with strangers who soon become friends. You come here to find both the wild and the possibility of new companions.
- Wildlife includes ptarmigan, forest birds, plus an occasional moose and brown bear. (Manage your food and remove all trash. Dogs are not allowed to stay in the Hut.)
The Hut has bunk space for 13 with three double bunks and seven single bunks in three separate bays, offering some privacy. The front area has a large counter for separate meal prep, cubbies for storing and hanging gear, and a big wood stove for heating. The back deck gets warming sunshine on a clear afternoons March through October. (A place that begs for hammocks after spring skiing!) Water can be collected from the river or at the falls — in winter check for open leads — but should be purified.
The hut has a wood stove, ample cooking counters and tables, an outside fire ring, and outhouse. Usually includes broom, dustpan and bucket. There are two entrances, with the back door opening onto covered deck.
Downed burnable wood can be sparse. Check for driftwood along river. Be prepared to gather and transport from denser forest further north, or bring your own. (Sometimes rangers or volunteers cache wood, but don’t count on it.) Due to its large size, the hut can be difficult to heat in winter. But with a good supply of wood, you can warm it to the high 50s in 2-3 hours.
The trailhead for the Eklutna Lakeside Trail lies at the Eklutna Lake Campground. Exit the Glenn Highway at Mile 26 and take Eklutna Lake Road about 10 miles into the mountains. It’s 12 miles to the hut, and you can reach it in all seasons over the trail.
The mountain vistas along the forested lakeshore are stunning. The trail is wide enough to pull a bike trailer with gear. The trip in is about 5 hours on foot or 2 hours by bike in good conditions.
Using the Hut requires a 24-mile round-trip, so evaluate your abilities against conditions before going. During summer, ATVs can use trail Sunday through Wednesday, while non-motorized visitors hike, bike or ride horses. Most of the route is flat and easily biked. Winter can be more challenging. Depending upon conditions, visitors might be able to ski, walk, snowshoe, dog-sled, snowbike, Nordic skate or use snowmobiles. Each leg of the trip can range from an all-day slog through deep snow and sub-zero temps to a breezy 90-minute skate ski over frictionless crust in sunshine.
From the parking area, travel almost 12 miles south on the Eklutna Lakeside Trail. The route goes beyond the head of the lake, through a massive burn and avalanche run-out off Bold Peak, past the turnoff to Bold Peak Airstrip and the Kanchee Campground before reaching a bridge over the Eklutna River. Do not cross the bridge. Instead continue straight up the hill a few hundred yards to the Hut.
Depending on snow cover and ice thickness, you can walk, snow-bike, ski, snowshoe, dog-sled or use snowmobiles over the Eklutna Lakeside Trail or travel on the lake surface and/or up the Eklutna River. Check the conditions report. Be cautious early in the season.
No warnings, scariness, talking down. We’re writing to a reader with good judgment. Flag the safety concerns, but say so softly.
The Serenity Falls Hut & The Eklutna Traverse
The Hut can also serve as part of a demanding multi-day traverse of the Eklutna-Whiteout Glacier system from Eklutna Lake to Girdwood. Three other public huts are on the route. Beware: At one time, accessing the Eklutna Glacier was relatively easy, requiring basic glacier mountaineering skills. Recent glacial retreat has transformed this access into a highly technical maneuver with significant exposure to rock fall. It is recommended only for travelers trained and prepped for technical glacier mountaineering.
You can make reservations at the Public Information Center at 550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1360, Anchorage, AK 99501. You may also fax in your reservation request. A single bunk rents for $15/night; a double bunk is $20/night. The cost to rent the entire hut is $165/night.
Blog post describing a November bike trip to the hut
Video showing a walkthrough of the hut
Fact sheet about the Hut
PDF guide to the Eluktna Trail System
Current conditions reported by rangers
National Weather Service forecast
Real time road weather about 10 miles north on Glenn Highway
Closest FAA Aviation cam at Birchwood Airport
Chugach State Park overview
Eklutna Lake overview
PDF map of Chugach State Park
Eklutna Traverse Huts