This 15 x 17 trapper’s style cabin perched on a ridge 1,800 feet above Spencer Glacier offers one of the most spectacular views in the world. The panorama sweeps across a wild mountain-scape of sheer faces and avalanche chutes, featuring the craggy ramp of an active glacier and its terminus into an iceberg-strewn lake, with the brushy Placer River Valley completing the curve around the mountain. Close to the cabin, visitors will find alpine meadows with wildflowers and interesting geology, plus the possibility of seeing brown and black bears, wolves, moose, mountain goats and marmots. Despite somewhat complicated access that includes a 11-mile round-trip hike with an arduous climb, Spencer Bench Cabin is almost always booked well in advance during summer, often within minutes of its availability six months out. A unique destination—breathtaking in every sense!


The yellow-cedar cabin features wooden bunks, a table with benches, fire extinguisher, snow shovel, a broom and an outhouse. A kerosene stove provides heat, but visitors must bring their own kerosene. A creek near the cabin or snow fields can serve as a water source, but must be purified or boiled.


8 people (pets welcome)




On a mountain ridge at about 1,900 feet in elevation, about 10 miles up the Placer River Valley from the head of Turnagain Arm on the Seward Highway.


On a mountainside ridge, near a creek, surrounded by alpine habitat, with access to nearby peaks.

Season of Use

Year-round. Caution: The trail to the cabin crosses avalanche paths and can be buried under deep snow. Visitors must be prepared to assess these hazards. The area is also prone to blizzards and high winds. Visitors should take enough food and fuel to sit tight for extra storm-bound days, depending upon forecast and season.

Managing Agency

Chugach National Forest & the Alaska Railroad

What to Bring

Guests must carry drinking water, or be prepared to purify creek water or melt snow. To use the kerosene stove, bring one liter of kerosene for every four hours of use. (A good rule of thumb might be one gallon for a summer season overnight, two gallons for the winter,) Items such as a cook stove, cooking gear, flashlights or lanterns, bedding, sleeping pads and trash bags are not provided. Guests are expected to pack out trash and clean the cabin before leaving. Don’t assume there will be sufficient toilet paper or working batteries in the smoke detector.





Getting There

Chugach National Forest
Girdwood, AK 99587
  • From late-May through mid-September, visitors will need to book a ride on the Glacier Discovery Train to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop as part of their reservation via the Alaska Railroad. From the station, cabin guests hike 2.4 miles along the Spencer Glacier Trail around the north side of the lake to the Spencer Bench Trail. Then begins the crux—3 miles and about 1,800 feet up a challenging, switchback trail. The cabin lies about 300 feet beyond a footbridge at the top. Give yourself 2-5 hours to hike from the Whistle Stop station. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails.
  • From mid-September to mid-May, access is more complicated with no train service, and the cabin gets much less use.
  • Shoulder seasons. Before snow falls and after it melts, visitors must bushwhack overland up the wet Placer River Valley, traverse difficult mountain terrain or arrange for helicopter drop-off. For most visitors, Spencer Bench is probably not a practical option during the fall and spring shoulder seasons.
  • Winter-spring snow season. Once snow falls and trails get packed in the Placer River Valley, access becomes much easier. People regularly ski, hike, snow-bike and ride snowmobiles between Portage and the Spencer Lake vicinity. Depending upon snow depth and weather, these exhilarating travel modes typically become feasible in January and last well into April. Helicopter skiing is popular in the area.
Driving Directions


Spencer Bench Cabin