Eklutna Lake Area Guide & Scenic Drive
Nestled in the Chugach Mountains, Eklutna Lake feels like an oasis deep in the Alaska wilderness, even though it’s less than an hour’s drive from Anchorage. If you have a free day and want to spend a few hours in nature, this gorgeous area boasts a turquoise glacial lake surrounded by towering mountains, plus lots of fun things to do. Here are our favorites.
Hiking Trails and Activities
Hike & Bike
Two trails are accessible right from the day-use parking area. The Twin Peaks Trail to Pepper Peak offers a stunning vista over the lake. And the Eklutna Lakeside Trail is a wide, mostly flat, gravel trail that hugs the edge of the lake and is popular with bikers and walkers (you could even push a more durable stroller). The full trail is 12 miles long, but if you only have an hour or two, tackle the first few miles—it’s well worth the effort. You can even go down near the shore for a picnic. BYO bike, or rent one from the rental hut at the start of the trail. Jump to list of all trails.
Kayaking, Canoeing & Paddleboarding
It’s easy to take your kayak or canoe from the parking lot to the shore and launch it. No kayak? The hut that rents bikes also rents kayaks, which are conveniently placed near the shore. Just exercise caution when out on the water; this is a big lake with very cold water, and the weather can change fast. If you don’t want to go it alone, the rental shop also offers guided trips.
AK Paddlesports offers delivery and pickup for paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks from mid May through early September.
The Eklutna Lakeside Trail is open to ATVers from April 1 to November 30 from Sunday through Wednesday. There are a few areas where the main ATV trail diverges from the narrower walking/biking trail, so you can really have some fun. And if you’re headed to the more remote cabins (see below), ATVs make getting there a breeze.
The Eklutna Lake Campground is one of Alaska’s best, and the 50 first-come, first-served campsites are just $20 per night. It’s tough to get a spot on a Friday evening, and almost impossible on a Saturday. But if you’re lucky enough to nab one, you’ll find spacious sites with lots of trees for privacy, and multiple outhouses. Bears are common in the area; keep them at bay by locking all food in your car each night.
There are also 5 public use cabins, which you can book for around $100 per night through Reserve America. The Rainbow Trout Cabin and Dolly Varden Cabin are nearest to the campground. The other cabins are more remote, requiring a longer hike, bike ride, ATV, or kayak to reach. See all cabins below.
Eklutna is a year-round destination. And while the Eklutna Lakeside Trail is great for summer hiking, it’s also an ideal spot to cross-country ski or fat bike once the snow falls. You may also see locals skating on the frozen lake. The public use cabins, which have wood-burning stoves (BYO firewood), are a cozy option for a winter getaway. Camping is also available year-round, although there’s no site host in the winter.
Getting There From Anchorage
The lake is just 22 miles from Anchorage; the drive to Chugach State Park takes less than an hour. From Anchorage, take the Glenn Highway north to the Eklutna exit at Mile 26 toward the mountains. Then take the Eklutna Lake Road east, continuing into the mountains for about 10 miles.
The road is smooth but narrow, with twists and turns. There are a few pullouts along the way, where motorhomes may pull aside to let smaller vehicles pass. Just before you reach the campground area, you'll see Rochelle's, a popular local ice cream shop. (We recommend stopping on the way out, after you've spent a day playing at the lake!)
The road dead-ends at the Eklutna Lake Recreation day use area, near the lakeshore.
A $5 day use parking fee or state park pass is required. Outhouses are open all year.
Eklutna Lake Area Guide
Campground & Cabin Rentals
Want to let the kids romp on a beach beneath a million-dollar view of mile-high peaks? Paddle a pristine lake? Tucked into the woods at the northern foot of Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park, this campground offers families unique access to a mountain wilderness valley laced with interesting features and 25-mile network of multi-use trails.
New in 2016, Dolly Varden Cabin offers the same recreation opportunities that you’d find while car camping in the Eklutna Campground, but you sleep inside an insulated with a wood-burning stove and loads of space. Aimed at people who might want to experience the paddling, biking, hiking and climbing possibilities of the stunning Eklutna Valley, but don’t want to “rough it” or chop wood for heating.
This new, log cabin comes with an airy interior space, a child-safe sleeping loft, two covered porches and view of Eklutna Lake. Located down a flat trail about 650 yards from year-round parking, the cabin balances a bit of solitude with easy access and ample recreation. Great for families.
With exceptionally easy access for families, Yuditna Creek cabin may be one of the most versatile backcountry cabins in the state, whether cycling, skiing or hiking. Located at the end of a three-mile trip down a mostly flat trail along Eklutna Lake into the heart of Chugach State Park, the cabin offers a perfect base for all-day adventures in a spectacular mountain valley.
Located about four miles south on the western shore of Eklutna Lake inside Chugach State Park, the new, spacious Kokanee Cabin offers backcountry paddling and skiing with a strong wilderness vibe. Off the trail system and reachable only by traveling across the lake, the cabin is surrounded by forest that’s seen almost no human use. With this isolation, it’s a place that asks for self-sufficiency and gives solitude, plus a taste of what it might ...more
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.
Hiking Trails & Recreation
The start of this trail leads to the secluded Eklutna Lake, a great spot to picnic, hike, or fish. The trail is nice and easy, and takes you out 10 miles where you can then continue on to get a better look at Eklutna Glacier! Eklutna Lakeside Trial is also a popular biking trail. Alternate days 4 wheelers have use, but they cannot use the cutoffs closest to the lake. The trail follows the lakeshore for 7 miles, then onto glacial gravel… ...more
This trail quickly gains elevation on its way to an alpine meadow framed by the dramatic Twin Peaks and Goat Rock, but climbs to magnificent views overlooking the entire valley. Dall Sheep are often spotted above the timberline. From here there is a spectacular view of the lake below. This is also a good place for berry picking in the fall. Because of the crushed rocks, the trail is hardly ever muddy.
Long, beautiful hike. 1st five miles flat and easy, so you can ride your bike in and ride on in the woods. Spectacular view of Eklutna lake below and Bold Peak. This long day hike or overnight trip offers one of the best panoramas in Chugach State park and is good for berrypicking in the fall. Bikes are available for rental at the trailhead.
Freeze-up turns this seven-mile long fresh-water fiord in Chugach State Park into a multi-mode travel corridor for ice skaters, hikers, skiers and bikers. Adventure skating can be good before snow gets too deep, or after mid-winter thaws or wind rehabs the surface.