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.

View of Eklutna Lake from the Twin Peaks Trail

View of Eklutna Lake from the Twin Peaks Trail

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

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.

ATV

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.

Stay Overnight

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.

Winter

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.

Eklutna Road Scenic Drive  (:34)

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.

Show Map

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, propane-heat­ed cab­in with 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

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 13 miles

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

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

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.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 4 miles

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 6 miles

Trail is nar­row and stream cross­ings not bridged. Wilder­ness char­ac­ter, wood­land veg­e­ta­tion, small lake. 

There are rain­bow trout and dol­ly var­den in Eklut­na Lake. Check with Alas­ka Depart­ment of Fish and Game for regulations.

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. 

Cer­tain paths lead­ing to the Eklut­na Lake­side Trail are pedes­tri­an only, so pay atten­tion to ATV trail access in the camp­grounds. ATVs are only allowed on the Eklut­na Lake­side Trail Sun­day through Wednes­day, April 1‑November 30

Beyond the day use area, there’s a trail that leads to the Eklut­na Lake Spill­way, where the Eklut­na Riv­er flows from Eklut­na Lake. You can walk out over the dam and peer over both sides.