The Best Campgrounds for Families Near Anchorage

There’s nothing quite like camping in the woods with the family when you’re a kid. The crackling campfire and gooey s’mores. Biking around the campground loop. Running through the forest and gathering wood. Games and horseplay. Hikes along mysterious trails. Swimming and wading. Catching (and landing) that first fish.

Southern Alaska offers adventure-seeking families from Anchorage dozens of official campgrounds within a half-day’s drive on the road system, gobs of unofficial pullouts, and countless destinations in the backcountry. But many of these locations require arduous trips or lack facilities — or don’t offer all that much for kids to do. Some cater to hard-core anglers, or tend to grow a bit rowdy on weekends.

Seeking easy access, plus lots to do

Here we offer details for nine great public family campgrounds within a 90-minute drive from Anchorage, plus three well-regarded private destinations close by.

These campground also offer:

  • Outhouses, picnic table, fire ring and water pump. No purifying water or taking pioneer poops required.
  • Tenting or RVing OK.
  • Wholesome atmosphere, with other families around (not known as a party destination.)
  • Fun things to do.
  • Minimal hazards.
  • Many remain open after summer season with no fees with limited services.

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Campgrounds

Long pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies who seek a wilder­ness-like set­ting with­out leav­ing the urban area, the place has a rep­u­ta­tion for clean­li­ness and seren­i­ty. But you have to make peace with the riv­er: it is loud. 57 camp­sites are nes­tled along three wood­ed lanes and the inter­est­ing grav­el bars of Eagle Riv­er are nev­er more than a few min­utes’ walk away.

Bik­ing, hik­ing, fish­ing, climb­ing, wildlife view­ing, camp­fires — and the bore tide spec­ta­cle of Tur­na­gain Arm. Few camp­grounds any­where offer as many out­door options to an adven­tur­ous fam­i­ly as Bird Creek Camp­ground in Chugach State Park. Locat­ed at Mile 101 on the Seward High­way, the camp­ground fea­tures 22 sites for tents or RVs.

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.

Bik­ing, fish view­ing, a nat­ur­al his­to­ry cen­ter and a flat hike to a glac­i­er are with­in easy reach of this qui­et, inti­mate camp­ground in Portage Val­ley at the head of Tur­na­gain Arm in the Chugach Nation­al For­est. The 12 sites in the grav­eled, wood­ed Black Bear are yards from the Trail of Blue Ice — a non-motor­ized mul­ti-use trail that tra­vers­es the val­ley floor.

Bertha Creek Camp­ground is a great choice for a low-key cam­pout in a recre­ation­al gold-pan­ning area on a qui­et loop where the kids won’t get lost. Locat­ed just south of Tur­na­gain Pass in the Kenai Moun­tains about 65 miles south of Anchor­age, the camp­ground is tucked into an open for­est beside the con­flu­ence of Bertha and Gran­ite creeks at the base of steep mountains.

UPDATE: The camp­ground will be tem­porar­i­ly closed begin­ning in 2020 due to the dan­ger posed by trees infest­ed with spruce-bark bee­tles. Rot­ting trees have been top­pling. State parks plans to reopen the camp­ground after the haz­ardous trees have been removed. Camp­ing by this 108-acre lake inside the Nan­cy Lake State Recre­ation Area near Wil­low feels like you’ve reached the end of the road. To the west stretch­es unbro­ken wilder­ness to the Alaska  ...more

If you want to camp beside sub­alpine Upper Sum­mit Lake close to trum­peter swans and fish­ing for rain­bows, take the fam­i­ly to this camp­ground deep in the Kenai Moun­tains off Mile 46 of the Seward High­way. The 35 sites are spread along a loop in the alder, wil­low and spruce woods on the hill­side above the lake, with clear-run­ning Ten­der­foot Creek pass­ing through 

Set in a hand­some birch for­est over­look­ing Tur­na­gain Arm, this camp­ground in Chugach Nation­al For­est close to the his­toric vil­lage of Hope is a fam­i­ly clas­sic. The 34 sites offer all the usu­al ameni­ties (pic­nic table, camp­fire ring, out­hous­es, water pump) and are laid out with an eye toward pri­va­cy. Just 81 miles from Anchorage.

With 60 sites on paved loops, Willi­waw is suit­able for large motorhomes and offers great access to the Trail of Blue Ice — a non-motor­ized mul­ti-use trail that tra­vers­es the val­ley floor. Also near­by bik­ing, salmon view­ing, hikes, and glac­i­er viewing.

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