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.
Many remain open after summer season with no fees with limited services.
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 2019 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 Range and beyond. And yet, the 97 sites in this friendly, heavily treed campground offer all the regular campground amenities of outhouses, fire rings, picnic tables and water pump.
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.