How to visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

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Quick Facts:

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • Size: 4,030,006 acres
  • Annual visitors: Approximately 18,000 in 2022 (69 percent day trips)
  • Visitors center: Port Alsworth Visitor Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. between Labor Day and the third week in September. It is closed from late September to Memorial Day. However, the Port Alsworth Field Headquarters next door remains open throughout the winter. The center provides trail details and notable exhibits, including Libby’s No. 23 Bristol Bay Double-Ender and the Wassillie Trefon Dena’ina Fish Cache, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Entrance fee: None

Why Visit Lake Clark National Park & Preserve?

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is the epitome of rugged wilderness, offering a glimpse into the Alaska of 300 years ago before European settlement. Alongside Katmai and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks, it showcases a diverse array of Alaskan terrain, including coastal wetlands, estuaries, snowcapped and glacier-draped mountains, numerous lakes and rivers, boreal forest, and tundra.

According to ranger Chelsea Niles, it is a land of stunning beauty where volcanoes emit steam, salmon migrate, bears forage, and craggy mountains reflect in shimmering turquoise lakes. The park is not only a testament to the natural wonders of Alaska but also a preservation of ancestral homelands for the Dena’ina people. It serves as an intact ecosystem at the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

Where to Find the Best Views in the Park

To fully appreciate the primal landscape of Lake Clark National Park, taking a floatplane flight over the park is the best and easiest option. Several outfitters based in Anchorage offer day trips to coastal or inland regions, as well as air taxi services to and from lodges in and around Lake Clark. The flight duration typically ranges from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the aircraft used (Cessna, Piper, or vintage DeHavilland Beaver floatplane). A list of authorized air taxi providers can be found on the NPS site.

For the best water or coast view, head to the north side of Chinitna Bay, which offers a stunning inland perspective of snowcapped Iliamna Volcano. To experience the best inland view, hike to the summit of Mount Tanalian, standing at 3,960 feet near Port Alsworth. Finally, for an awe-inspiring aerial view, fly over the Alaska Range between Cook Inlet and Lake Clark.

The Park’s Best Hiking Trails

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve provides numerous options for backcountry hiking, but only a few trails are well-marked, easy to navigate, and easily accessible. Here are some noteworthy trails categorized by difficulty:

Easy hikes: Near the visitors center and airfield in Port Alsworth, there are several marked and maintained trails suitable for families with children. These include routes to Beaver Pond (3.2 miles roundtrip), Tanalian Falls (four-mile round trip), and Kontrashibuna Lake (5.5-mile round trip).

Moderate hikes: The Tanalian Mountain route is a full-day, 8.6-mile round trip trek that involves ascending more than 3,000 feet. This trail offers breathtaking views of Lake Clark and the Aleutian Range. However, the last mile to the

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