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The Ultimate Guide to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is only accessible by plane and has a host of activities and sights to discover. This park was established to protect volcanic landscapes, glaciers, waterfalls, and a large population of fish.

There’s so much to see and do in this national park, from wildlife viewing to backcountry camping and from world-class hunting and fishing to backpacking and hiking unmarked trails. Each year, about 23,000 visitors come to explore this magnificent place on earth and get a glimpse of the raw beauty of Alaska and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

How To Get to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Where Is Lake Clark National Park and Preserve?

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is located 150 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. This national park is one of the most remote parks in the entire National Park Service. This national park is made up of 4 million acres of land and water and is broken into several smaller regions for visitors to tour and explore.

Nearest Airports to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

There are several airport options for flying into the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve area. Guests will first fly into a major airport, then into a smaller airport, and then arrange an air taxi service to take them directly into the park, as this park is not accessible by car. Take a look at the most used airport options for flying to the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve area. 

Homer Airport Terminal (HOM)

Homer Airport Terminal is one of the smaller airports near Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Visitors will fly to this airport from the larger airport, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. 

This airport offers several flights to and from Anchorage each day. Kenai Aviation and Ravn Alaska are exclusively serviced by Homer Airport Terminal. Once arriving at Homer Airport Terminal, visitors can arrange an air taxi to help them complete the last leg of their Lake Clark National Park and Preserve journey. 

Kenai Municipal Airport (ENA)

Kenai Municipal Airport is lovingly nicknamed the Gateway to Alaska’s Playground. This small airport is a wonderful option for visitors to utilize when flying to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

The airport provides several flights to and from Anchorage each day. This airline services Grant Aviation, Kenai Aviation, and Ravn Alaska. From Kenai Municipal Airport, you are just a short flight by air taxi from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is located in Anchorage. This is the closest major airport to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

This airport offers direct and connecting flights to and from many major cities, including Dallas, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, and many cities around Alaska. The airlines serviced by Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, and Delta Air Lines. 

Once arriving at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, visitors will take a short flight to one of the cities closer to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has a long list of services to help make your journey an easy one.

Driving to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Visitors are unable to drive to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This park can only be entered by plane or by boat. Most visitors will arrange an air taxi service to pick them up in a nearby town and drop them off directly into the park. 

Taking the Train to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

There is no train that takes visitors to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

Taking an Air Taxi to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Air Taxi to Lake Clark National Park
Image Credit: J.Mills via NPS

There are countless options for accessing Lake Clark National Park and Preserve by air taxi. Some air taxis operate on wheels, while others operate on floats. Visitors can arrange an air taxi to take them directly to the park. The available options will depend on where you are flying in from. The National Park Service provides a list of air taxi services on its website, which is quite useful when planning your Lake Clark National Park and Preserve trip. 

Boating to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

It is possible to boat to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, but it is not the best option. Boating to this national park is dependent on many variables, including weather and water conditions. The National Park Service offers a list of boating providers for guests who want to arrive at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve by water. 

Getting Around Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a remote park in Alaska with no road system. The only way to enter the park is by small plane. Once in the park, the best way to get around is on foot or by boat. The National Park System provides helpful maps and a long list of commercial services that can be utilized for accessing the park.

What To See and Do in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is broken into many different areas, each of which provides an abundance of activity. There’s no shortage of excitement at this beautiful national park. From world-class fishing to hiking, and from watching wildlife to exploring a top-notch visitor center, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy at this national park.

Backpacking and Hiking

Tanalian Trails
Image Credit: T. Vaughn via NPS

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is the ultimate location for backpacking and hiking. This national park only has 2 developed trails and endless miles of undeveloped wilderness just waiting for you to explore. The developed trails are called the Tanalian Trails and are in Port Alsworth near the park headquarters.

The lake shores, high tundra, and coastal beaches are perfect for backpacking and hiking as well. Hiking and backpacking at Lake Clark National Park is one of the best ways to explore this magnificent place and take in the raw beauty and wonder of Alaska. 

Fishing

Fishing is a popular activity at Lake Clark National Park, as there are countless opportunities to reel in a big catch. The fishing season is from May to October, with the peak season in July and August. Ice fishing is also a favored activity for those visiting when the lakes are frozen.

Some of the best places to fish are at Crescent Lake, in the heart of the Chigmit Mountains, and at Silver Salmon Creek. Some of the fish that are caught at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve include Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, lake trout, northern pike, arctic grayling, arctic char, and all of the Pacific salmon species.

Bottom Line:

If you enjoy spending time fishing, you won’t want to miss the incredible opportunities at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

Hunting

Hunting is allowed in Lake Clark National Preserve but not in the park. Many visitors enjoy hunting during their time visiting this national park. The preserve is divided into 3 different areas: the Stony River area, the Mulchatna area, and the Lake Clark area.

Some of the animals you can hunt for in Lake Clark National Preserve include birds, black and brown bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and Dall sheep. Be sure to plan your hunting trip well in advance and obtain the necessary license before heading out. 

Visitor Center

The Port Alsworth Visitor Center is located in the Port Alsworth area, which is midway up the easternmost runway. This visitor center is open daily and is an excellent place to start your adventures at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

Guests also have the opportunity to view informational exhibits, including the Wassilie TrefonDena’ina Fish Cache and the Denison Sawmill Exhibit. Park rangers are staffed at this visitor center to help guests with obtaining information about the park, hiking trails, and how to check out bear-resistant containers for camping.

When visiting Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, you will want to make sure to visit this visitor center during your trip. 

Wildlife Watching

Red Fox in Lake Clark National Park
Image Credit: J. Mills via NPS

Tourists are in for a treat when it comes to wildlife-watching opportunities at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. There is an abundance of animals who call this park home and amazing opportunities to watch them in their habitat.

Some of the favorite animals of visitors include black bears, wolves, Dall sheep, caribou, and brown bears. Other animals that are also spotted in the park and along the coast include seabirds, Stellar sea lions, harbor seals, beluga whales, and sea otters. Some of the best areas to watch wildlife include Silver Salmon Creek, Crescent Lake, and Chinitna Bay.

Hot Tip:

Be sure to pack your camera when visiting Lake Clark National Park and Preserve to capture photographs of the incredible animals of the park.

Best Times To Visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

No matter what time of year you are able to visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, you are guaranteed a trip of a lifetime with amazing memories to last for years to come. There are better times than others to plan a visit, depending on what you hope to see and experience during your stay.

Best Time To Visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve for Ideal Weather

The weather can change drastically on any given day or hour at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. If you want to visit this park and experience ideal weather, you should plan to visit in July. By July, the snow has melted, and the park is coming alive with new life. If you plan to visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in July, you can rest assured that you will enjoy the best weather conditions of the whole year. 

Best Time To Visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve To Avoid the Crowds

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is not a highly visited national park, so whenever you are able to go, you will not experience crowded situations. Visiting in September is a great idea if you want to experience the park with fewer companions.

Once Labor Day has passed and school has returned to session, the park sees a dip in numbers. A solitary national park experience is a dream come true for many travelers, as there’s no need to worry about rushing and crowded areas.

Best Time To Visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve for Wildlife Watching

The wildlife at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is simply remarkable. For the best views of the animals that make their home in this national park, plan to come in June. The bears start going out and about during this time of year, making your chance of spotting one highly likely.

Other animals that can be spotted while wildlife viewing include caribou, beluga whales, moose, harbor seals, Stellar sea lions, and sea otters. The wildlife at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a wonderful sight to witness and capture in photos. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Saving money while traveling might seem impossible, but with research and planning, it is possible. The best time to visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is in mid-to-late September. Flights and accommodation rates are typically much lower once Labor Day has passed and schools have returned from summer vacation. Visiting Lake Clark National Park while going easy on your wallet is a win-win situation while traveling. 

Annual Events in Lake Clark National Park National Park and Preserve

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is such a remote park there aren’t many events held throughout the year. There are, however, many events that take place in the gateway towns that the park encourages visitors to attend. Let’s take a look at some of the exciting events that take place near Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in case you want to plan your trip in order to attend.

Homer Halibut Derby and Festival

Homer, Alaska, is known around the world as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. Each year, in the month of June, fishermen come to Homer to try to win the derby by catching the largest halibut. The town also has a Halibut Festival that celebrates the winning catch. The Halibut Derby and Festival are fun times for all and an event that is cherished by locals and tourists alike. 

Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

Bald Eagle Lake Clark National Park
Image Credit: K. Lewandowski via NPS

The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival takes place each year in Homer in May. This event celebrates the different bird species that migrate back to Lake Clark. Lake Clark is where thousands of shorebirds, such as Surfbirds and Least Sandpipers, breed and nest for the season.

Bottom Line:

Visitors are able to go on tours to see the birds, their nests, and their eggs. This is a remarkable sight to see.

Where To Stay in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

There is no shortage of places to lay your head during a Lake Clark National Park and Preserve trip. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is comprised of several different areas, and each of those areas has an abundance of lodging opportunities. With several campgrounds, lodges, and bed and breakfasts within the park and a few options in the towns a short plane ride away, the hardest part of planning your trip is deciding where to stay during your visit.

Inside the Park

This park and preserve has several options for lodging within the boundaries of the park. These options include primitive camping, bed and breakfasts, and all-inclusive lodges.

Alaska Homestead Lodge

Alaska Homestead Lodge is located on the beach near Silver Salmon Creek. This lodge is all-inclusive and offers several exciting experience packages for guests to choose from. This lodge is the original homestead with today’s conveniences. Each room is rustically decorated and equipped with cozy furniture and linens. Meals are made with fresh, local produce and are sure to refuel you after a long day of park activities.

Alaska Homestead Lodge is in a remote part of the park, and a plane is required to get there. Because of this remote wilderness location, visitors can participate in exciting activities like bear viewing, salmon and halibut fishing, puffin viewing, and clam digging. For a quiet retreat with unbeatable accommodations and activities, book your stay at Alaska Homestead Lodge when visiting Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

Camping

There are several campgrounds in the different areas of the park. Port Alsworth has a privately-owned campground, Hope Creek is filled with primitive campsites, and Chinitna Bay offers some camping opportunities from September to the end of April. Most of these campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Public Use Cabins

Priest Rock Public Use Cabin
Image Credit: NPS

There are 2 public use cabins in Lake Clark National Park, and staying in one of these options is like stepping back in time. These cabins are located on the northwest shores of Lake Clark. Priest Rock Cabin is 8 miles from Port Alsworth. This cabin was named after the 35-foot-tall monolith south of the cabin. Joe Thompson Cabin is 13 miles from Port Alsworth. 

Both cabins offer beach access and a quiet escape from reality. Priest Rock Cabin can accommodate up to 6 people, while the Joe Thompson Cabin can hold up to 3 guests. Visitors can experience what life was like in the pioneer days as the cabins don’t have electricity or running water. There is a wood stove, rustic furniture, and an outhouse. For water, visitors must get it from the lake and treat it before using it.

Redoubt Mountain Lodge

Redoubt Mountain Lodge is one of the many all-inclusive lodges in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This lodge is located near Cresent Lake in the heart of the park and is accessed only by floatplane or helicopter. This lodge was named after Redoubt Volcano, which is 8 miles away and offers spectacular views. 

There are many activities available at Redoubt Mountain Lodge. Some of the popular activities offered at this lodge include paddle boarding, fishing, water sports, and wildlife watching. 

The lodge is composed of 6 private log cabins and can accommodate 12 to 14 guests each night. The cabins are primitively decorated and have many amenities, including private restrooms, comfortable furniture and bed linens, central heating, electricity, and breathtaking lake and mountain views. 

This lodge also has a lovely dining room that serves fantastic meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a deck overlooking the lake and mountains.

The main lodge at Redoubt Mountain Lodge offers guests a quiet place to relax, read, or play games. A crackling fireplace is the centerpiece of the room, and the decor brings in nature and Alaskan wildlife. For relaxation, guests can spend time in the cedar plank hot tub or in the wood-fired sauna.

Bottom Line:

There’s something for everyone at Redoubt Mountain Lodge. Whether you are looking for a place with unlimited adventure or a place to reset and unwind from the daily grind, you can find exactly what your heart desires at Redoubt Mountain Lodge.

Towns Near Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

The towns near Lake Clark National Park and Preserve are a short plane ride away. Check out 2 towns that make great base camps during your trip to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

Anchor Point, Alaska

Anchor Point is 77 miles from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Visitors staying in this town must fly to and from the park. Anchor Point offers many places for accommodations, dining, and recreation. 

There are several options for accommodations, including lodges, rustic cabins, a campground, and an RV park. For dining, there aren’t a lot of restaurants, but you can certainly find a couple of options with something to hit the spot. If you prefer to make your own meals, there are grocery stores where you can get all your needed items. 

From fishing on the Anchor River to marine tours, and from dog sledding to wildlife viewing, there’s something for every adventurer to enjoy. If you are looking for a lovely option for setting up a home base during your trip to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, look no further than Anchor Point. 

Homer, Alaska

Homer is 90 miles from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, just a short plane ride away. This town serves as a gateway town to the park and has several options for dining, lodging, and recreation. 

For accommodations, Homer has an abundance of options. There are many locally-owned and chain hotels, as well as inns, bed and breakfasts, lodges, guest houses, cabins, and private rentals. Campgrounds and RV parks are also accommodation options.

There is a variety of restaurants in Homer, from fine dining to food trucks. Most restaurants feature local seafood caught right on the bay. Coffee shops, bakeries, and breweries are available for a quick bite or refreshing drink. 

For recreation and entertainment, Homer is a happening town. This town features museums, a live theater, galleries, artisan shops, and music venues for visitors who enjoy art and culture. Outdoor adventures include kayaking, backpacking, and fishing. Kachemak Bay State Park is also a feature of this area, which many guests enjoy visiting during their stay.

With so much to do and see and plenty of options for lodging and dining, Homer is an ideal location for a home away from home during a vacation to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

Where To Eat in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

For visitors who want to dine within the boundaries of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, the best option is to picnic in the park, as there are no restaurants on the property. Guests staying in one of the lodges have dining packages included in their stay. The closest restaurants open to the public are in the nearby towns, which still involve a plane ride.

Blue Bus Diner

Blue Bus Diner is located in the town of Anchor Point, one of the closest towns to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This diner serves classic American favorites for lunch and dinner. The menu offers hand-dipped milkshakes, juicy burgers, and fries cooked to perfection. Simply go up to the bus, place your order, and enjoy your favorite made-to-order meal. 

Ramiro’s

Ramiro’s, located in Homer, is a takeout restaurant that serves authentic Mexican cuisine for lunch and dinner every Tuesday through Saturday. 

This restaurant serves classic Mexican favorites like enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, and tacos, as well as some traditional American favorites like burgers and deli sandwiches. Some of the most popular menu items include smothered burritos, carne asada, and chimichangas. 

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Facts

Lake Clark National Park River
Image Credit: K. Jalone via NPS

1. A Newly-Established National Park

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the Lake Clark area a national monument. Later, in 1980, the monument was reestablished by Congress as Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This development occurred as a result of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The goal of this national park and preserve was to support the traditions of the subsistence culture, the volcanic and glacier landscape, and to protect the fish and wildlife of the area.  

2. Original Inhabitants

It is estimated that humans have lived in the Lake Clark area for 10,000 years. The original inhabitants of the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve area were the Athabascan people. This people group was also known as the Dena’ina. They lived in the area for thousands of years and continue to live there now.

The land and water played a major role in their life and culture. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve does an excellent job of regarding the original people of the park and works diligently to respect their values and culture to this day. 

3. An Abundance of Animals

A wide variety of animals make their home in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. There are 37 land mammals, over 180 types of birds, and over 25 kinds of freshwater fish species that make this park home.

The animals who call Lake Clark National Park and Preserve home include moose, wolves, black and brown bears, caribou, Dall sheep, bald eagles, and 5 types of salmon. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a remarkable place for wildlife watching, birding, hunting, and fishing, thanks to its abundance of animals. 

4. What’s in a Name?

Lake Clark was named after John W. Clark, a chief of the Nushagak trading post. Clark was the first Euro-American to see the lake in 1891. The original name of the lake was Qizhjeh Vena, which was the Dena’ina Athabascan name meaning a “place where people gather lake.” 

5. Surprising Salmon

A surprising number of sockeye salmon migrate to Lake Clark each year through the Kvichak watershed. The number of salmon who follow this migration route ranges from 147,000 to 3.1 million per year. These numbers are counted and recorded at the Newhalen Counting Station.

On top of that, nearly 13,000 red salmon are harvested each year by subsistence users upstream from the Newhalen Counting Station. It’s no wonder why this Lake Clark National Park and Preserve brings in so many anglers each year. 

6. A Park of Great Size!

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a massive park. It stretches over 4 million acres. The park itself is over 2.6 million acres, and the national preserve is comprised of a little over 1.4 million acres. For a fun comparison, the state of Hawaii is 4.11 million acres, and the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined are just 3.77 million acres. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is one giant park that is filled with so much to see and do. 

7. National Wild Rivers

There are 3 rivers in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve that have been designated as National Wild Rivers. This title means that the river features outstanding scenery, recreational opportunities, geologic qualities, fish and wildlife, history, culture, or some other value that has been deemed to preserve.

The 3 National Wild Rivers in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve include the Chilikadrotna River, the Mulchatna River, and the Tlikakila River. These rivers earned this title in 1980, near the time this park was declared a national park. 

8. National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is an honor administered by the National Park Service and state preservation offices. Places that earn a spot on this honorable list are preserved and protected as they are historic and archeological resources.

There are 4 locations in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve that are on this list, including Dr. Elmer Bly House, Richard Proenneke Site, Libby’s No. 23 Bristol Bay Double Ender, and Wassillie Trefon’s Dena’ina Fish Cache. These sites made it to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, 2007, and 2013. 

9. Volcanoes in the Park?

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve was established in order to protect a volcanic landscape. There are 2 active volcanoes — Mount Iliamna and Mount Redoubt — in the Lake Clark area sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire. There are 4 confirmed eruptions that have occurred in this park, all of them from Mount Redoubt. The eruptions occurred in 1902, 1966, 1989, and 2009. Both of these volcanoes were listed on the National Natural Landmarks list in 1976.

10. Caribou Crossing

Many times visitors get excited about the bear-watching opportunities in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, but there’s another exciting animal that makes its home in this area. There is a huge herd of caribou, approximately 100,000 in total, that can be seen wandering throughout the park. 

11. Highs and Lows

Every national park has surprising highs and lows, and that is no different at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. The highest elevation at this park is Mount Redoubt. This active volcano stands at 10,197 feet tall. The lowest point of elevation is at 0 feet, at the Pacific Ocean. 

12. Lake Clark

Lake Clark, the namesake of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, is over 40 miles long. This lake is the largest of the glacial lakes on the rim of the Chigmit Mountains. The headwaters of Lake Clark are the most important place for sockeye salmon to spawn in all of North America.

Final Thoughts

For the ultimate Alaskan adventure, you won’t want to miss the thrilling opportunities that await you at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Whether you prefer primitive camping or luxury wilderness lodges, hiking and backpacking through the wilderness, or sitting next to the lake and enjoying wildlife views, Lake Clark National Park is the perfect place for visitors seeking adventure or solace.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Lake Clark National Park and Preserve?

There is no entry fee required to enter Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. There are other fees involved with a visit to this national park, including an air taxi or boat service for arrival.

What is the weather like at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve?

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve has some of the most unpredictable weather in all of Alaska. The coldest month of the year is January, with temperatures reaching the teens, and the warmest month is July, with temperatures reaching the low 60s. Rain is common at this national park, as it receives an average of 66 inches of rain throughout the year.

How many days should I plan to visit Lake Clark National Park and Preserve?

It is recommended to spend 4 to 7 days exploring Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This length of time will allow you to see the highlights of the park, hike, and participate in some of the guided programs.

Where is the best area to stay within the boundaries of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve?

Most visitors choose to stay in the Port Alsworth area when visiting Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This area has the most options for lodging and is in a convenient location.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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