Best Winter Weekend Getaway in Chugach State Park

By Trent Jonas

Best Winter Weekend Getaway in Chugach State Park

Alaska gets a little more winter than most other states, so rather than hibernating for six months out of the year, it’s best if you get out and enjoy it! Chugach State Park, which is not far from Anchorage or the Kenai Peninsula contains almost half a million acres of some of the state’s most beautiful mountains and forests. The park and its surrounds also make for an awesome winter weekend getaway in Alaska.

Eklutna Lake Campground, Chugach State Park, AK

The Eklutna Lake Campground, in the northern part of Chugach State Park, near Wasilla and Palmer, is open to campers all year long. There are also several rentals cabins available around Eklutna Lake for those who aren’t thrilled with the idea of pitching a tent in the snow.

Warm up at Bear’s Belly BBQ

Nothing sticks to your ribs and warms your belly quite like barbecue. When you’re in the Eklutna Lake area of Chugach State Park, you’re just a few minutes away from some lip-smacking-good Southern barbecue. Head north up the Glenn Highway and you’ll find Bear’s Belly BBQ just on the other side of the Knik Arm. Not feeling barbecue? Get the gumbo!

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Grab your sled and head for Eklutna Lake

There are half a dozen fabulous places to take your sled in Chugach State Park. Eklutna Lakeside Trail is one of the prettiest. The trail tracks the east side of Eklutna Lake, with moderate elevations gains, fantastic mountain vistas and tree-lined panoramas. The trail is 12.7 miles in one direction (it’s not a loop), so plan your ride accordingly.

Hit the slopes at Alyeska Resort

The southern end of Chugach State Park embraces Alyeska Resort—the state’s biggest set of downhill slopes. Everything about Alyeska is superlative: 76 named trails—and plenty of backcountry—over 1,600 skiable acres with around 670 inches of annual powder. “Alyeska Resort hosts seven total lifts which take you to a vertical rise of 2,500 feet,” so be prepared when you’re skiing of such high elevation! To top it off, there’s on on-property spa to take care of those legs at the end of the day.

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Pull a rainbow up through the ice

If you’re fishing Alaska’s freshwater lakes, and often rivers, in the winter, you’ll probably need to do so under the thick layer of ice. Pike, char, grayling and landlocked salmon are common hard water catches. Rabbit Lake, on the park’s western border near Anchorage, is a particularly good spot to try your luck through the ice because it’s been stocked with rainbow trout. Bring proper permits and be aware of Alaska’s fishing laws and regulations. If you need ice fishing gear, you can rent it from an outfitter like the accommodating Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental in Anchorage. 

Bag a trophy

The interior of Chugach State Park—outside the Eagle River, Anchorage and Eklutna management areas—is open to hunting. The Chugach State Park Management Area is subject to some hunting restrictions, though. Check with Department of Fish and Game for the most up-to-date restrictions on species, seasons or bag limits. Appropriate tags and licenses are required.

Ski the Blueberry Knoll Loop to Flattop Mountain

On the outskirts of Anchorage, at Chugach State Park’s western edge, you’ll find the Hillside Trail system. Strap on your cross-country skis and start out from the Glen Alps Trailhead. Angle southeast along the Flattop Mountain trail, skirt one side of Blueberry Knoll, turn around at Flattop and head back, skiing along the opposite side of Blueberry Knoll, finishing at the trailhead. The whole loop, with some decent ups and downs along the way, is just under four miles. 

Hike the Albert Loop Trail

Located within Chugach State Park, the Eagle River Nature Center is an awesome place to learn more about the park, its resources, and what makes it so unique. It’s also a trailhead for several beautiful hikes. The Albert Loop Trail is a moderate hike—three miles or so—through some of the Eagle River Valley’s most pristine wildlife habitat. If the loop becomes too snow covered for hiking, it is groomed for cross country skiing. When you go in winter, bring skis or snowshoes, just in case.

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Fat bike the Middle Fork Trail

One of the cool things about the breathtaking views along the Middle Fork Trail is that they’re only open to biking during the winter months. Get started at the Prospect Heights Trailhead, head up (southeast) the Powerline Trail and drop down onto Middle Fork near Glen Alps and follow the trail to where it connects with the Wolverine Bowl Trail and ascends back up to Prospect Heights. If you’ve worked up an appetite, the Prospect Heights Trailhead is a few miles from Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ’s original location in Indian. You can even order online or over the phone and grab your ribs on the go.

Get those calories back at Kriner’s Diner

There’s no better way to get back all those calories you burned on your Alaskan winter adventure than some good ol’ homestyle cookin.’ And you’ll find some of Anchorage’s most popular comfort food at Kriner’s Diner. Get ready to devour some meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, an open-faced, hot turkey sandwich or one of their renowned burgers. Don’t forget to top it off with a slice of pie!

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