All of the national parks in Alaska are relatively remote, quiet, and free from swarming crowds. But there was one park that redefined those adjectives.
Lake Clark National Park was our sixth Alaskan park. At that point, we had traveled by ferry, large airplane, bush plane, shuttle bus, car, tour boat, and of course, by foot. So we were adjusted to the complicated Alaska logistics by the time we hit Lake Clark.
The park is located on the Alaskan Peninsula only a 1-hour bush plane ride from Anchorage, yet no roads lead to this wilderness. The quiet calm is immediately palpable, and it was a little eerie.
We chose to make our way to Lake Clark via bush plane from Anchorage. After looking into a few options, Lake and Pen Air was the best option for our flights. They suggested we route from Anchorage to a small town called Port Alsworth (inside the park), and then fly from there to King Salmon (with access to Katmai National Park, our next stop.) We had planned to take two round-trip flights from Anchorage for these two parks, but Lake and Pen was able to make the three one-way flights work well for us. That change saved us time and complications.
From the start of our trip to Lake Clark, we were nearly alone. Although it was a regularly-scheduled flight, and therefore cheaper, our bush plane from Anchorage to Port Alsworth was just the two of us.
When we arrived in Port Alsworth, we hiked about 3 miles to our campsite for three days, and set up (alone, again) along the beautiful Lake Kontrashibuna. (We passed a few hikers on the trail, and there was a trail crew down the trail, but we didn’t notice their presence during our three nights in the park.
Two days was plenty of time to explore this section of the park. We walked to Tanalian Falls several times, since it was on our trail to and from the town of Port Alsworth, and watched how the light changed the falls during different times of day. We also took a half day to hike to Tanalian Mountain, which is located off the same trail and climbs 3,400 feet in 2.5 miles. Steep and scrambly at times, but so worth the view of Port Alsworth, Lake Clark, Lake Kontrashibuna, and parts of the park we couldn’t reach by foot.
The rest of our time was spent visiting the Visitor Center, canoeing on Lake Kontrashibuna (there were several unlocked canoes at our campsite, so we dubbed them a free-for-all and went for it!), relaxing at camp, and walking around “town” a bit.
But there was always a theme to our time in the park regardless of what we were doing: ALONE. All alone. It’s not like we were dropped off in the middle of the backcountry. If you’re going to visit Lake Clark (not on a guided tour), most likely you’ll be going here. Yet there were very few visitors. The single, standard composition notebook in the Visitor Center has charted visitors for almost twenty years, and it’s not even full.
If you’re looking for a truly solitary experience, without many backpacking skills required, the Port Alsworth area of Lake Clark is a pretty good bang for your buck.
…As long as you can get there.
Check out the sights and sounds in our video below!