10 Epic Things to Do in Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park is a wild, rugged expanse of land that is home to two active volcanoes, icy glaciers, rocky, jagged mountains, several of the largest lakes in Alaska, and an abundance of wildlife.
Located in Alaska, this national park is one of the least visited in the USA. There are no roads in Lake Clark National Park, there is very little information online about what to do and how to plan your visit, and there is a limited window of time that you can visit the park.
Planning a trip here may seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be.
We hope to dispel some of this mystery, although to be honest, that is one of the best things about Lake Clark National Park. Tim and I had very little idea what to expect on our visit and this place absolutely amazed us.
In this guide, we cover the best things to do in Lake Clark, plus essential information to help you plan your visit.
Table of Contents
Interesting Facts about Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park gets its name for Lake Clark, the deepest lake in Alaska and the largest lake in the park. This lake is 40 miles long, 5 miles wide, and just over 1,000 feet deep at its deepest section.
At 2.6 million acres, it is the 7th largest national park in the USA.
This national park contains several distinct regions. Along the coastline of the Cook Inlet, bears feast on clams and sedges in the early summer, making this one of the best places in the world to view brown bears.
Two active volcanoes, Redoubt and Iliamna, sit within the Chigmit Mountains. Redoubt erupted not too long ago, in 2009 and in 1989. In 1989, the ash flow from the eruption caused all four engines on a nearby KLM airplane to fail. The airplane was able to land safely.
The Chigmit Mountains connect the Alaska Range to the Aleutian Range. These jagged mountains are home to the two volcanoes but also a long list of glaciers that have been slowly carving out this mountain range.
Within Lake Clark National Park, there are also quite a few lakes that dot the western side of the park. On this list are Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake, as well as Lake Clark. Boating, fishing, and flightseeing over these lakes is one of the best things to do in Lake Clark.
Lake Clark National Park is important because it is a watershed for the sockeye salmon. In fact, this park was established in order to protect the salmon and their habitat. It also protects the subsistence use of the salmon by the Denai’ina Athabascan people who have lived here for more than a thousand years.
Moose, caribou, black bear, brown bear, peregrine falcons, coyotes, river otters, beavers, Dall’s sheep, bald eagles, sea lions, and harbor seals can be found in Lake Clark National Park.
In 1978, Lake Clark became a national monument. On December 2, 1980, its status changed to a national park. In 2022, just under 20,000 people visited the park, making it the 4th least visited park that year.
Iliamna Volcano | photo courtesy of NPS
Map of Lake Clark National Park
Below is a map of Lake Clark National Park from the National Park Service. I highlighted the popular areas to visit.
Lake Clark National Park Map
Best Things to Do in Lake Clark National Park
1. Visit Port Alsworth
Port Alsworth is a small settlement that sits on Lake Clark. It is home to an airport, the Lake Clark National Park Visitor Center, and several lodges and resorts. If you plan to spend multiple days in Lake Clark, Port Alsworth is one of the best places to stay.
Lake Clark Resort (the name recently changed from the Farm Lodge) is located in Port Alsworth. This resort sits on Lake Clark and offers numerous sightseeing tours of Lake Clark National Park. This is where we stayed and we used Lake Clark Resort to set up our sightseeing trips, which made planning our visit very easy.
Later in this guide I will cover sightseeing trips they offer, but first, there are a few things to do right in Port Alsworth.
Lake Clark Resort | Best Things to Do in Lake Clark National Park
Cabins at Lake Clark Resort
Things to Do in Port Alsworth
Visit the Visitor Center. The Lake Clark National Park Visitor Center and the national park sign are located in Port Alsworth, about a 15 minute walk from Lake Clark Resort. There is information about the local hiking trails and you can view the Fish Cache and Denison Sawmill Exhibit.
Lake Clark National Park visitor center | Best Things to Do in Lake Clark National Park
Hike to Tanalian Falls. This is the most popular hike to do in Port Alsworth. This hike is about 4 miles round trip and takes you Tanalian Falls.
Kontrashibuna Lake. This 5.5 mile hike passes Tanalian Falls and continues to a viewpoint of Kontrashibuna Lake, a beautiful turquoise lake.
Kontrashibuna Lake | Best Things to Do in Lake Clark National Park
Tanalian Mountain. At just under 9 miles round trip, this challenging hike takes you from Port Alsworth to the peak of Tanalian Mountain. Your reward is 360° views of Lake Clark, Kontrashibuna Lake, the Chigmit Mountains, and Port Alsworth.
Have lunch at CK’s Food Truck. This food truck serves burgers, sandwiches, and coffee.
HOW TO GET TO PORT ALSWORTH: There are no roads in Lake Clark National Park. The only way to get to Port Alsworth is by airplane. There are several flights a day offered by Lake Clark Air.
2. Take a Flightseeing Tour
In a national park with no roads and several different ecosystems, there’s no better way than to see it than from the sky.
Weather permitting, if you plan to fly from Anchorage to Port Alsworth, you will fly through Lake Clark Pass, getting a closer look at the Chigmit Mountains, river valleys, and glaciers in this section of the park.
With more time, you can also take flightseeing tours of Redoubt and Iliamna volcanoes, the turquoise lakes, and the coastal sections of the park.
Upper Twin Lake | Best Things to Do in Lake Clark
One thing you should know is that the weather will have a big impact on your experience. During our visit to Lake Clark, we planned two flightseeing trips. Our first trip to Twin Lakes went off without a hitch. Our second tour, called the Fire and Ice Tour, had to be modified because of clouds and wind. We still had an awesome day, it just ended up being different from what was originally planned.
In Alaska, weather conditions can change rapidly, affecting everything from flightseeing trips to kayaking tours. Be prepared to be flexible in your plans, and to know that at some point during your trip, a sightseeing excursion may have to be modified or cancelled due to the weather.
The Fire and Ice Tour
This flightseeing tour is offered by Lake Clark Resort. It is a full day excursion where you will see Redoubt and Iliamna volcanoes from the sky as well as the glaciers in the Chigmit Mountains.
We signed up for this tour and added on a visit to the coast, so we could see the brown bears in Lake Clark. We did this in a wheeled bush plane but it can also be arranged with a float plane, which allows you to make several water landings.
The wheeled bush plane with the glacier we hiked to in the background.
Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for us. We were still able to fly through a portion of the Chigmit Mountains but were unable to cross them to get out on the coast to see the bears. Our pilot Carlon, who is amazing, modified the flight.
We flew through the Lake Clark Pass, spotted three moose and six black bears from the airplane, landed in the pass, and hiked out to a glacier.
We were in a bush plane, a small Stinson aircraft with giant inflatable rubber tires. Landing on the gravelly bed of the river was a first-time experience for us and very exciting. After hiking out and back to the glacier, we had a picnic lunch without another person in sight.
It is experiences like these that make Lake Clark special and much different from the more popular parks like Arches and Yosemite. The scenery, the wildlife, and the remoteness of Lake Clark National Park really makes this place special.
Even though we didn’t get to do everything we hoped to, it was still a phenomenal day. We talked to other guests at Lake Clark Resort who did the Fire and Ice Tour on a different day, with better weather, and they raved about it. This is a great tour for those who want to see the wide variety of landscapes in Lake Clark.
3. Visit Twin Lakes
Twin Lakes, also known as Nilqidlen Vena in Dena’ina, are two turquoise lakes that sit on the western side of the national park. The best way to see these lakes is on a flightseeing tour.
Twin Lakes | Best Things to do in Lake Clark National Park
If you are staying in Port Alsworth, it is a gorgeous 25-minute flight to get to Upper Twin Lake. On this flight, you have breathtaking views of Lake Clark, the Twin Lakes, and the colorful mountains that divide these lakes.
On Upper Twin Lake, you can visit the historic Proenneke Cabin, hike to Teetering Rock, and stay at Windsong Lodge. This is also one of the most popular camping spots in the park. Hope Creek Campground is located near Proenneke Cabin.
To get to Twin Lakes, we took this float plane.
4. Tour the Proenneke Cabin
In May of 1968, Richard Proenneke arrived at Twin Lakes and built a log cabin using simple hand tools. For 30 years, he lived in this cabin.
Proenneke documented much of his life here, including the construction of the cabin and his daily activities, in photos, videos, and a mountain of journals. A lot of this has been published in books and on a YouTube channel. There is even a website about Richard Proenneke, if you would like to learn more about his story.
The cabin is now owned and maintained by the National Park Service. You can only visit it on a tour with a park ranger from late May through mid-September. To get to the cabin, arrange a float plane or take the Twin Lakes Tour offered by Lake Clark Resort.
Proenneke Cabin | Best Things to do in Lake Clark National Park
The beach in front of Proenneke Cabin
5. Hike to Teetering Rock
Distance: 1.8 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Easy to moderate | Time: 1 to 2 hours
This is one of the best hikes to do in Lake Clark National Park.
The trail starts at the Proenneke Cabin, runs through the forest and along Hopes Creek for a short distance, before climbing uphill. It ends at a boulder and from here, you get a breathtaking view of Upper Twin Lake.
Hiking to Teetering Rock
Teetering Rock | Best Things to do in Lake Clark National Park
The view from Teetering Rock | Best Things to do in Lake Clark National Park
6. Visit Turquoise Lake
Turquoise Lake sits north of Twin Lakes. This is another great spot to visit on a flightseeing tour of Lake Clark National Park. The water in this lake is lighter and more vibrant than Twin Lakes and the best time to see it is on a sunny day.
We planned to visit this on our Fire and Ice Tour but again, the weather changed our plans.
7. Bear Viewing
There are several great spots in Lake Clark National Park to see black and brown bears.
The most popular places to visit are Chinitna Bay and Silver Salmon Creek, which sit on the coastline of the Cook Inlet.
In fact, one of the most popular ways to visit Lake Clark National Park is on a day trip to Chinitna Bay from Anchorage or Homer. On a half day tour, you can fly to the coastline, keep your fingers crossed that the bears will be searching for clams along the beach, view the bear, and then return to Anchorage or Homer. This can also be arranged by Lake Clark Resort if you will be staying in Port Alsworth.
The best time to see the brown bears on the coast is from late spring through early fall.
photo courtesy of NPS
Crescent Lake is another popular bear viewing site in Lake Clark National Park. This remote lake is accessible by float plane. You will then travel around the lake by boat to spot bear and to go fishing. The best time to see bear at Lake Crescent is July through early September.
8. Go Fishing
Lake Clark National Park contains some of the most pristine fishery habitats in the National Park system.
The fishing season runs from May through October. Peak season is during the salmon run, which takes place in July and August.
The best places to go fishing in Lake Clark National Park are at Silver Salmon Creek and Crescent Lake. You will need to have an Alaska state fishing license. Learn more about the rules, regulations, and where and when to go fishing on the official National Park Service website.
9. Take a Boat Trip
This land of lakes and rivers is a great place to go on a boat trip.
Many of the lodges in Lake Clark, such as Lake Clark Resort, run boating trips in the park. These range from short, scenic cruises to all day fishing trips or bear viewing tours. Some lodges will also offer kayaking trips, but these can be challenging to set up independently, since many airplanes are not equipped to transport a kayak.
Multi-day float trips are also offered in Lake Clark National Park. There’s not much here in the way of whitewater rafting, but if the thought of drifting through the park on a raft sounds appealing, you can learn more here.
10. Go Camping and Backpacking
Lake Clark is one of the most remote national parks in the USA. For those who really want to get off the beaten path, you can go backpacking in this amazing wilderness.
There are very few trails in this park, which means that you will be hiking off trail. Hiking is allowed in most of the park, as long as it is not closed to public use. For those who just want to get out and explore, backpacking through the Lake Clark wilderness is an unforgettable experience.
In order to do this, you will need to be self-sufficient and have excellent way finding skills. There are rules and regulations you need to know as you plan your trip.
For those who want to explore the wilderness but don’t feel comfortable navigating the backcountry on their own, you can also hire a guide or simply camp at Hope Creek on Upper Twin Lake for a few nights.
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
How Much Time Do You Need in Lake Clark National Park?
The answer to this question depends on several things: how much time do you have, how many of the things we mentioned above do you want to do, and how much money do you have to spend?
Lake Clark is one of the most expensive US national parks we have visited.
Since there are no roads into the park, you’ll have to fly in, which can range from $500+ per person. Lodges tend to be expensive and campgrounds are limited, so you could end up paying a few hundred dollars per night to sleep inside of the park. Adding on things like flightseeing tours, boat trips, and fishing trips and these really start to make a visit to Lake Clark expensive. Flightseeing tours range from $500 to $1000+ per person, depending on the length of the flight.
The cheapest, quickest way to visit Lake Clark National Park is to either take a half day bear viewing trip of Chinitna Bay from Homer or Anchorage, or spend one night at Lake Clark Resort, simply visiting Port Alsworth and hiking the trails here.
With more time, you can arrange a camping trip or multi-day backpacking trip, which is another low budget way to visit Lake Clark National Park.
If you have more money to spend, adding on at least one flightseeing tour allows you to go deeper into the park, either visiting Twin Lakes, seeing the volcanoes and glaciers, visiting remote Crescent Lake, or seeing the bears along the Cook Inlet coast.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you also plan to visit Katmai National Park, Lake Clark Resort offers day trips to Brooks Lodge. This is an excellent way to visit two national parks and takes care of arranging your transportation to and from Katmai. Katmai and Lake Clark sit near each other so it’s a relatively quick flight between these two parks.
Hiking to Teetering Rock | Best Things to do in Lake Clark National Park
Our Lake Clark Itinerary
Here is our Lake Clark itinerary. This is a 2-day Lake Clark itinerary with a one night stay at the Lake Clark Resort in Port Alsworth.
Day 1: 7:30 am flight from Anchorage to Port Alsworth. 9 am to 2 pm: Twin Lakes flightseeing tour with a visit to the Proenneke Cabin and Teetering Rock hike. Afternoon in Port Alsworth. Dinner at Lake Clark Resort.
Day 2: 9 am to 3 pm Fire and Ice Tour. 5:30 pm: flight to Anchorage.
We kept our visit to two days because these tours are very expensive. We loved the Twin Lakes and Fire and Ice Tour and we got to see a lot of the park, a lot of wildlife, and had the unique experience of hiking out to the glacier, so it was worth every penny. We pay for all of our travel, and we don’t take discounts or free trips, so we hit the limit of how much we wanted to spend in this park.
If we added on more time, we would have also liked to stay at Silver Salmon Creek or on Lake Crescent, for the bear viewing and fishing opportunities.
We met quite a few people at the Lake Clark Resort who were staying for 3 to 4 days and doing a mix of flightseeing and boating/fishing tours.
Reach out to Lake Clark Resort for updated pricing for your trip.
Best Time to Visit Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park can be visited all year, but guided excursions are mainly offered from June through September.
During the summer months, high temperatures range from 50 to 65°F with low temperatures getting into the high 40’s. March through July tend to be the driest months of the year, but even so, about 6 to 7 inches of rain falls per month.
Starting in August, rainfall dramatically increases and stays high (about 14 inches per month) through December, and then begins to taper off. Snow falls from late October until early April.
Our visit was in early July (July 9 and 10). We visited Lake Clark in 2023, a year when the weather was highly atypical. From late spring into the summer, temperatures were cooler than normal, winds were a lot higher, as were rainfall chances. Talking to the park ranger at the Proenneke Cabin, he said that he had about an hour of sunshine for the entire month of June. Flightseeing tours were frequently disrupted and the salmon were extremely late in starting their run.
How to Get to Lake Clark National Park
There are no roads to lead to Lake Clark, and no roads inside of the park, so the only way to get here is by airplane.
Depending on where you plan to visit, you will either fly on a wheeled aircraft or a float plane. Wheeled and float planes can be arranged from Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Iliamna, King Salmon, and other towns in Alaska.
We flew from Anchorage to Port Alsworth on Lake Clark Air. For our flightseeing trips within the national park, we arranged these through Lake Clark Resort.
Where to Stay in Lake Clark National Park
We stayed at Lake Clark Resort, also called the Farm Lodge. It is located right next to the runway, on Hardenberg Bay. They offer several cabins with private bathrooms and these have a beautiful setting right on the bay. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included and they provide so much food that you don’t not have to worry about going hungry. Dinner is family style in the dining room. Alcohol is not sold or served at the Farm Lodge.
In Port Alsworth, other accommodations include Alaska’s Back Country Inn, Alaska Fishing Unlimited, the Lake Country Lodge, Wilder House Bed and Breakfast, Tulchina Adventures, and Alaska Backcountry Fishing Lodge.
Cabins at Lake Clark Resort
Aerial view of Lake Clark Resort
Upper Twin Lake
The Windsong Wilderness Retreat is a small lodge located on Upper Twin Lake.
Windsong Wilderness Retreat
Silver Salmon Creek
If you like the idea of bear viewing and fishing at Silver Salmon Creek, take a look at the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. There’s a chance you’ll see bear right on your doorstep.
Camping & Other Lodges
You can also camp at Hope Creek on Upper Twin Lake or stay in the Joe Thompson or Priest Rock Public Use Cabins that are operated by the National Park Service.
Get a full listing of lodges in Lake Clark National Park here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Lake Clark National Park important?
Lake Clark National Park protects the sockeye salmon watershed as well as the subsistence use of the salmon by the Denai’ina Athabascan people who have lived here for more than a thousand years. This national park is home to a wide range of wildlife and ecosystems, including several active volcanoes, glaciers, and remote lakes.
Is Lake Clark National Park worth it?
For those who want to visit a wild, rugged, remote landscape, where bear and moose roam the valleys and salmon make their annual run, it doesn’t get much better than Lake Clark National Park. This is one of the least visited national parks in the USA and perfect for those who want to explore the wilderness and experience the tranquility here, which is a much different experience than what you get an many other parks in the USA.
How much time do you need in Lake Clark National Park?
On the quickest of visits, a half day is all you need to fly to the Cook Inlet coast and see the brown bears. For those who want to venture deeper into the park, plan on spending at least two days in Lake Clark, but you can spend a week or longer and never run out of things to do.
Plan Your Visit
Hours of Operation: Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
Park Entrance Fee: There is no entrance fee for Lake Clark National Park.
Get updates on road conditions and trail closures, as you plan your trip and just before your visit, on the National Park Service website.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Lake Clark National Park, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Alaska
ALASKA: To read all of our articles about Alaska, check out our Alaska Travel Guide.
NATIONAL PARKS IN ALASKA: There are 8 national parks in Alaska. So far, we have visited five of them. Learn more in our guides to Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, Kenai Fjords, Lake Clark, and Katmai.
BEST OF WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS: While in Wrangell-St. Elias, more top experiences include taking a flightseeing tour and hiking to Bonanza Mine. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do in Wrangell-St. Elias. We also have more important planning information in our Wrangell-St. Elias Travel Guide.
KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Kenai Fjords National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
KATMAI NATIONAL PARK: In our article Best Things to Do in Katmai, we cover the top experiences in the park. For a unique experience, take a photography tour to capture the action at Brooks Falls from Brooks River and learn how to see the bears at Brooks Falls. You can also visit the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, the site of one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions in recent history.
Read all of our articles about United States in our United States Travel Guide.
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