What to do in Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains

True Alaskan wilderness

Chugach State Park

Extending for roughly 495,000 acres north, south and east of Anchorage and connected to the Southcentral Alaska road network, Chugach State Park is one of the state’s more accessible adventure spots.

The Chugach Mountains offer several dozen excellent hiking and backpacking trails, much of which across high tundra landscapes, all within easy reach from Anchorage.

This accessibility comes at a cost with Chugach much busier than other locations (by Alaska standards, anyway). Chugach State Park attracts both locals, DIY adventurers and guided groups alike.

The weather in the southern and central region of Chugach State Park tends to be similar to Anchorage with summer highs averaging around 18 C (65 F).

The weather can change quickly; thunderstorms are rare but becoming more common as the summer heats up. Patches of fresh snow can linger all the way through summer in the higher reaches of the park, and fresh snow can fall during summer, although this is rare at lower elevations.

On the summer solstice, you’ll get 22 hours of functional daylight. On the winter solstice, you get a little more than five hours of usable light in this region.

Bear (brown and grizzly) and moose sightings are very common, as are eagles, hawks, porcupine, mountain goats and Dall sheep. Smaller wildlife includes ground squirrels, pika, marmots, ermine, ptarmigan and grouse. Wolf sightings are becoming more common. More rarely, you might see fox, lynx or, if you're extremely lucky, a wolverine.

Almost all access to Chugach State Park is by road. The park is easily accessed from a number of trailheads in Anchorage, Girdwood, Eagle River, Chugiak/Birchwood, and areas in between.

Alaska_Chugach

Talkeetna Mountains

Also within easy reach of Anchorage are the Talkeetna Mountains, sandwiched between the Alaska Range to the north and the Chugach Mountains/Cook Inlet to the south.

Despite their proximity to the Chugach Mountains, the Talkeetna have a character of their own--craggier than the mountains to the south but more accessible than the Alaska Range to the north.

Some of the more accessible (but still spectacular) trips in the Talkeetnas include Archangel Valley, Reed Lakes, the Mint Glacier, travel along the Little Susitna River ("Little Su" to locals), or sometimes the so-called "Bomber Traverse," a visit to the remains of an old B-29 bomber that are buried in the aptly named Bomber Glacier.

The Talkeetna mountains have a few good trailheads, but have many fewer trails and are more rugged than the Chugach.

Temperatures are cooler (and the weather tends to be rainier) in the Talkeetnas. Temperatures are also cooler in alpine regions of either park. Both rain and wind are hazards to be aware of; fog is more common in the Talkeetnas than the Chugach.

The Talkeetnas are accessed by roads to their south and west, typically from the small communities of Willow, Wasilla and Palmer. Anchorage is only a 40- to 60-minute drive away from Wasilla and Palmer, so it's a common launching off point.

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