The Many Highlights of Lake Clark National Park

Published: February 21, 2024

Despite its proximity to urban Alaska (Anchorage) across Cook Inlet, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is truly wild and remote Alaska, And it’s the home of a lot more than just one single lake (although that lake IS an impressive one)!

Lake Clark National Park – Source NPS

Even getting to Lake Clark is an adventure! Visitors can only reach this park by boat or, the preferred method, plane. The park is 120 air miles from Anchorage and 65 air miles from Homer across from Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. Flying there on a small plane is a thrill as you get a bird’s eye view of the diverse and breathtaking Southcentral Alaska and Kenai Peninsula scenery as far as you can see, before making an exciting landing on any number of the park’s lakes, beaches, and all sorts of runaways depending on your destination.

This 4-million acre Alaska National Park is a recreational wonderland for visitors, where everything feels bigger, wilder and more breathtaking. The park encompasses fascinating Alaska ecosystems, magnificent mountains and glaciers, dense forests and untamed waterways – from rushing rivers to luminous lakes. These natural resources form the habitat of schools of salmon and resident wildlife including brown bears, black bears and eagles. Lake Clark National Park also hosts two volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna with Mt. Redoubt being an active one, occasionally puffing some smoke and ash into the air. Even the weather is wild here, with surprisingly chilly and wet sub-Arctic conditions.

a man fly-fishing in a lake surrounded by vegetation and mountains

Fly-fishing for salmon on Big River Lakes from Redoubt Bay Lodge

Outdoor enthusiasts flock here like migratory birds, drawn to active Alaska adventures such as backpacking and hiking through Lake Clark’s alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. Kayaking across the Park’s pretty and pristine lakes is also popular as is rafting the area’s raging rivers, and fishing for prized salmon.

Lake Clark and Port Alsworth

The park’s namesake, Lake Clark, and the tiny nearby community hub of Port Alsworth, Alaska is indeed a park top attraction. Port Alsworth is where many Lake Clark adventures begin, starting with a stop at the National Park’s visitor center. This is where you can learn about the area, its history and the culture and lifestyles of the area’s Dena’ina people. From here, you can depart on day trips such as fishing and kayaking on the lake, hiking a nearby mountain, flightseeing, wildlife viewing, backpacking and camping, or just relaxing at a rustic lodge or cabin stay.

Bear and Wildlife Viewing

In the summer season, flights out of Anchorage take travelers into Lake Clark National  Park for a full day bear viewing tour, a popular and exciting way to spend an Alaska day. Those staying in the park can enjoy even more bear-viewing experiences, as well as see other area wildlife like foxes, sheep, swans, caribou and moose. Along the coast can be found marine mammals like seals and sea lions, and some lucky visitors get to see the rare sight of a breaching beluga whale or porpoise. Nearly 200 bird species are also frequent flyers in the park, some year-round residents, some migratory.

Lake Clark Bear viewing day tour from Anchorage

Salmon Fishing and More 

Fishing season at Lake Clark NP takes place summer-to-fall, May through October, with salmon action peaking during the July and August salmon runs. Some bold fishermen even come here in the winter for ice fishing, too! Lake Clark National Park is renowned for its salmon fishing – the park’s origins are rooted in the preservation of this rich and treasured sockeye salmon fishery, one of the world’s largest. Newhalen River is “sockeye central”, where millions of fish are monitored and studied, not to mention chased by fishermen with lures and flies, and bears with big claws. Silver Salmon Creek is, well, obviously a great fishing destination, too, and one that’s also frequented by the local population of brown bears.

two people in a small boat on a lake holding a Dolly Varden fish

A guest of Redoubt Bay Lodge poses freshly caught Dolly Varden

Fish, and great fishing, can be found seemingly everywhere in the park, with lakes and streams teeming with all five Pacific salmon species, as well as rainbow trout and lake trout, arctic char and arctic grayling, Dolly Varden and northern pike.

Most folks who plan a Lake Clark visit put Crescent Lake high on their must-see list. Set in the Chigmit Mountains, Crescent Lake is a turquoise lake surrounded by rugged alpine beauty and is the park’s most popular fishing spot. But fishing isn’t the only action visitors find here. Crescent Lake is also home to black and brown bears, which are ambitious about catching their fill of fish. That’s why a stay at a nearby lodge or cabin is encouraged here while camping is discouraged.

a brown bear on the edge of turquoise lake water in Lake Clark National Park; thick forest in background

Crescent Lake in Lake Clark National Park (Megan Richotte/NPS)

Lake Clark Accommodations: Cabins to Lodge Suites

Public-use cabins and rustic lodges are spread around the massive park and are big-time attractions for travelers seeking to pair Alaska adventures and immersion within a remote wilderness setting with comfortable accommodations. Staying in a wilderness lodge allows visitors access to popular day trips (fishing, bear viewing, kayaking), paired with a warm and welcoming Alaska lodge experience.

Some Lake Clark National Park lodges even offer extraordinary comfort and cuisine to go with the park’s wild experiences. Redoubt Bay Lodge in the Redoubt Bay State Critical Habitat Area offers the perfect combo of rustic Alaska wilderness accommodations with exceptional bear-viewing experiences. Guides take visitors on specially designed pontoon boats to the best locations for viewing bears feeding on salmon. There’s also spectacular salmon fishing and kayaking here. Redoubt Bay Lodge is also the landing spot for a popular half-day bear-viewing trip from Anchorage.

Redoubt Bay Lodge guests relaxing on the deck of the main lodge in the Redoubt Bay State Critical Habitat Area. (MR)

Lake Clark National Park has endless adventures available for Alaska visitors, with excursions and options as wild and wonderful as you can imagine. Talk with the pros at Alaska Tours to build the right Lake Clark itinerary just for you and your companions.

a brown bear sitting in wetland vegetation

Redoubt Bay Bear Viewing