Located on the eastern border of the City of Anchorage is Chugach State
Park, the fourth largest state park in the United States.
This 495,000 acre, diverse habitat has nine distinct ecological zones including riparian rivers and lakes, hemlock spruce forest, alpine tundra, coastal wetlands, muskeg, and marine waters.
Historically, the Dena'ina were the original inhabitants of the south central Alaska region now covered largely by Chugach State Park. It's estimated they arrived there between 1000 and 1500 years ago and the well known Iditarod Trail was first traversed by the Dena'ina, the Deg Hit'an and the Inupiaq.
Hiking has almost limitless possibilities with 155 mountain peaks within its borders alone. Flattop Mountain is the most popular and accessible from the Anchorage area, with a variety of climbs of varying difficulty. The 3 mile trek covers a 1500 foot ascension to the summit.
The Winner Creek Trail is a preferred one in the Girdwood area; and Eklutna Lake offers a number of trails with scenic vistas including Thunderbird Falls, a 2 mile hike culminating in a waterfall.
Eklutna Historical Park is another Alaska tapestry highlighting the mixture of Aboriginal and Russian Orthodox culture, a 30 minute drive from downtown Anchorage. On site are the old log Russian Orthodox Church along with the new Orthodox Church, and remnants of the history, culture, and customs of the Dena'ina Athabascans.
The Eagle River Nature Center is located within Chugach State Park about 40 minutes northeast of Anchorage. It's open year round with a multitude of programs, over 10 miles of hiking trails, a cabin and 3 yurts. Most programs are free; a $5 parking fee supports the Center.
If exploring by vehicle is preferred, the coastal Seward Highway is recognized as a National Scenic Byway. Dall's sheep, beluga whales, and the Kenai and Chugach Mountains can be viewed from points along the highway such as Beluga Point, Windy Corner or Bird Point.
Heading north from Anchorage, Arctic Valley is one of the first Chugach access points. It's community ski hill and many trails make it a popular recreation spot. Rendezvous Peak in particular is a favorite 4 mile roundtrip hiking trail with a gentle 1500 foot ascent. In the valley in August, there are mossberries, blueberries, cranberries and crowberries ready for picking.
Wildlife of course are plentiful in Chugach State park with more than 45 species of mammals resident. Population estimates include 1000 moose, 80 black bears, 40 brown bears, one wolf pack, 2000 Dall's sheep, and smaller populations of lynx, fox, beavers, mountain goats, and river otters.