Someone recently asked me how I write about travel in a unique way to have a chance of getting seen with all of the travel articles out there; how do I stand out? My answer is, “I see where everyone is going and then turn and go the other way and cover that.”
I understand not everyone is like me, most people like to follow the crowd. It’s easier, you know what to expect, and it’s perceived to be safer to be with the crowd as opposed to being on your own. There’s nothing wrong with that. I like to take little jaunts to eat in Rome, stay in cute apartments in Paris, and enjoy the famous harbor in Sydney too. However, I just get my real excitement from taking the path least traveled – to each her own.
That’s how I find myself writing about least visited national parks. I don’t want to go to the popular, crowded places everyone sees and writes about, I want to introduce new places to you and help you blaze your own trail and explore.
Let me introduce you to the most recent ‘least visited’ gem I found, Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. I went to the park for 5 days on a hiking and kayaking trip around Twin Lakes Alaska and was introduced to its beautiful solitude. There’s much more to the park than Twin Lakes, but I learned a lot about the area from that trip. Here’s everything you need to know on why you should go, how to make it there, and plan a trip like the one I took. And you’ll even find you aren’t completely alone – there are a handful of other cool, interesting, brave souls like you who are also blazing their trail!
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Why go to a least-visited park? I’ll show you…
Besides the fact that it’s not crowded and few people know about it – there are a number of other reasons to go to Lake Clark National Park! The park consists of over 4 million acres making it twice the size of Yellowstone National Park and larger than the state of Connecticut. Since its creation in 1980 to protect the scenery, abundant wildlife, and traditional lifestyles of its residents, it has been hailed as Alaska’s wildest park.
Lake Clark landscape diversity
It has a variety of landscapes to experience; towering snow-capped mountains, glacier-clad volcanoes, scenic rivers, and tundra landscapes.
It has some of the best camping spots in the world, You can’t beat these views
It has turquoise lakes you can have all to yourself
It’s carpeted with amazing fall foliage in September
It also has an abundance of wildlife and is known for its brown bear viewing; however, on the Twin Lakes Paddle trip I took, we only saw some bears in the far-off distance since we weren’t by the salmon runs.
How to get to Lake Clark National Park
The park can only be reached by small airplane or by boat. The primary way is to take a float plane out of Port Alsworth, the small, remote community where the Park office and visitor center are located. It has the only real development and services around including a couple of hotels, tour companies, a school, and a church. Port Alsworth is a scenic town you’ll want to stay a few extra nights in for sure.
The town is situated around two privately owned gravel airstrips. In addition to the airstrips, there are a number of floatplane operators running charters deeper into the park. Port Alsworth is sort of like the O’Hare airport of remote airports; there were planes coming and going all the time! Normally, you fly to Port Alsworth and then set up another float plane charter from there deeper into the park.
I flew Lake Clark Air from Anchorage to Port Alsworth on a chartered flight, however, you can also fly from places like Homer, Kenai, and Wasilla into parts of the park. It all depends on where you want to go and if you are chartering your own flight or going as part of a tour operator’s charter. A great list of flying options is found here.
Charter boats starting from the Kenai Peninsula are also an option but don’t take you as deep into the park.
Map of Lake Clark National Park
What should you do in the park?
There are lots of options once you get to Port Alsworth. From there you can do wildlife viewing, backcountry hiking, kayaking, camping, and visit Dick Proenneke’s cabin.
Go with a seasoned back-country tour guide
If you feel like testing your wilderness skills Alaska Alpine Adventures specializes in Lake Clark NP backcountry trips (kayaking, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing). I went on their Twin Lakes Paddle trip and had the trip of a lifetime.
In addition, some of the lodging options in Port Alsworth, like the Farm Lodge, also offer a variety of fishing, hunting, kayaking, and bear-viewing packages.
Or you can do it more independently Windsong Wilderness Retreat rents a private cabin on the opposite shore of Upper Twin Lake. Several licensed commercial outfitters rent backpacking, kayaking, and other outdoor equipment and/or specialize in guiding day-long and overnight trips to the Twin Lakes area.
Here is a list of air taxi operators, guides, and equipment rental companies authorized to do business in the park. This will provide everything from flight companies, to tour companies.
Are there some less hard-core options than camping?
Yes! You don’t have to camp and rough it. If you want to do a day outing to Dick Proenneke’s cabin, there are a few options where you can fly to Upper Twin Lake, spend time viewing the cabin, and talk to the rangers. Then you can do a moderate hike up Hope Creek to Teetering Rock where you may see wildlife and get a feel for the landscape. Then you hop back in the floatplane and head back to Port Alsworth. No camping, but a nice taste of the park.
Now you are ready to go on a truly unique experience in Alaska. Let everyone head to Denali while you go enjoy one of the least visited parks, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
I was a guest of Alaska Alpine Adventures and the Adventure Trade and Travel Association on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.