RV park or public campground
Know the difference
July 1, 2018
Summer has finally arrived in the Last Frontier. After a wet, windy spring, Alaskans are fueling up and hitting the highways and byways in search of a night or two (or many) among Alaska's wild spaces. If one were to look at the numbers, RV (or car) visitors to Alaska only make up 78,000, or about four percent, of the state's two million annual visitors, but there's no mistaking their impact. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, RV parks, campgrounds, and even highway pullouts are packed with rigs, big and small. Not sure where to start roaming? Here are a few ideas, from remote campsites to a more urban landscape.
U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Alaska State Parks all maintain campgrounds in a variety of locations around the state. While most of the areas are in visually stunning places, amenities are spartan, with nearly all requiring "dry" camping (no water, power or sewer). The Alaska State Park system is making strides toward offering electrical hookups at some facilities like the newly-opened Kesugi'Ken campground in Denali State Park. Ethan Tyler, director of Alaska State Parks and Outdoor Recreation, says that park patrons are desiring more of such amenities in the state's campgrounds, and the agency is responding in gradual steps. "Moving forward, where possible, the Alaska State Park system will integrate amenities like electricity and wifi," he said. "We recognize the need for these added benefits, and are working to add them where we can."
A favorite of many is Kesugi'Ken Campground ( http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/sdenali/index.htm ) in Denali State Park. One of the newest campgrounds in the Alaska State Park system, it was built with views of Denali in mind. The park has several meandering trails facing Denali's south side, and an interesting interpretive center that offers nightly programs through a cooperative effort with the National Park Service.
Feeling adventurous? Hike up to Kesugi' Ridge and find alpine flowers and even more Alaska Range to gaze upon Campers' best bet for a complete listing of overnight options is through a visit to the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers, found in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Tok. A map showing all campgrounds is available for purchase for just a few dollars, making it a fun souvenir, as well. Visit http://www.alaskacenters.gov. Tip: Don't be afraid to dry camp; today's RVs feature big holding tanks for fresh and gray water, and can handle several days of wilderness adventuring.
Private RV parks
Some are simple roadside affairs with just the basics. Others go over the top to make sure their guests have the experience of their dreams, with on-site dining, campfire events, and shuttle services.
River's Edge RV Park (www.riversedge.net), located on the shores of the Chena River in Fairbanks, is a popular choice due to its proximity to the Chena River. Grassy sites look over the water, and a shuttle for tours makes sure guests don't have to unhook everything to see the local sights. Another nice feature? The Miner's Hall and Chena's Alaskan Grill, where the RV chef can take a break from cooking. Tip: Bring bikes to ride along the riverfront trail. http://www.explorefairbanks.com.
Eagle's Rest RV Park in beautiful Valdez is the place to park if landing a salmon is your goal. With full hookups and easy access to downtown docks and activities, Eagle's Rest also offers great views of the towering mountains and local wildlife. http://www.eaglesrestrv.com
Heritage RV Park on the Homer Spit ( http://alaskaheritagervpark.com ) means guests have a 360-degree view of Kachemak Bay and surrounding mountains. Situated right next to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, it's easy to walk over after dinner or early in the morning to try one's luck. The spit has a three-mile paved walking and biking trail, excellent restaurants, and beaches on both sides of the road, making exploration of this bustling little town even easier. We love the cafe with a free newspaper, delicious local baked goods, and great coffee. Tip: Take advantage of the local trolley shuttle that makes its way through the park several times a day.
It's important to remember that many parks fill up fast, so early reservations are a must at private parks and those public lands campgrounds that allow it. And, of course, don't forget the trusty Milepost, every road warrior's go-to resource for traveling around the Last Frontier, Canada, and border states of the Lower 48. http://www.milepost.com.
Erin Kirkland is an Anchorage-based freelance travel writer and avid roadtripper.