A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
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Public-use facilities give a rustic retreat for renters
For some, the perfect vacation accommodations include a two-room suite, 500-thread-count sheets, a concierge and a bottle of champagne on arrival.
Sounds good, but you came to Alaska. Why not experience it? And you don't do that from inside a hotel room, even if it's really nice. If a lightweight backpacking tent isn't your idea of fun, perhaps a compromise is in order - a public-use cabin.
Alaska's backcountry is dotted with cabins that rent for around $25 to $65 per night. From remote Shuyak Island near Kodiak to the Eagle River Nature Center, campers can find some comfort in wonderful wilderness locations.
"I think what's really cool, especially for visitors, is that it's a real rustic cabin that gives the true flavor of rustic Alaska life," said Kathy Johnson, Alaska State Parks natural resource specialist. "There are no amenities like running water or shower or flush toilets. But they are in outstanding locations."
Alaska State Parks, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service maintain the cabins. They are in remote, fly-in locations or, sometimes, just a short distance from a main highway. Some of the cabins have a three- or seven-day cap on the stay.
While the locations are often stunning, the accommodations are modest. Cabin renters do have a roof over their head, which can be mighty convenient with Alaska's quickly-changing weather and propensity for bugs. Cabins also provide bunks but no bedding. There is a stove; most use firewood but some use fuel-oil or kerosene, which the renters will need to bring with them. The stoves aren't designed for cooking, so bring a small camp stove too.
There is no running water and no electricity. Renters need to come prepared to purify or boil drinking water.
But it's beautiful. Last June, my wife and I spent a night inside a Forest Service cabin along the Copper River Highway outside Cordova. We rode our bikes about 21 miles to reach the cabin, so it was nice to not have to set up the tent. And when it started raining overnight, it was even better. Despite being just 100 yards or so from the road, it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. Which is exactly what we wanted.
Earlier in the year, we started our camping season with a weekend at Yuditnu Creek Cabin in Chugach State Park. The late April trip was supposed to be the perfect start to summer. Instead it snowed on us. Waking up to a couple inches of snow was a lot more enjoyable inside a cabin than inside a tent.
Special sections editor Steve Edwards can be reached at email@example.com. Visit his Alaska travel blog at www.alaska.com/alaskology.
It's hard to go wrong with a cabin, but here are some favorites:
- Caines Head: Two Alaska State Parks cabins south of Seward on Resurrection Bay. They can be reached from a trail or via water.
- Shoup Bay: Three cabins, two with outstanding access and views of Shoup Glacier, a few miles outside Valdez. The hiking trail was damaged last fall, but water access is available.
- Denali State Park: Three cabins, including a new one. The park has excellent views of Mount McKinley.
- Alaska State Parks: 269-8400; www.alaskastateparks.org
- Kenai National Wildlife Refuge:262-7021; kenai.fws.gov/cabin.htm
- Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge:487-2600; www.nps.gov/aplic/cabins/
- National Park Service: 224-7500; www.nps.gov/kefj/
- Public Lands Information Center:271-2599; www.nps.gov/aplic/
- U.S. Forest Service: 271-2599; www.reserveusa.com