Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

Anchorage: 36°/52°/Mostly cloudy

Fairbanks: 32°/55°/Partly sunny

Juneau: 32°/54°/Cloudy

More weather

Cozy cabins: Public-use facilities aren't fancy but they're fun

Salmonberry bushes nearly  hide the National Park Service's Aialik Bay Public Use Cabin, one of three such facilities the federal agency maintains in the Kenai Fjords National Park. The bushes that clog the trail to the cabin make for easy berry picking.

Unknown

Salmonberry bushes nearly hide the National Park Service's Aialik Bay Public Use Cabin, one of three such facilities the federal agency maintains in the Kenai Fjords National Park. The bushes that clog the trail to the cabin make for easy berry picking.

Travel deals

activities

24/48: Seward

Majestic Mat-Su: Glaciers, mountains, rivers and history give Valley life

Kenai Peninsula: Wildlife, fishing, glaciers and fun-filled days

A good day of sightseeing at Kenai Fjords National Park

24/48: Fairbanks

Bear-viewing options

What not to ask

Kayak operators

Questions to ask

If you go flightseeing

Get dirty: Off-road bike riding spots

First Friday art walk

Mountains, glaciers, parkland define the biggest state

If you go roadside fishing

Kenai, Russian rivers are just the beginning for anglers

Fish and bears: Kodiak's bruins get so big because of all the salmon

Angling paradise: Seward has a line on halibut and salmon fishing

Fishing fever: Early-season anglers converge on the lower Kenai Peninsula

Fishing for fun: Kachemak Bay's waters are full of halibut and salmon

Valley waters: Anglers discover outstanding fishing just outside Anchorage

Gateways to Chugach State Park

Alaska culture: Where and when?

An explosive past

Water wonderland: Whittier is the place for fishing, cruising or kayaking

Seward's surroundings leave visitors gasping for breath

Bear essentials: Planned encounters with fishing grizzlies is a highlight

Copper Valley: History and wilderness join forces at Wrangell-St. Elias

Fairbanks: Enjoy nearly endless daylight, Gold Rush history

Gifts galore: From downtown markets to art galleries, options abound

Celebrations: Music and food are summer festival highlights

Flightseeing helps visitors grasp Alaska's immensity

Golden destination: Hikers and history buffs all enjoy Hatcher Pass

Heaven on wheels: Trails across Anchorage, through wilderness keep cyclists moving

Wilderness wonder: Chugach State Park, city parks full of excitement

A touch of history: Old Town Kenai should be on the itinerary for visitors

Chefs turn the bounty of the sea into something beautiful

Wild water: A trip down an Alaska river will leave rafters cheering

Lake Clark National Park's scenery and remoteness impress

Small but scenic: History, location combine to make Cooper Landing special

Sea kayaks give paddlers a different lifestyle

Denali Park: Ride horses, fly or raft in shadow of Mount McKinley

Cozy cabins: Public-use facilities aren't fancy but they're fun

Valdez: From the Gold Rush to glaciers, Sound community has it all

Eagle River: Hiking, history and festivals keep visitors busy

Anchorage is blessed with plenty of spots to drink or dance

Stepping into history: From the airport to museums, Alaska shows off unique past

Peninsula hamlets: From Hope to Anchor Point, small towns are worth a stop

Fairbanks: Gold Rush history, weather extremes are part of the culture

UAF tours

Southeast Alaska: Off-the-roadway fishing at its finest

You can look long and hard, but it would be difficult to find a more perfect place to spend a more perfect summer weekend in Alaska. Of course, it's not overly easy to get there.

What locals say about public-use cabins
"I helped build some of those cabins, but I'm also a user. If you're out in the rain all day boating or fishing or beachcombing, it's nice to come back to a nice dry location and get a fire going."


-- Jeff Johnson, Alaska State Parks boating administrator

Cabin contacts
Alaska State Parks: 269-8400; Web site


U.S. Forest Service: 271-2599; Web site


National Wildlife Refuge: 1-907-487-2600


National Park Service: 1-907-224-7500; Web site


Public Lands Information Center: 271-2599

What locals say about public-use cabins
"I helped build some of those cabins, but I'm also a user. If you're out in the rain all day boating or fishing or beachcombing, it's nice to come back to a nice dry location and get a fire going."


-- Jeff Johnson, Alaska State Parks boating administrator

Cabin contacts
Alaska State Parks: 269-8400; Web site


U.S. Forest Service: 271-2599; Web site


National Wildlife Refuge: 1-907-487-2600


National Park Service: 1-907-224-7500; Web site


Public Lands Information Center: 271-2599

That's part of what makes it so exceptional.

After passing an outbound hiker about 9 Friday night, we didn't see another person until about 3:30 Sunday afternoon as we headed back to the trail head. Oh, there were a couple floatplanes that landed on the lake for a bit, but they weren't close enough for us to see the pilots, so they don't count. And floatplanes are part of the Alaska experience, so their powerful buzz was OK for a few minutes.

I'm reluctant to share this exceptional destination, but it's not my own special hideaway. It's on every map of Southcentral Alaska. And you can find plenty of information about it from the U.S. National Forest Service.

It is a 7 1/2-mile hike to reach the cabin (or a 10- to 15-minute flight for cheaters). But it's well worth it.

And the real beauty is that the Crescent Saddle Cabin is just one of dozens of public-use cabins across Southcentral. But on this spectacular weekend in June, it was the cabin to be in. And my group of four had the reservations.

Alaska State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service maintain the cabins. They must be rented in advance and they usually carry a $24 to $65 per-day rental charge. Cabins can be rented up to six months in advance, and summer weekends fill up quickly. But unexpected openings occur.

From remote locations in Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park to spots just a mile or two off the highway, cabins are cozy lodgings.

But visitors shouldn't expect too much comfort.

"These are real rustic cabins, they're very simple inside," said Rebecca Talbott, public affairs officer for Chugach National Forest. "The style of cabin gives a feel of backcountry Alaska. They're appropriate to the setting and the experience most people expect in Alaska."

"These are spartan cabins," said Jeff Johnson of the Alaska State Parks. "I tell people it's like car-tent camping without the tent. You can carry larger items if you're willing to.

"Some cabins have padded bunks, but most don't. This isn't luxury."

Most cabins include a log book. In it, visitors share their observations, thoughts, drawings and miscellaneous other things.

Those log entries give an interesting glimpse of life spent on cabin time. Here are a few entries from public-use cabin No. 2 at Byers Lake in Denali State Park north of Talkeetna:

• "Could this place BE any more spectacular? Eighteen years in Alaska and we have never been anywhere like this. 'The Mountain' has been cloudless for 24 hours."

• "Black bear wakes us up. He pokes around for about 20 minutes then leaves. Six wonderful, sunny days."

• "What a great place."

• "After a short discussion with my wife as to which was 'The Mountain,' we received our answer. The snowy peak peeked through the clouds around noon."

• "PUC #2 rocks."

Indeed, it does.

Denali State Park has more than 325,000 acres, the vast majority of it backcountry wilderness. It borders the southeast corner of Denali National Park.

As other visitors noted, the southern view of Mount McKinley is stunning from the front porch of the cabin. Of course, the weather isn't always cooperative. But when the mountain unveils itself, you'll know.

Loons were on the lake, their calls echoing into the night. Bears were busy eating berries during our July visit. The fish weren't biting, but the water was cool and refreshing for an afternoon swim -- especially after the hot hike up to the Kesugi Ridge and back.

It's locations like Denali State Park that make Alaska's public-use cabins special.

"The opportunity to use a cabin on public lands is pretty unique to Alaska," Talbott said. "There are a few places in the Lower 48, but they are limited, rare opportunities."

Johnson said the state selected the cabin sites carefully. Many of the state's cabins are constructed of trees killed by spruce-bark beetles.

"The cabins are always sited in some of the prime locations in some of the most visited areas of the state," he said. "People are always rewarded with a beautiful view."

Johnson said cabins in Kachemak and Resurrection bays are popular and get rented quickly. Visitors with flexibility will have the greatest chance of securing a cabin.

Special sections editor Steve Edwards can be reached at sedwards@adn.com or 257-4316.

alaska tour & travel

Career Center

Find Jobs

powered by CareerBuilder