Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Eagle River, Alaska

David Todd, center, and others from the Barbarians rugby team compete in a tug-o-war competition at the Alaskan Scottish Highland Games. This year, the games are on  June 27. They will feature Scottish athletic events, music, food and much more.

David Todd, center, and others from the Barbarians rugby team compete in a tug-o-war competition at the Alaskan Scottish Highland Games. This year, the games are on June 27. They will feature Scottish athletic events, music, food and much more.

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2012 Alaska Visitors Guide - Front

North of Anchorage, Eagle River guards the back door to nature. Homesteaders who came to live in the shadows of the Chugach Mountains and vast glaciers first settled this community, which now numbers 22,000.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

BILL ROTH / Daily News archive
Heidi Hammond picks crowberries while it snows at Alpenglow at Arctic Valley on a September afternoon. Alpenglow offers plenty of close-to-Anchorage hiking options.

"This is a stunning area," said Asta Spurgis, director of the Eagle River Nature Center. "It has a diverse ecosystem with wetlands, boreal forests and alpine environments."

The Eagle River Nature Center is situated in Chugach State Park with a mission to "get kids and adults out on the trails," Spurgis said. The facility is open year-round, offering daily nature walks with a biologist in the summer, astronomy lessons in the winter, day hikes, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing on the frozen river, birding, botany and bear viewing.

For history enthusiasts, the center offers an opportunity to explore Alaska's interesting past. In 1902 use of the Old Iditarod Trail began as a winter mail route. It is also known as the Crow Pass Trail, a 26-mile route between Girdwood and the Nature Center.

"The trail was used for a short time to gain access to the Interior during the winter," Spurgis said. "However, it was very avalanche-prone."

For those who wish to explore the outdoors for more than just a day, the Nature Center rents out several yurts and a cabin. Rental costs are $65 a night for nonmembers and $55 a night for members; reservations are required. The center provides the firewood for chilly nights. Tent camping is also allowed in the state park. The rule of thumb is that campers must be at least one mile from a designated trail head or developed area, Spurgis said.

Eagle River events:

Bear Paw Festival

The 24th annual festival has activities for the entire family. It features the Slippery Salmon Olympics, entertainment, food, a rotten-sneaker contest, a classic car show, a teddy bear picnic, a parade, karaoke, a motorcycle show and stunt-team demonstration, a dog-and-owner look-alike contest, a 300-yard "Run with the Bears" fun run, a 5-kilometer run and the IBEW Jammin' Salmon cook-off.

WHERE: Downtown Eagle River; free parking shuttle

WHEN: July 7-11

COST: Free

PHONE: 694-4702

WEB: bearpawfestival.org

Scottish Highland Games

The Alaskan Scottish Club hosts a yearly event in Eagle River celebrating the quirky culture of Scotland. The Highland Games involves piping and drumming competitions, athletics such as a hammer throw and caber toss and a hearty game of tug of war. A Scottish band will animate the event with its peppy piping and clans will pitch their tents and display their individual tartans.

WHERE: Eagle River Lions Park, football pitch

WHEN: Begins 8 a.m. June 26

COST: $12.50 advance or $15 at the door for adults; $5 children ages 5 and up, or $4 advance.

WEB: www.alaskascottish.org

Tuesday Market

"Alaska Grown" is the theme of the day for Eagle River's market held each Tuesday in the summer. Get some of the best produce from Matanuska-Susitna area farmers along with items from area artists and artisans. Vendors bring fresh produce, herbs, flowers and crafts.

WHERE: VFW parking lot, Eagle River Road

WHEN: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, June 1 to Sept. 28

COST: Free

PHONE: 696-4839

Eagle River Highlights

Alpenglow at Arctic Valley

In the winter Arctic Valley Ski Area is a small, volunteer-run, family-friendly area with two chair lifts and a T-bar. The valley turns into a hiking and berry-picking haven in the summer. In late summer, the hills are covered with blueberries and provide beautiful views of downtown Anchorage, Cook Inlet and Mount McKinley. Picnic shelters and latrines are available.

WHERE: Arctic Valley Road, north of Anchorage off the Glenn Highway.

WHEN: Dawn-dusk

COST: $5 parking fee

SKI HOT LINE: 428-1208

WEB: www.skiarctic.net

Downtown Eagle River

Shops feature arts and crafts, handmade gifts, quilts and pottery; there are art galleries and small bookstores.

WHERE: Old Glenn Highway, Eagle River

WHEN: Year-round

COST: Varies

WEB: www.cer.org

Eagle River Campground

This campground on the Eagle River has more than 50 sites, latrines, picnic tables and fire pits as well as fishing options and hiking trails.

WHERE: Mile 12 Glenn Highway

WHEN: Open May-September

COST: $15 a night to camp

PHONE: 694-7982

Eagle River

White-water rafting and scenic float trips on the Eagle River are an excellent way to experience outdoor adventure near Anchorage. Lifetime Adventures offers scenic floats, white-water and combo trips. Special gear is provided.

WHERE: Eagle River

WHEN: Daily

COST: $30 to $75

PHONE: 746-4644

WEB: lifetimeadventures.net

Eagle River Nature Center

A key entry point to Chugach State park with multiple hiking trails provides a wealth of information about local geology, birds, mammals and plant life through interpretive displays, weekend naturalist programs and volunteer-led hikes. Outdoor telescopes, easily accessible trails and viewing decks make the visit more enjoyable. A public-use cabin and yurts can be rented for overnight backcountry stays. The center offers guided nature walks June through August to salmon and beaver viewing areas.

WHERE: Mile 12 Eagle River Road

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, June-August. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, May and September. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, October-April

COST: Free admission. $5 parking for personal vehicles

WEB: www.ernc.org

Eklutna Historical Park

The park is home to St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, constructed in 1870, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The park shows a blending of the Native Athabascan culture with the influences of Russian Orthodox missionaries. It contains a sacred burial ground of the Dena'ina Athabascans with more than 80 "spirit houses." The 20-minute guided tour helps explain the Native and Orthodox traditions. Native arts and crafts and Russian gifts are available.

WHERE: Mile 26 Glenn Highway, Eklutna exit

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, mid-May through mid-September

COST: $5 for adults, $2.50 for ages 12-18, free for ages 11 and younger

WEB: www.eklutnahistoricalpark.org

Eklutna Lake

Kayaking, bicycling, hiking, canoeing, camping, fishing -- you name it and Chugach State Park's Eklutna Lake area has it. The seven-mile-long lake is the largest in the park, but boats must be carried a short distance from the parking lot to the lake. The 13-mile Lakeside Trail runs alongside the lake and is perfect for walkers or bicycle riders. Twin Peaks Trail is a 2 1/2-mile trail that is rated moderate to difficult because of the trail's steepness. Bold Ridge Trail is a 3 1/2-mile trail that begins at Mile 5 of the Lakeside Trail. There is a 57-site campground at the lake with latrines, fire pits and picnic tables. Lifetime Adventures rents kayaks and bicycles. Alaska ATV Adventures provides four-hour guided ATV tours around Eklutna.

WHERE: Eklutna Lake Road, Mile 26 exit, Glenn Highway

WHEN: Open daily

COST: $5 day use fee, $10-$20 a night to camp. Rentals and tours vary.

PHONE: 345-5014; 746-4644

WEB: dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chugach; lifetimeadventures.net; alaskaatvadventures.com

Moose Run Golf Course

Civilians are allowed to use this military-run facility with two courses. With beautiful views of the Chugach Mountains and opportunities to view wildlife while golfing, Moose Run is the world's northernmost 36-hole course. Tee time reservations recommended. Soft spikes only.

WHERE: One mile up Arctic Valley Road

WHEN: Summer only

COST: $40-$49 for adult civilians. Ask for special military rates.

PHONE: 428-0056

WEB: www.mooserungolfcourse.com

Thunderbird Falls Trail

This hike is a low-intensity, one-mile excursion through woods of birch trees to beautiful Thunderbird Falls. The waterfall carves a nook in the canyon and the trail features a viewing platform excellent for sack lunches and photos. In the winter the falls often freeze, producing an ice sculpture effect.

WHERE: Mile 25 Glenn Highway, Thunderbird exit. Follow signs one mile to trail head parking.

WHEN: Dawn to dusk

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