Chugach National Forest
Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Region
6,908,540 acres (5,384,460 federal/ 1,524,080 other)
Roughly the size of New Hampshire, Chugach National Forest stretches from Seward, Alaska to the east beyond Cordova. It encompasses 3,500 miles of shoreline in scenic Prince William Sound, one of the sport fishing world’s top destinations for halibut, ling cod, and salmon. It is the northernmost and westernmost of all 155 National Forests, and 30% of its acreage is covered by glaciers (including 22 tidewater glaciers). Chugach National Forest was established in 1907 from part of a Forest Reserve originally created in 1892, only 25 years after Alaska was purchased from Russia.
Seward Scenic Byway, Turnagain Arm, Portage Glacier, Porcupine Campground, Russian River, Columbia Glacier, Million Dollar Bridge, Childs Glacier, Grayling Lake, Porcupine Creek Falls, Hope Point Trail, Iditarod National Historic Trail, Johnson Pass Trail, Russian Lakes Trail
Cut off from the road system of Alaska, Cordova is a fishing village on Prince William Sound at the end of the Copper River Delta, which is considered the largest contiguous wetlands complex on North America’s Pacific coast. Surrounded by Chugach National Forest, Cordova’s road network was dramatically shortened in 2011 when the mighty Copper River washed out a bridge 36 miles outside of town. Now if you want to get to the dramatic Million Dollar Bridge or stunning Childs Glacier you have to arrange a trip by air boat. Starting in 1911, the Million Dollar Bridge brought railcars full of copper ore from Kennecott Mine (which is now part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve). Just across the Million Dollar Bridge, a short climb up a small hill provides great views of Miles Lake and the surrounding area.
There are over 500 miles of designated trails in the National Forest, including several long trails on the Kenai Peninsula, which is accessible by paved roads from Anchorage. Three trails popular with backpackers are the 23-mile Johnson Pass Trail, 22-mile long Russian Lakes Trail (with three Forest Service cabins for rent along its route), and 39-mile Resurrection Pass Trail (with eight Forest Service cabins).
Chugach National Forest provides nesting habitat for millions of birds, including a huge population of bald eagles and more than 200 colonies of seabirds. Large mammals include moose, caribou, Sitka black-tailed deer, Dall sheep, mountain goats, pine martens, coyotes, gray wolves, black bears, and grizzly/brown bears. Marine mammals include humpback whales, minke whales, Dall’s porpoises, Steller sea lions, and sea otters. Rivers and creeks provide spawning beds for all five species of Pacific salmon: chinook/king, sockeye/red, coho/silver, chum/dog, and pink/humpback.
Boat tours out of the beautiful port of Valdez get close to the massive Columbia Glacier, a tidewater glacier that produces so many icebergs that it is inaccessible from the water.
There are not many roads in Chugach National Forest, and to access the Million Dollar Bridge and Childs Glacier outside Cordova you will need to arrange a trip by air boat since a bridge washed out in 2011.
There are 16 campgrounds in Chugach National Forest, including the Porcupine Campground in Hope near a creek popular for salmon fishing.
Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area
Katmai National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Nearest National Park
Conifer Tree Species
Sitka spruce, western hemlock, mountain hemlock, yellow-cedar
Flowering Tree Species
thinleaf alder, balsam poplar, paper birch, Scouler willow, Bebb willow, feltleaf willow, undergreen willow, Barclay willow, netleaf willow, arctic willow, Sitka willow, Sitka mountain-ash, Oregon crab apple
Explore More – Chugach National Forest covers nearly seven-million acres of land, but how many miles of Forest Service roads are there?
Learn more about Chugach and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods
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