5 of the Best Hiking Trails in Lake Clark National Park

Discover a complete nomadic experience 

Brimming with untouched land and some of the most beautiful scenery found on Earth, Lake Clark National Park was established in 1980. The name Lake Clark is named after John W. Clark, chief of the Nushagak trading post in the late 1800s.

 Located in southwestern Alaska, the park covers over four million acres and is home to various wildlife, including grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and many more.

While Lake Clark is a beautiful park, don’t expect an easy car ride to get there. There are no accessible roads leading into Lake Clark, so you must take a boat or aircraft into the park. This remote location is part of what makes Lake Clark so unique. Once you arrive, you’ll find yourself in one of the most secluded places on Earth, untouched by the modern world.

Exploring one of the many trails in Lake Clark is an excellent way to experience all the park has to offer. While many who choose to venture up this far north enjoy hiking unmarked trails, there are quite a few designated trails that are perfect for those looking for a more structured experience. 

Here are five of the best:

1. Teetering Rock

Just as the trail name suggests, this unique rock formation teeters on the edge of a large cliff overlooking Upper Twins Lake. 

While the rock itself has been a part of the history of this land, you will also find a part of human history in the form of Dick Proenneke’s legendary cabin. Proenneke was a man who loved nature and came to Lake Clark in the late 1960s to live a subsistence lifestyle. While he passed away in 2003, the cabin he built by hand still stands and is maintained by park staff so future generations can see how one man managed to live off of the natural resources of the Alaskan wild.

Total Distance: 1.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 160 feet

Difficulty: Easy — Hiking

Route Type: Out & Back

Other Info:

  • The weather can become unpredictable, so waterproof hiking gear is recommended.
  • Proenneke’s Cabin is a historical sight, not an overnight guest lodge.
  • Behind the cabin is additional trails that allow you to extend your hiking experience

2. Tanalian Falls

This trail is one of the most rewarding shorter trails in Lake Clark. Although it is just over four miles long, it will take you through a thick forest to the magnificent Tanalian Falls.

The falls gush water over a 30-foot lava rock cliff. You can view the lower pool and upper falls on this trail, so don’t forget that camera.

Total Distance: 4.22 miles

Elevation Gain: 790 feet

Difficulty: Moderate — Hiking

Route Type: Out & Back

Other Info:

  • Waterfall mist can be cold — ensure you bring waterproof or warm hiking clothing.
  • Be careful around the cliff as the rocks can be slippy from the water 

3. Beaver Pond Loop

If you have been looking for the ultimate trail for peace and quiet, look no further than Beaver Pond Loop. This trail is one of the lesser-known trails in Lake Clark, but it is well worth the visit.

This trail gives you options, as it connects with the Tanalian Falls trail, but just taking the Beaver Pond loop provides much less elevation gain. You will find yourself in a lush forest with a beautiful beaver pond at the center. It’s the perfect place to sit and relax — you might even catch a glimpse of some wildlife if you’re lucky.

Total Distance: 3.41 miles

Elevation Gain: 564 feet

Difficulty: Easy — Hiking

Route Type: Loop

Other Info:

  • This trail has tent sites if hikers prefer to camp overnight — no reservation is required.
  • New cabins are starting to be built along this trail, so watch out for construction.
  • Forest can be buggy during hotter months — Bug spray is recommended.

4. Tanalian Mountain

While steep, this trail is one of the most popular in Lake Clark for a reason. The views from the top of Tanalian Mountain are incredible, giving you a 360-degree view of some of the most beautiful landscapes in Alaska.

Remember that this is a difficult hike consisting of quite a few rock scrambles, so ensure you have appropriate footwear and technical skills before attempting this trail.

Total Distance: 8.88 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,782 feet

Difficulty: Hard — Hiking

Route Type: Out & Back

Other Info:

  • This trail is only recommended for those who have backcountry hiking experience.
  • This is a day hike — make sure to bring lots of water, food, and waterproof gear.
  • The elevation gain can leave some struggling to get a good breath.

5. Portage Creek Trail

This is one of the most unique trails in Lake Clark, as you will need to jump on watercraft to get to the trailhead.

For those with some outdoor experience, this is the perfect trail to disconnect from society and enjoy a more primitive experience. With miles of trails in untamed and often wet conditions, you will find yourself in the true Alaskan wilderness.

Total Distance: 6.52 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,171 feet

Difficulty: Hard — Hiking

Route Type: Out & Back

Other Info:

  • This trail can only be accessed by boat, water taxi, or kayak/canoe.
  • This trail is only recommended for those who have backcountry hiking experience.
  • Bugs are especially prevalent on this trail. Lots of bug spray is recommended.
  • The trail can sometimes be overgrown, so prepare to do some bushwhacking.

A journey into the untamed Alaskan wilderness is not for the faint of heart. But for those who are looking for an adventure, Lake Clark National Park is the perfect place to explore. With its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife, Lake Clark is a unique national park that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Be sure to have a ride arranged back before heading into the park, and enjoy your time exploring all that Lake Clark has to offer. And don’t forget if you are bringing your 4-legged friend that they need to be leashed on every trail.

Happy hiking!