Nestled on the edge of the Chugach Mountains just north of Anchorage are the twin communities of Eagle River and Chugiak. Homesteaders first settled the area in the 1930s but today Eagle River and Chugiak are full-service communities and home to almost 30,000 residents.
About Eagle River/Chugiak
Many of the people who live in this area work in Anchorage, a mere 15-minute drive away, but love to play in the mountains. Eagle River in particular is well suited for that as one of the principle gateways to Chugach State Park, the third-largest state park in the country at 773 square miles. Running east from the community is Eagle River Road, a 13-mile ribbon of pavement into the heart of the Chugach Mountains that makes for a stunning side trip. The winding road skirts the Eagle River to the joy of rafters and whitewater enthusiasts before ending at the Eagle River Nature Center within Chugach State Park. At the log cabin visitor center you can go hiking, make reservations to overnight in a backcountry yurt, use telescopes to watch Dall sheep, join a naturalist program or just relax outside and soak up the mountainous scenery.
Things to do
Two of the more popular hiking trails departing from the nature center are Rodak Nature Trail and Albert Loop Trail. Rodak Nature Trail is a loop of less than a mile that passes an impressive observation deck straddling a salmon stream while the Albert Loop Trail is a three-mile hike through a boreal forest and along Eagle River.
Since 1985, Eagle River-Chugiak has staged the Bear Paw Festival in mid-July. The five-day has some familiar festival features, including a classic car show, the Miss Bear Paw Pageant, a grand parade and a chili cook-off. But it also has some not-so-common events, most notably the Slippery Salmon Olympics. The event consists of teams of two racing through Eagle River straddling hula-hoops with a soda on a serving tray in one hand and a salmon in the other to the delight of hundreds lining the streets. The event takes place in mid-July. Check the events calendar for specifics.