3 Spectacular Day Hikes to Explore Lake Clark NP

Hike through dense stands of spruce and birch, feel the mist of a glacier-fed waterfall, or summit a near-4000’ peak towering above the Alaskan wilderness – all on one of these established day hikes in Lake Clark NP.

Brendon Voelker


Tanalian Mountain

by NPS/ K. Martin | Public Domain

Licence Free

Up Tanalian Mountain

by NPS/T. Vaughn | Public Domain

Licence Free

Joe Thompson Cabin

by NPS | Public Domain

Licence Free



Lake Clark is one of the most remote and exhilarating national parks you can visit. A self-proclaimed “land of stunning beauty,” the park is only accessible by boat or floatplane – though whether your plane needs wheels or skis to land depends on when you plan your visit. Though off-trail travel through the wilderness is enjoyed by some, others will enjoy the comfort of hiking on one of the three established routes highlighted in this guidebook.

Before you begin your hike, you first have to get there. Nearly 100 miles from Anchorage, an air taxi is necessary to get around the park, and even to reach the main visitor center. After you charter your ride, Tanalian Falls should be your first stop. The stunning waterfall crashes nearly 30 feet over hardened lava rock, and its glacier-fed roar can be deafening. The trail is also the gateway to the wilderness, so if you’re looking for a longer outing, this could fit the bill.

Originating from the same trailhead, Tanalian Mountain is a rugged and challenging full-day outing that awards breathtaking 360-degree views from an exposed alpine mountaintop. The park suggests you plan at least 8 hours for the out-and-back hike, though a great view of Beaver Pond is available just a mile into the hike. If you have younger or less experienced hikers along for the ride, the first portion of this hike could be a great choice.

Across the lake from the visitor center, the Portage Creek Trail is the most remote trail that the park maintains. Only accessible by boat or seaplane, a rustic log cabin at the beach serves as the trailhead for this 6.5-mile hike that wanders through stands of birch and spruce bound for an alpine mountainside. For a small fee, the cabin can be reserved for up to 5 days, and transportation can sometimes be arranged on short notice from Port Alsworth.

As with all of Lake Clark, the park is open year-round, though May through October is by far the most popular season to visit. Fishing around Lake Clark is another popular reason to visit the area. And with so few maintained trails, off-trail travel is permitted almost anywhere over its massive 4-million-acre stretch. A selection of recommended off-trail expeditions can be seen here on the NPS website.



Tanalian Mountain

A rigorous climb up Tanalian Mountain with spectacular 360-degree views reaching for miles in every direction.

Tanalian Falls

A classic Lake Clark day hike to a breathtaking waterfall crashing 30' over hardened lava rock.

Portage Creek Trail

Enjoy a long day hike through remote backcountry, then unwind next to a wood stove in a rustic cabin on Lake Clark.