Here the Aleutian Range meets the Alaska Range in the Chigmit Mountains, an area known as Alaska's Alps. The Lake Clark Wilderness was renamed the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness in 2018 to commemorate Alask'a fourth governor. The mighty rain forest along Cook Inlet rises to alpine tundra and sparkling lakes sheltered by mountain fastnesses. Drainages plunge thunderously down hundreds of waterfalls. Vast numbers of moose, brown and black bears, wolves, wolverines, red foxes, Dall sheep, and caribou make their home here. Slender and 50 miles long, Lake Clark itself reflects tall ragged spires of rock, and salmon and trout run in great numbers. Originally a national monument, Lake Clark's status was changed to National Park and Preserve in 1980, and about two-thirds was designated Wilderness.
Three Wild and Scenic Rivers offer excellent opportunities for travel in the area: 11 miles of the gorgeous Chilikadrotna River with sections of wild white water; 22 miles of the shallow Mulchatna River flowing out of a jewel called Turquoise Lake; and 51 miles of the unsung Tlikakila River, which runs through one of the most fabulous glacial valleys in America. Tlikakila's waters eventually shed into Lake Iliamna, just outside the Wilderness boundary, the only place in the United States where inland seals live.
Two active volcanoes dominate the landscape, visible from the Kenai Peninsula across Cook Inlet: Mount Iliamna (10,016 feet) and Mount Redoubt (10,197 feet). In 2009 Redoubt erupted, spewing ash across Anchorage.
A visitor center exists on Lake Clark itself in the settlement of Port Alsworth, but you'll find no facilities or trails within the Wilderness. Once just a trickle, the number of backpackers has been increasing. Visitors will find few experiences to parallel Lake Clark.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness.
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is located southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, extending from the west coast of Cook Inlet to the tundra of southwest Alaska.
The Jay S. Hammond Wilderness is not on the road system.
Access to the Lake Clark region is by small aircraft and many air taxi services provide transportation to the park. Float planes may land on the many lakes throughout the area. Wheeled planes land on open beaches, gravel bars, or private airstrips in or near the park. A one to two-hour flight from Anchorage, Kenai or Homer will provide access to most points within the park and preserve.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 - Public law 115-141 (3/23/2018) To amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to include severe forms of trafficking in persons within the definition of transnational organized crime for purposes of the rewards program of the Department of State, and for other purposes.
Backpacking, hiking, rafting/kayaking, wildlife viewing, mountaineering and fishing are the primary activities in the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve has two distinct climate areas: the damp coast and the drier interior. The coast is often foggy and wet, with an average annual rainfall of 40 to 80 inches. The interior averages only 17 to 26 inches. The same weather systems that bring precipitation to the coast also bring milder winters; the interior often suffers temperatures as low as -40 degrees F.
Visitors to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve might bask in warm, gentle sunshine, be pummeled by fierce storms, or get soaked by rain. Weather conditions can change rapidly, and the mountainous terrain channels fierce winds. Gusts in the 30-50 mph range are not uncommon.
Frost and snow can occur any time, but are most common from September to early June. Lake Clark typically begins freezing in November and melts in April. Ice conditions dictate whether planes on floats or skis can land.
In general, visitors should be prepared to experience a number of different weather conditions during their stay within the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness. Sturdy raingear and appropriate footwear are a must, and smart travelers make sure to layer clothing.
Safety and Current Conditions
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a wilderness park, exceptionally remote and isolated. For any wilderness trip, we caution that visitors and hikers must be knowledgeable and prepared. Adventures in the park demand self-sufficiency and advanced backcountry skills. Help, if any, may be days away.
Be prepared for the possibility of inclement weather delaying scheduled pick-up, often by several days. Bring extra food and fuel with you.
Learn safe practices to avoid dangerous encounters with wildlife. Animals in the park are not tame, even those that seem "harmless" like porcupines or moose. Resist the temptation to approach or try to feed them.
Always filter or boil your water. Waterborne contaminants such as giardia and cryptosporidium are present.
Snow is possible at any time but most likely to occur from September to June. Bring warm clothing, a sturdy tent, and an appropriate sleeping bag.
Ask in advance about river crossings and other details of your route.
Please consider leaving your itinerary with us at our field headquarters at Port Alsworth before departing into the backcountry, as well as with a friend or family member who can notify us if you are overdue.
If you have additional questions, contact the field headquarters in Port Alsworth at (907) 781-2218.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.