Visiting Williwaw Campground is considered one of the most unforgettable experiences in Southcentral Alaska. Nestled in Portage Valley, the famous campground invites campers, day hikers, and occasional travelers, exploring natural wonders of the Chugach National Forest.
A Guide to Visiting Williwaw Campground, Alaska
Vast wilderness surrounds you as soon as you hit the Portage Glacier Road, taking you a small city of Whittier. Tall trees, bathing in early morning sun rays, allure you to travel deeper into the forest and find out what it hides. Distant mountains and towering glaciers make you wonder if there is a way to get closer to them. Your curiosity takes over, and you stare intently at the road, looking for entrance to the forest. And sure there it is. If you thought that visiting the Williwaw Campground would ask for a deeper penetration into Alaska wilderness, this little side road is about to dispel your old beliefs.
Located beside Williwaw Creek, about 20 minute away from Girdwood, the Williwaw Campground is an easy-to-reach destination. The biggest of two campgrounds in Portage Valley, the place offers stunning views, 60 sites on paved loops, prime hiking and fishing locations. When visiting the Williwaw Campground keep an eye on Alaska’s wildlife. Who knows you might make friends with moose and bears living in the forest.
To enhance your experience, I have compiled a complete guide to visiting the Williwaw Campground. It intends to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and share some of the best things to do during your visit to the Williwaw Campground.
How to Get to the Williwaw Campground
The Williwaw Campground is a perfect destination for an overnight camping and a short visit on your way from Anchorage to Whittier. From Anchorage, take the Seward Highway and drive 55 miles south to the Portage Glacier Road (milepost 78.9). Continue on the Portage Glacier Road for another 4.1 miles until you see the sign “Williwaw Campground” on your right.
The Best Time to Visit the Williwaw Campground
The Williwaw Campground is open for summer camping from Memorial Day (end of May) through Labor Day (beginning of September). July and August are considered the busiest season with more people coming to enjoy warm summer days and stunning nature of Alaska. Campground facilities such as hand pumps and vault toilets operate only in summer. This makes visiting the Williwaw Campground less convenient during the off-season.
The Best Things to Do
It’s likely that you’re visiting the Williwaw Campground to unwind and spend some quality time in nature. With all its scenic trails, water activities, and great opportunities to view Alaska’s wildlife, the place lives up to your expectations. What’s more, the paved paths and the handicap-accessible Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform ensure that all visitors can enjoy the campground.
Williwaw Nature Trail
Whether you’re camping or visiting the Williwaw Campground for a few hours, hiking allows you to see the most of it. The 1.25-mile Williwaw Nature Trail is exactly what you need for a short scenic hike with little elevation gain. The path starts at the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform, passes under the highway, and takes you to a few ponds. Leaving the ponds behind, the trail crosses the Portage Glacier Road and runs south 1/2 mile. Here it connects to the Trail of Blue Ice, a 5-mile path that begins in Moose Flats Recreation Area and ends near the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. At the junction of the two trails, you can continue east to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. The west fork takes you back to where you started, crossing through the Williwaw Campground first.
Byron Glacier Trail
For the more adventurous visitors of the Williwaw Campground, head over to snow fields via the Byron Glacier Trial. Be sure to bring your camera, as the trail allows a close-up view of a glacier. Black bears, moose, and marmots cross the Byron Glacier Trail from time to time. Mostly running near Byron Creek, the path is short, only 0.9 mile long, with gentle ups and downs. The best time to hike the trail is June and early July. Winter visits are not recommended, as steep walls of Byron Valley along with high snowfall create unsafe conditions.
Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform
Crystal-clear waters of Williwaw Creek add another activity to the list of things to do when visiting the Williwaw Campground. From early August till mid-September, spawning salmon, coho, and sockeye fill the creek. You can observe the swimming fish from the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform, adjacent to the Williwaw Campground.
Begich, Boggs Visitor Center
The scenic hikes and panoramic vistas introduce you to flora and fauna of the area. The Begich, Boggs Visitor Center further enhances this experience with its art exhibits and the award-winning film “Retreat and Renewal: Stories from Alaska’s Chugach National Forest”. Get help of specialists as you virtually explore the glaciers, wildlife, geography, and climate when visiting the Williwaw Campground. Admission fee is $5 for an adult. Children under 15 visit for free.
Places to Visit Near the Williwaw Campground
Close proximity to other beautiful sites enriches your visit to the Williwaw Campground. You can make a few separate trips to these places or explore all of them in one day.
Located about 8 minutes away from the Williwaw Campground, Portage Lake is famous for its Portage Glacier. The lake has become visible in 1914 due to a rapid retread of the glacier. In summer, Portage Lake is a top-notch destination for short, usually one-hour, glacier cruises. (Mv Ptarmigan is the only boat that operates on Portage Lake.) The lake freezes in winter, allowing for a safe 3-mile hike all the way to the glacier. Once you have worked up the appetite, be sure to stop at Portage Glacier Cafe for hot sandwiches and pies.
Whittier is one of the smallest cities in Alaska. Small in size, the place, however, offers ample activities to add to your visit of the Williwaw Campground. Boat cruises, hiking, waterfalls chasing – there is something for everybody. Whittier has only one land access through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel in North America.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
The travelers often add the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to their trip to the Williwaw Campground. This non-profit organization focuses on providing the best environment for injured and orphaned animals. Among its famous residents are black and brown bears, moose, reindeer, and wood bison.
Fees ($18 for a single, $28 for a double per night) are charged during the summer season. There are no fees for visiting the Williwaw Campground during the off-season. Reservations can be made up to 180 days prior to your arrival date through recreation.gov.
General Guide to Visiting the Williwaw Campground
- There is no trash service during the off-season, so be sure to pack out all garbage.
- Be mindful of the wild animals and keep all your food out of sight in special containers or locked inside your car. Remove all the food from the area after eating. Access to the human food disrupts animals’ natural diet and makes them dependable on people. This, in its turn, increases chances of the wild animals being killed.
- Purchase firewood only near your camping destination to prevent the spread of tree-killing pests.
What to Pack when Visiting the Williwaw Campground
When visiting the Williwaw Campground you plan to spend some time in the woods. Although it’s one of the most popular camping sites, you might still spend a lot of time in isolation. To avoid any unexpected situations, be sure to pack a few things from recommendations below.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE. Depending on the hiking trail you choose, you can be out of access to fresh water for a while. Bring your reusable water bottle and make sure to refill it before venturing into the woods. To be on a safe side, you can also throw purification tablets and LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle in your backpack.
RAIN GEAR. With temperament Alaska’s weather, rain prevails most of the summer and fall months. Even on a sunny day, be sure to pack rain trench, especially if you plan to hike the Byron Glacier Trail.
SUNSCREEN. Make it a habit to smear your face with sunscreen before going outside even in Alaska, a place that doesn’t pamper you with the abundance of sunshine.
BUG REPELLANT. In the forests of Alaska, guard yourself from mosquitos and other insects with insect repellent.
CAMERA. You will want to capture the natural beauty of Alaska! Thus, make a camera and tripod essential parts of your packing gears when visiting the Williwaw Campground.
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