Tongass National Forest Campground – Mendenhall
Talk about luxury camping!
I suppose every state capital has probably reserved the best for its own
city, although this happens to be a federal campground.
This campground is brand new (not quite finished when we visited the
first time in July of 2000) and state of the art.
And with such close proximity to a city it is not difficult to offer all
of the amenities. Furthermore, locals tell us that up in this northern
valley there is less rainfall. In
terms of comfort, Claimjumper and I decided that this was our favorite Alaskan
The campground has 51 tent or no service RV sites, 3
partial service RV sites (EW) and 6 full service RV sites (EWS).
Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring and level area to pitch
tents. Campsites are $10 per night,
Partial RVs $16 and full serve RVs $24. There
are restrooms throughout the campground, some with running water.
There are also shower rooms that have both hot and cold running water at
no extra charge. The restrooms and
showers are handicap accessible. The
soil is fairly rocky at the tent areas, so be sure to use a ground cloth to
protect the floor of the tent. There
are large stones to use to hold down the tent as it is not possible to use
stakes in the ground. The
campground also provides firewood free of charge – you split however much you
need at the registration station near the camp entrance. The campground
hosts tell us that the campground has never filled up, and there are always
plenty of spots available.
To find this campground from the airport, turn left on the
Egan Highway. After passing Auke
Lake, when Egan hooks to the left, go straight onto Mendenhall Loop Road.
After passing Montana Creek, turn left on Montana Creek Road.
The campground will be on the right side of the road.
Within the campground itself there are nature trails
describing the local geology and biota on signs and placards.
A short trip past the campground on Montana Road there are good places
for boat launches. Skater’s Cabin
along the right hand side of the road is a favorite place to come ice skating in
the winter and is a historical building. Many
people have told us that they love going cross country skiing out across the
lake during the winter as well. During the night Claimjumper heard the
thunderous crash of the Mendenhall Glacier calving.
At the top of Montana Road Claimjumper and I found the trailhead for the “West Glacier Trail.” This is a seven mile climb up to Mendenhall Glacier itself. This is a beautiful wooded trail that is very well maintained. We just loved admiring the small brooks and streams that traveled under bridges along the trail as well as the wonderful beds of moss under the canopy of Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. The first two miles could be mountain biked fairly easily. After that, the climb becomes too steep and rocky for bicycles, and we saw how some people had chained up their bicycles to trees before continuing further. At this point there are steel cable rails to assist in ascending the rocks. Not far above where the cable ends the trail became flat again and we found a turnout to the right. Walking across a mass of exposed striped bedrock we came to an excellent overlook of the glacier. It took us about 45 minutes to make this point and we decided that it was enough for that hike. It would have been another two hours to hike to the glacier. The section we ascended we rate as "easy".
Last Visited: July 2000