Eagle River views at Eagle River Nature Center

Eagle River Nature Center: Things to Do, Hiking Trails, Maps, Fees & More

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Located just 45 minutes northeast of downtown Anchorage, Eagle River Nature Center is a gateway to the 495,000-acre Chugach State Park. Drive the winding and scenic Eagle River Road to reach a nature center set in a dramatic glacial river valley surrounded by the Chugach Mountains.

Although it is located inside Chugach State Park, the Eagle River Nature Center (and surrounding area) is managed by Friends of Eagle River Nature Center. This non-profit organization works year-round to maintain trails and public use facilities in addition to providing recreational and educational programs for visitors. Take part in a nature program, explore one of the trails that depart from the nature center or hike deep into the backcountry on part of the Historic Iditarod Trail. Whether you stop in for a few hours or spend an overnight in a yurt, this is a destination to add to your Alaska travel bucket list!

We hope our guide will give you an idea of what to expect when visiting Eagle River Nature Center! 


Before it was a nature center, the building was once the Paradise Haven Lodge, a popular bar and grill. John Barclay operated the lodge on his five-acre homestead in the 1970s, when the road was mostly unpaved and quite rough. Those who remember the lodge say it was quite the adventure just getting there! There was also a racetrack for motorbikes in the summer and snowmachines in the winter at the bottom of the hill behind the lodge.

In 1980, John Barclay sold his property to Alaska State Parks. Dale Bingham was the Chugach State Park ranger in charge of transforming the dilapidated, old lodge into a visitor center. In 1981, just under a year after it’s purchase, the building was reopened as the Chugach State Park Eagle River Visitor Center with interpretive displays and nature photos lining the walls. By 1995, the park’s dwindling budget could no longer support the year-round operation of the visitor center.

Eagle River at Eagle River Nature Center

Friends of Eagle River Nature Center (Friends) was formed by Dick and Carol Lloyd and Asta Spurgis with the intent of saving the center from closing; and, in 1996, park administrators awarded the non-profit group a permit to take over operations of the Eagle River Nature Center. The contract was extended in 2005 for an additional 25 years. In addition to revitalizing the facility, Friends has also enhanced both the natural history education and recreational opportunities in Chugach State Park.



Eagle River Nature Center trail map

Eagle River Nature Center trail system map, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources

Eagle River Nature Center is open year-round offering a variety of guided walks (seasonally) and nature programs, park information services and ten miles of trails, as well as overnight public use facilities (a cabin and three yurts) for rent. Allow at least a couple hours to visit Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC).

Building hours are 10 AM to 5 PM; May to September: Wednesday through Sunday and October to April: Friday through Sunday. Trails are open even when the building is closed but be sure to check the weekly trail report on the Eagle River Nature Center website before your visit.

A parking fee of $5/vehicle supports the nature center. [The Alaska State Parks pass is not valid here since the Nature Center is operated by a non-profit organization and does not receive any direct funding from Alaska State Parks.] The day-use parking pass can be purchased at the fee station by the front door of the nature center (credit card or exact cash) or inside the nature center. There is also a free station at the trailhead next to the summer overflow parking area. NOTE: There is limited parking for RVs and vehicles with trailers in the main parking lot. The overflow parking area is NOT suitable for large vehicles.

When visiting Eagle River Nature Center, our recommendations include:

Visiting the Nature Center Building

The log cabin visitor center is a is a great place to start--grab a map of the hiking trails, check out the wildlife displays or sign up for a guided nature walk. Restrooms and water are available, as well as a public phone outside the building and a few picnic tables.

Nature Programs and Guided Walks

The schedule for public programs at Eagle River Nature Center can be found on their website.

Wildflowers at Eagle River Nature Center

Cross-country skiing

Both the Rodak Nature Trail and the Albert Loop Trail are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter. The Crow Pass Trail is groomed for cross-country skiing only from the trailhead to the Yukla Yurt. The Dew Mound Trail is not suitable for skiing due to the rocky terrain on parts of the trail but can be hiked or snowshoed in the winter.


There are several great hiking trails that depart from the nature center. Trails are accessible 24/7 and trail maps can be picked up at the front door of the nature center (even when the building is closed) or access the maps online via the Eagle River Nature Center Trail Guide. Check the trail condition board in front of the nature center building for any closures due to high water or animal activity.

Eagle River Nature Center trails

Rodak Nature Trail

The 3/4-mile Rodak Nature Trail is the easiest trail at Eagle River Nature Center but one you won’t want to miss!  The nature loop meanders through a variety of landscapes and past interpretive signage about the natural history of the area. The highlights of this trail are the viewing platforms—the Salmon Viewing Deck and the Beaver Viewing Deck. Even without beaver activity or spawning salmon, views of the Eagle River Valley and surrounding Chugach Mountains are spectacular! Allow about 30 minutes to hike the loop. Trailhead access: From the Nature Center follow the Crow Pass Trail for a short distance before reaching the first junction and a sign for the Rodak Nature Trail. This gravel trail is accessible to strollers and some wheelchairs. The trail is mostly level but there are some small downhill and uphill portions (~ 100 feet elevation gain). Do not pick or disturb any plants along this educational trail and keep pets on a leash.
    Rodak Nature Trail at Eagle River Nature Center
    Beaver Deck at Eagle River Nature Center
    Salmon Deck at Eagle River Nature Center

    Albert Loop Trail

    If you are looking for something a little longer but with minimal elevation gain, the 3-mile Albert Loop Trail hikes through boreal forest, over wooden bridges, and past beaver dams until it reaches the banks of the Eagle River. Allow 1-2 hours to hike this loop trail. NOTE: The Albert Loop Trail is generally closed between late July and October due to bear activity when salmon return to the Eagle River to spawn. Parts of the trail closest to the river can also be closed when beaver activity and rainfall create standing water and muddy trail conditions (we had to take the Bypass Trail during our visit). Trailhead access: From the Nature Center follow the Crow Pass Trail to the third trail junction and turn right onto the Albert Loop Trail to hike the loop in the clockwise direction. (Hiking in the clockwise direction allowed us to add the Rodak Nature Trail onto the end of our hike.) Pets must be leashed on the Albert Loop Trail.

    Eagle River views from the Albert Loop at Eagle River Nature Center
    Bridge on the Albert Loop Trail at Eagle River Nature Center
    Wooded section of Albert Loop Trail Eagle River Nature Center

    Dew Mound Trail

    The Dew Mound Trail offers a slightly more rugged hike. When combined with the Crow Pass Trail, the Dew Mound Trail forms a 7-mile loop hike with access to Dew Mound (a glacial erratic), Dew Lake and a scenic viewpoint of the Eagle River Valley. Allow 4-5 hours to hike the loop. For loop trips of varying length, Four Corners Cut-Off, Mountain Meadow Cut-Off and Rapids Camp Cut-Off connect the Dew Mound Trail to the Crow Pass Trail. Trailhead access: From the Nature Center follow the Crow Pass Trail to the second trail junction and turn left onto the Dew Mound Trail.

    Crow Pass Trail

    For those seeking an epic thru-hike, the 23-mile Crow Pass Trail, which follows the historic Iditarod supply route, is considered one of the best hikes in Chugach State Park. Most start the Crow Pass Trail in Girdwood and end at the Eagle River Nature Center (be sure to make transportation arrangements ahead of time since there are no shuttles). The challenging hike offers stunning scenery including waterfalls, alpine lakes, glaciers, mining ruins and wildlife. Most hikers take two to three days to finish the trail; however, it can be done as a single-day traverse during the summer. Trailhead access: Crow Creek Trailhead in Girdwood or Eagle River Nature Center. See the Crow Pass Trail Guide for more information. 



      Eagle River Nature Center is accessible year-round via Eagle River Road from the Glenn Highway.



      If you are looking for a place to stay, there are many lodging options in Anchorage. We chose to stay an Airbnb in South Anchorage away from the commotion of the city.

      However, if you are looking for something much more adventurous and rustic, Eagle River Nature Center maintains and rents out one public use cabin and three yurts. You must hike between 1 ½ to 2 miles to reach them with all your gear. Reservations (non-refundable) are required and can be made up to a year in advance. 


      There are no campgrounds at Eagle River Nature Center, but limited backcountry camping is available. There are two backcountry campgrounds maintained by ERNC on the Crow Pass Trail—Rapids Camping Area and Echo Bend Campsite. Rapids Camping Area is a group-site tent camping area (1.7 miles from the nature center) with a picnic table, fire-ring, bear-proof food storage locker and a latrine. All groups and individuals must obtain a permit to use the Rapids Camping Area. The Echo Bend campsite is first-come, first served and does not require a permit. There is a bear-proof food storage locker for campers.

      Tent camping is also allowed anywhere off the trail and at least a mile away from a developed facility or trailhead.

      You are not allowed to spend the night parked in a car or RV at any of the Eagle River Nature Center parking lots, but there are a few campgrounds nearby that are worth checking out:

      Eagle River Campground

      • Location: The Eagle River Campground is located about 15 miles away, near the town of Eagle River. Directions from Eagle River Nature Center to the Eagle River Campground.
      • Accessible via: Car.
      • Reservations: None.
      • Capacity: 50 sites.
      • Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: No / No / No.
      • Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets, but no showers.
      • Additional details: The Eagle River Campground is a great place to spend a night or two. It’s situated along the beautiful Eagle River and has the town right nearby for everything you need.


      Eklutna Lake Campground

      • Location: The Eklutna Lake Campground is located on the beautiful Eklutna Lake. Directions from Eagle River Nature Center to the Eklutna Lake Campground.
      • Accessible via: Car.
      • Reservations: None.
      • Capacity: 57 sites.
      • Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: No / No / No.
      • Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets, but no showers.
      • Additional details: The Eklutna Lake Campground is not close to the Eagle River Nature Center, but it’s certainly a lovely place to stay


      Just Go Travel Studios kids at Eagle River Nature Center


      Summers in Eagle River are typically cool and cloudy. Plan for temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Be sure to bring layers and rain gear for a summer visit.

      Winter-like weather conditions can occur between the months of October and April. Daylight hours in the winter are short and temps can drop below zero. However, winter temperatures typically range from 10°F to 35°F.


      • Bring layers and a raincoat for a summer visit.
      • Sneakers are suitable for the easier trails; but we recommend waterproof hiking shoes in case the trails are wet and muddy.
      • Bring water, snacks, and a lunch if you are planning to stay for more than a couple hours.
      • There is no public access WIFI on the grounds of the Nature Center, and cell reception depends on your carrier.
      • Alaska law prohibits the removal of rocks, plants, and historic artifacts from the park. Please leave objects as you find them. NOTE: Berries and mushrooms can be picked for personal use when in season; however, this is not allowed on the Rodak Nature tail or Albert Loop Trail so the berries and mushrooms can be used for educational purposes.
      • Drones are not allowed on the grounds or trails of the Eagle River Nature Center, nor are they permitted in any of Alaska’s state parks.​


      Pets are allowed on the trails and at the overnight public use cabin and yurts. They must be leashed on the Rodak Nature Trail, Albert Loop Trail, the first mile of the Crow Pass Trail and in the parking lot. They are not allowed inside the Nature Center building unless they are service dogs. Please clean up after your pet. Bags are located at the trailhead sign behind the nature center. 


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      Just Go Travel Studios at Eagle River Nature Center

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      About Just Go Travel Studios

      We are Amy & Pete Brahan. Very simply, we are passionate about our National Parks and Public Lands and explore them with our three kids whenever we can.

      As much as we enjoy traveling, we also love sharing our knowledge and helping others create everlasting memories through our custom-made travel posters, downloadable travel itineraries and detailed blog articles.

      10% of all after-tax profits are donated to the National Park Foundation.

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