Pitch your Tent and Grab a Cold One
A Guide to Camping for over-21 year-olds in the 49th State
Barhopping from my tent started as an economic necessity back when I was a cash-starved newcomer to Alaska. It is now an unwavering personal preference of mine. Where else can you be drinking inside an iconic gold-rush era saloon moments after setting up your tent at a beautiful campsite? There is no better way to enjoy the sights and sounds of Alaska both inside and outside of its beloved watering holes. Here are my favorite places to slumber away in my tent after an evening of interaction with Alaska’s wildlife.
The minuscule main street of Hope ends at its lone tavern, the Seaview Bar. Open seasonally, the bar is an ideal basecamp for a varietly of endeavors suited to burning off the liquid calories you consumed the previous night. Hiking and biking the nearby Resurrection Pass, Gull Rock, and Hope Point trails are all popular summertime activies. Palmer Creek Road provides the only road-access to alpine regions within the immense Chugach National Forest. Embrace the mining history of Hope while gold panning along Resurrection Creek next to your drinking buddy as he catches salmon from the same rushing water. The best camping is just beyond the Seaview’s RV park in the grassy tidal flats along Turnagain Arm. Just be sure to be camped above high tide.
Camping along the Homer Spit is about one of Alaska’s most notorious bars—and home of its most popular hoodie—the Salty Dawg Saloon. Enjoy an oil can of Foster’s Lager while you peruse the myriad of kitsch (dollars, bras, stickers, bad taxidermy) affixed to every surface within the bar. Don’t neglect the fine reading available on the bathroom walls either. Unfortunately, the passing of Jean Keene, better known as the Eagle Lady, means you will no longer experience the pleasurable terror of being awoken in your tent by a wonderfully eccentric, fish gut-flinging woman demanding her camping fees. The City of Homer operates several areas open to camping on the Spit including the Fishing Hole Campground and Mariner Park.
Only two words are needed to be properly motivated to travel the roller coaster that is the Taylor Highway to the remote outpost of Chicken (population 7): panty cannon! At first glance, the Chicken Creek Saloon resembles many other Alaska bars festooned with dollar bills and lingerie chandeliers. Look closer though. The bras and panties of the Chicken Creek Saloon have a distinctive charred quality. While the saloon lacks bathrooms (the ‘Chicken Poop’ is located outside), it does possess a small gunpowder cannon used to blast the knickers of willing patrons into the midnight sun illuminated sky. Best time to visit? During the Chickenstock Music Festival, typically held the second weekend in June. Best place to camp? Right beside the nearby Pedro Gold Dredge.
Nowhere else is as ideally situated for a tent accessible pub crawl than Talkeetna. Main Street in Talkeetna conveniently dead-ends at a campground situated a short saunter from where the Chulitna, Susitna, and Talkeetna Rivers all meet. Plan out your evening while enjoying a bonfire and the fine views of the Alaska Range along the beach. Drinking options include the Fairview Inn, West Rib Pub, Denali Brewpub, Latitude 62, Tee Pee Oasis Lounge, and the VFW Hall. Be sure to join the other hungover climbers and locals seeking sustenance the following morning with a scrumptious breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse.
With the shores of Resurrection Bay on one side and Mount Marathon towering over the other, camping at Waterfront Park in downtown Seward is sublime. Set up your tent and stroll the scenic route along the coastline while scouting for sea otters, seals, and many more critters on your way to the several bars Seward has to offer. If hungry, enjoy a bucket of butts (halibut) while enjoying the vintage Jim Beam bottle collection from a red leather loveseat at Thorn’s Showcase Lounge. Catch a raucous band at the Yukon Bar before rounding out the night at Tony’s Bar. Be sure to make it to Tony’s adjoining liquor store if you’re in the mood for a night cap around the campfire back at your tent.