Chitina, Alaska Visitor Guide
Chitina is a small town located at the confluence of the Copper and Chitina Rivers in south-central Alaska. This historic community is situated along the Edgerton Highway, making it a popular stopping point for travelers exploring the Copper River Valley and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. This guide will cover the latitude and longitude of Chitina, directions from Anchorage, things to do, the area’s history, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.
Chitina is located at approximately 61.5153° N latitude and 144.4370° W longitude.
Getting to Chitina from Anchorage
Chitina is accessible by car from Anchorage, with a distance of about 250 miles (402 kilometers) and a driving time of approximately 5 to 6 hours.
1. From Anchorage, head north on the Glenn Highway (AK-1) towards Palmer.
2. Continue on the Glenn Highway until you reach the junction with the Richardson Highway (AK-4) near Glennallen.
3. Turn right onto the Richardson Highway (AK-4) and head south towards Valdez.
4. After approximately 33 miles (53 kilometers), turn left onto the Edgerton Highway (AK-10) towards Chitina.
5. Follow the Edgerton Highway for about 66 miles (106 kilometers) to reach Chitina.
The drive to Chitina from Anchorage takes you through the diverse landscapes of Alaska, including mountains, forests, and rivers. Be prepared for variable weather and road conditions, and always carry a full tank of gas, extra food, water, and emergency supplies.
Things to Do
Chitina offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy, both in the town itself and in the surrounding area. Some popular things to do include:
The historic McCarthy Road begins in Chitina and travels for 60 miles (97 kilometers) along the old Copper River and Northwestern Railway bed to the town of McCarthy and the abandoned Kennecott Copper Mines. The drive offers stunning views of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and is a popular starting point for hiking, camping, and exploring the area.
Chitina is well-known for its excellent salmon fishing, particularly during the summer months when the Copper River hosts large runs of sockeye and king salmon. Dipnetting is a popular method of fishing in Chitina, and visitors can join locals on the banks of the river to try their luck at catching these delicious fish.
Chitina has a rich history, and visitors can explore several historic sites in the area, such as the Chitina Tin Shop, the Chitina Emporium, and the Chitina Native Cemetery. The town also features several historic buildings, such as the Chitina Hotel and the Chitina Train Depot.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Chitina serves as an excellent base for exploring the nearby Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the United States. The park offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, and glacier trekking.
Chitina was established in the early 1900s during the construction of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, which connected the Kennecott Copper Mines to the coastal town of Cordova. The town quickly grew as a transportation hub and supply center for the region’s mining operations. The closure of the Kennecott mines in 1938 led to a decline in Chitina’s population, but the town has remained a popular destination for travelers exploring the Copper River Valley and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
RV and Camping Information
There are several RV and camping options available in and around Chitina, including:
Chitina River RV Park
Located in the heart of Chitina, this RV park offers 12 sites with electric hookups, as well as tent camping spaces. Amenities include restrooms, showers, a dump station, and potable water.
Liberty Falls Campground
Liberty Falls Campground is situated along the Edgerton Highway, approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Chitina. The campground offers 10 sites for both RVs and tents, with basic amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. No hookups or potable water are available at this campground.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Camping
There are several campgrounds and primitive camping opportunities within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, such as Kendesnii Campground and Nugget Creek Cabin. Be aware that facilities and services within the park may be limited, and advance planning is essential.
Annual Festivals and Events
Chitina hosts a few annual festivals and events that celebrate the town’s unique history, culture, and natural surroundings. Some of these events include:
Chitina Dipnetters’ Festival
Held annually in July, the Chitina Dipnetters’ Festival celebrates the town’s fishing heritage and the annual sockeye salmon run in the Copper River. The event features a variety of activities, such as fishing demonstrations, workshops, live music, local food vendors, and family-friendly games and activities.
Chitina Clean-up Day
Each year in the spring, Chitina residents and visitors come together for a community clean-up day to help maintain the town’s historic buildings and public spaces. The event is an opportunity for locals and tourists to work together in preserving Chitina’s unique character and beauty.
Chitina Solstice Celebration
The Chitina Solstice Celebration takes place in June and marks the longest day of the year with a variety of outdoor activities and events. Visitors can enjoy live music, art exhibits, and local food, as well as guided hikes, nature walks, and educational programs exploring the area’s flora and fauna.
Wrangell Mountain Music Festival
Although not located directly in Chitina, the Wrangell Mountain Music Festival is held nearby in the town of McCarthy and is a popular event for visitors to the region. The festival typically takes place in July and celebrates the musical talent of the Copper River Valley and beyond with live performances, workshops, and jam sessions.
When planning a visit to Chitina, it’s essential to be prepared for the remote location and potentially variable weather conditions. Always carry extra food, water, and warm clothing, and make sure to inform someone of your travel plans. By taking these precautions and respecting the natural environment and local community, you can fully enjoy the unique experiences, stunning landscape, and rich history that Chitina, Alaska, has to offer.