Three Ways to Stay (and Play) in Southcentral Alaska This Summer

Byers Lake Public Use Cabin #2 sits along the shoreline of beautiful Byers Lake. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

One of the most important takeaways from Summer 2020 is that for all the stress and worry, there is also opportunity. Those of us living in Southcentral Alaska have access to myriad sources for outdoor fun that will hopefully provide a bit of respite during trying circumstances. It’s also an opportunity to help Alaska’s tourism industry, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While some may be reluctant to leave home at all, and others are chomping at the proverbial bit to get out and explore their state, there’s a whole demographic sitting right in the middle, wanting to wait and see what tourism looks like in Southcentral Alaska, including specific protocols local, state, and individual businesses will take. 

In that vein, below are three different options for summertime in-state travel, keeping in mind, of course, that COVID-19 is real, it is everywhere in Alaska, and your individual sense of responsibility will go a long way toward mitigating its continued effects upon all of us. 

Please: Before you depart home, make sure you’ve 1) checked with the community in which you’ll visit, taking note of their recommendations, mandates, or guidelines; and 2) brought everything you need to follow those protocols (cleaning supplies, masks, etc.). 

Guidelines from Alaska State Parks help ensure a safe, fun Southcentral Alaska summer. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Alaska State Parks Public Use Cabins: Southcentral Alaska is fortunate to have large swaths of land available for its state park units, stretching from Girdwood (Chugach) up north to beautiful Denali State Park. While many Alaskans have already seen the light and jumped on the State Parks reservation system to secure a cabin on most weekends, there are still random nights available at many cabins, particularly those that require a bit of an adventure to reach. We stayed at Byers Lake Cabin #2 a few weeks ago and found it to be a delightful retreat from the noise of today’s media madness. A half-mile walk from the day use parking area, the cabin sits on a low rise overlooking the lake and has a gorgeous view of Denali to the west. 

Spartan for sure, this is camping without a tent, so bring a stove, sleeping bag, pads, food, and particularly water and bug spray. With the Byers Lake campground still closed due to the removal of spruce bark beetle-killed trees, there is no potable water available unless you filter lake water. Mosquitos are virulent in Southcentral Alaska this year also, so bring head nets, bug spray, and whatever else you like to use for managing the pesky creatures. 

Check availability for all Alaska State Parks cabins HERE.

Talkeetna Roadhouse owner Trisha Costello has taken careful steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at her property. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Talkeetna Roadhouse: A mainstay of Talkeetna’s history (and culinary) pride, the roadhouse has taken drastic steps to stay open and viable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Trisha Costello walked me through the property to show off the steps she’s taken to prevent the spread of the disease among both residents and visitors. It’s a tough go, however, since the Talkeetna Roadhouse has been around since 1917 and patrons are used to the family-style way of doing things. But here’s the deal: Rooms will be isolated 24 hours prior to a new guest, and cleaned within an inch of their lives after their departure. The restaurant will be serving food ONLY to roadhouse overnight guests, and there won’t be any communal coffee bar in the dining room. Each guest/family group has their own designated bathroom. Costello “respectfully requests” that guests wear face coverings at her establishment, and around town when anywhere near other people. She also manages several small cabins around Talkeetna that can be rented, too, so if the roadhouse itself is full, ask if one of these charming cabins are available. Check available dates, and rates, HERE.

Get out and explore the trails of Alyeska Resort this summer (but no doggos can stay at Hotel Alyeska, FYI). Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Alyeska Resort: At the top end of Southcentral Alaska’s luxury accommodations, the resort opened in mid-June with a 30% discount for Alaskans at Hotel Alyeska. Operating under strict guidelines for social distancing in all common areas, including elevators, the hotel is taking seriously its commitment to guests with a 10-point “High Touch Cleaning Focus” in all areas. The aerial tram is open, and all patrons over the age of three are required to wear a mask to ride. On-property dining is available with appropriate distancing arranged between tables and masks worn by all staff. While the swimming pool remains closed for now, rest assured there are plenty of activities to keep kids busy and happy in the great Alaska outdoors, including hikes, bike rides, the local playground, and a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center just down the highway in Portage. Oh, and if you’re waiting for the Alyeska Bike Park to open, take heart: it’s currently on target to begin operations on July 3rd. 

~ EK 

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