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Visit Eklutna Historical Park and Arctic Valley near Anchorage

TIME : 2016/2/16 15:42:18
Small Athabascan Indian spirit houses (graves) painted white and red and blue.

Athabascan spirit houses (graves) at Eklutna Historical Park. Photo © Jeffrey Beall, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Map of Anchorage and Vicinity, Alaska

Anchorage and Vicinity

Six miles north of Anchorage along the Glenn Highway is the exit to Arctic Valley Road, which climbs seven steep miles to the parking lot at the Alpenglow ski area. A trailhead about a mile before road’s end leads to long Ship Creek Trail, which, with a little cross-country hiking, hooks up with Bird Creek and Indian Creek Trails via the passes of the same names. It’s 22 miles from Arctic Valley to Indian Creek Trailhead. Plan on 2–3 days to do this traverse. From the Alpenglow parking lot a two-mile trail goes up to Rendezvous Peak, an easy hike with great views of the city, the inlet, and even Mt. McKinley if you’re lucky.

Eklutna Historical Park is one of those surprising discoveries just off the Glenn Highway. Take the Eklutna Road exit (26 miles northeast of Anchorage) and cross back over the highway to Eklutna Village. Russian Orthodoxy is strongly overlaid on Native Alaskan culture from this point, at the site of the first Tanaina (a branch of the Athabascans) settlement on the Inlet, down through the western Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, and the Aleutians. The ancestors of most of these Indians were converted by Russian missionaries, and St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church—a miniature log chapel that dates from the 1830s and was reconstructed in the 1970s—is the oldest building in the Anchorage area. Nearby is a newer and larger church. Both are set against a backdrop of 80 or so colorful spirit houses that sit atop Native Alaskan graves. Informative half-hour tours (907/688-6026, $5 adults, $3 seniors and children ages 10–15, children under 10 free) are offered Monday–Friday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. mid-May– mid-September, and you can stroll the grounds at other times. A small gift shop sells Native Alaskan crafts.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Alaska.