Aniakchak : Least Visited Park

Aniakchak National MonumentAs I scanned the 2005 Park Service visitation stats earlier this week, of all places that reported visitors, the Aniakchak National Monument had by far the fewest. Officially, it had 285 visitors last year. I'm thinking this must be the place to find some solitude.

The Monument is located on the coast of the Alaska Peninsula (google map). If you'd like to go, there are a few things you should know first. You can't drive there. Access is only by float plane or boat. And, once you arrive, don't expect to check in at the Visitors Center. There are no federal facilities at the monument. If you are hoping to do a little hiking, you'll have to make up your own route because there are no formal trails to be found. So, what does that leave you?

According to Nancy Bandley, you are left with an amazing experience. She had the opportunity to visit last year and describes the trip:
In order to get to Aniakchak crater, you must take a float plane, and land in Surprise Lake in the center of the crater. This used to be a lush valley , until 1930, when the volcano below erupted, the result was a blackened crater with a lake in the middle (hence the name). This lake never freezes in the winter due to the volcanic activity below it. You fly out of King Salmon about 200 miles southwest- and if very lucky, land on the lake, coast to the shore. You can hike (a little) or take a fishing trip down the river, all the way to the ocean. This is a pretty great way to see bears but you are definitely on your own and may have to wait for weather to clear in order to be picked up to return to King Salmon - the run takes about 3-4 days if all goes well. There are no trails, unless you want to follow bear tracks, no accomodations, nothing that resembles anything of infrastructure. Just the blackened crater, with forbidding cliffs, the lake, bear prints on the sandy (black lava grains) beach, ducks in the lake.
It may be an expensive adventure. Weather is frequently a problem for planes, so you may need to make multiple attempts. Arthur Berman, another visitor, has said that the flight from King Salmon can cost $1,600 for the 1 1/2 hour journey along the coast. I wonder if you could apply your frequent flier mileage to that flight. (I'm guessing no).


it looks amazing!
Wow! if only I had the extra money laying around to go...
hey there are bears nearby, maybe I can make a film and save them :)

All joking aside it does look like a fantastic trip!