Have fun away from everyone
If you’re looking for a truly wild experience, Aniakchak delivers. Ominous weather adds to the stark beauty of the landscape, which sits 150 miles southwest of King Salmon (roughly 400 miles southwest of Anchorage) in the middle of the volcanically active “Ring of Fire,” which surrounds the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes and eruptions continue to shape the landscape and fill it with colors abutting deep red against sky blue. The focal point of the area is the Aniakchak Caldera, a six-mile wide, 2,500-foot deep volcanic crater that provides the start of most adventures here. Fly in from Anchorage to King Salmon and take a second float plane from there to Surprise Lake, which fills the Caldera.
LOCALS SAY: We saw 30 bald eagles at a time and caught up to 30-inch char. This is the most remote and least visited wilderness in the United States.
The shores of Surprise Lake provide flat and endless camping sites, but don’t expect any amenities and come dressed and layered for the weather. The snow-capped rims atop towering walls provide one of the most dramatic and magnificent settings just outside your tent flap.
The Aniakchak Caldera provides ample hiking for several days of exploration in complete and utter solitude, with the exception of local wildlife inhabiting or visiting the caldera, including the usual Alaska Peninsula denizens of brown bear, caribou, fox, and eagles. Climb to the rim for views to the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, or hike inside and around Vent Mountain, a 2,200-foot cone rising from the floor of the caldera, where you’ll also find lava plugs and hot springs.
The Aniakchak River is a nationally registered Wild & Scenic River that exits the caldera and roars through the famed “Gates,” a narrow, 1,500 foot-high canyon filled with car-sized boulders. Veteran rafting guides are a must to navigate these rapids, which drop more than 1,000 feet in elevation the first 15 miles and end on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.