The Matanuska-Sustina (Mat-Su) Valley, ringed by snowy, imposing mountains and filled with spruce groves and sparking lakes, is the setting of Big Lake North. A popular recreation spot that is conveniently located just about an hour from Anchorage, Big Lake North is one of two Alaska State Parks that can be found an the banks of the aptly named Big Lake. Recreation opportunities abound on and in the lake's crystal clear waters; canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, jet-skiing, swimming, fishing and more draw locals and long-distance visitors alike. Birders will want to bring their binoculars and guidebooks, especially during summer - tremendous quantities of waterfowl and wading birds can be found making their nests on the food-rich shores of the lake.
Winter brings a whole new set of possibilities. Ice-skating, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling are all great ways to explore a frozen, Alaskan wonderland. The area's popularity means there's always plenty of trails to follow. The park is also popular with dog-sledders, and the famous Iditarod Race runs right by Big Lake North. Plus, the park hosts a annual winter festival featuring tons of fun snow-themed events and competitions.
60 RV suitable sites are available at Big Lake North. Visitors should take advantage of the park's seasonal reservation system if they plan on arriving during summer.
Though it may seem far-flung, Big Lake North SRS is actually surprisingly accessible. The recreation site is just over an hour's drive from Anchorage, and it's just about a twenty-minute drive west of the full service town of Wasilla, Alaska. Drivers coming from Wasilla can take AK-3 to Big Lake Road and then turn on to North Shore Drive, which leads straight into the park. Routes into and within the park are paved, flat, well-maintained and free of sharp curves, making for easy driving. Of course, this is Alaska, so wintry weather can occur throughout much of the year - take precautions and make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for snowy driving.
The RV-parking area at Big Lake North has a straightforward setup - spots are lined up along one spur and one loop. Sites are all back-in and many are nearly adjoining. Parking should not pose any problems so long as you are below the recommended length limit. Water spigots, restrooms, rain shelters and the boat launch are all within walking distance from the RV parking/camping area.
While the individual sites may not be terribly spacious, you'll find acres and acres to yourself once you head out of the campground.
RV travelers will find 60 sites to choose from at Big Lake North's campground. Most of the RV/Trailer spots are campground's main loop, while a short spur near the lake has the remaining spots. Site are all primitive, offering no water, electric or sewage hookup. There are a few potable water spigots at the park, however, and there are several dumping station facilities between Big Lake North and Wasilla. There are three restrooms available at the campground as well.
The waters of Big Lake, as well as the boat launch and swimming beach, are just a stone's throw away.
If you need to restock, the park has a concessionaire selling various camping and fishing supplies as well as food (and, during the summer, ice cream!) The nearby town of Wasilla offers amenities including grocery stores, restaurants, ATMs, banks, museums and more.
Reservations for RV sites at Big Lake North from March through September - sites are first-come first-served for the rest of the year.
During the short but warm months of summer, boating is undoubtedly the most popular activity at Big Lake North. There's good reason for this - hundreds of acres of water, dotted with numerous forested islands, await your exploration. A boat launch is located conveniently by the campground, allowing easy access for those wanting to kayak, canoe, jet-ski, or water-ski. Recreational water vehicles, including wave-runners, can also be rented from the park concessionaire. And if the water's draw is just too compelling, dive in! There's a lovely swim beach located right by the campground, too.
Whether you boat out onto the water or hike along the shore to find the perfect casting spot, fantastic angling awaits at Big Lake North. Spawning Sockeye and Coho salmon utilize the lake annually, and while northern pike, Dolly Varden trout and Rainbow trout are all native as well. Individuals can grow to tremendous sizes, so it may take quite a bit of muscle work to haul in your catch. Make sure you have a proper Alaska fishing license before casting!
Big Lake's waters draw a rich array of fauna, especially during the summer months. Black bears, moose, Canadian lynx, beaver and many other Alaskan mammals make their home in and around Big Lake's waters. During migration season, tens of thousands of birds flock to the area, which provides a food-rich breeding and nesting ground. Loons, swans, pharalopes, plovers, geese, eiders and more can all be seen in great numbers. Along the banks of small ponds or streams, look for wood frogs, a tremendously hardy species that, incredibly, can survive north of the Arctic Circle.
Visitors can have a blast zipping across the surface of Big Lake and heading out onto a terrain of endless powder and massive snowbanks. Snowmobiling is very popular on and around Big Lake, and the area gets plenty of winter visitors, no doubt in part because of its proximity to Anchorage. Hundreds of miles of snowmobile-friendly trails are created and maintained every winter, giving you the option to head in just about any direction you want. The park is also the starting point for the Iron Dog, the world's longest snow machine race.
If you would like to explore an Alaskan winter wonderland while simultaneously getting some great exercise, you can't go wrong cross-country skiing at Big Lake North. Miles and miles of ice, sparkling snow-fields and white-clad spruce stretch to the horizon in every direction. The topography - fairly flat or very gently sloping - makes for surprisingly smooth sailing; you'll be impressed with how many gorgeous, sweeping vistas you'll take in with just one full day of skiing.
Take part in a hallowed Alaskan tradition at Big Lake North; dog-sledding is yet another popular winter activity here, and it offers an experience like no other. The renowned Iditarod Trail - the 1,150-mile route which carves its way across the heart of Alaska and hosts the most famous dog-sledding race in the world - heads right through the park. There may be no better way to experience an Alaskan winter than from a bracing perch on a dog sled, speeding across a frozen landscape.