Perched on the bluffs overlooking Cook Inlet on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area is best-known for the hundreds of thousands of razor clams harvested annually from its beaches. The Department of Fish and Game has recently closed clam digging for the area until further notice, but the park still boasts plenty of attractions that merit a visit. Between the park’s panoramic mountain views, diverse wildlife, unique campsites, and extensive off-roading, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area has all the ingredients for a stellar RV trip.
Prior to the recent closing, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area had been considered one of the best spots in Alaska for clam digging, and visitors of all ages could easily take part in the fun: collecting razor clams involves simply looking for small dimples on the surface of the sand, digging a small hole six inches from the dimples, and then searching through the sand for the clam. While this unique activity is shut down, visitors can explore the other features of this 495-acre park that make it noteworthy. Campers can soak in the surrounding views of the three tallest peaks of the Aleutian Mountain Range, wildlife enthusiasts can look out for moose, bald eagles, and gulls, and adventure junkies can enjoy off-roading on the miles of terrain open to ATV’s.
Visitors interested in staying overnight at Clam Gulch State Recreation Area can take advantage of the park’s 120 campsites, which feature modest amenities but offer stunning views in this unique landscape. The campground opens up as soon as snowmelt allows, when the park anticipates having safe water available for the campground, and peak season for clam digging typically stretches from April through September. Visitors eager to snag a spot at Clam Gulch State Recreation Area should be prepared to secure a site on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Located on the Kenai Peninsula about two hours west of Kenai Fjords National Park, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area can be accessed by taking Sterling Highway up to Clam Gulch Road. This Alaska park sits about three hours south of Anchorage and 30 minutes south of the town of Soldotna, so visitors should be prepared for a fairly remote drive with some adverse conditions, particularly in inclement weather.
Inside the park, guests can plan to drive their rig along Clam Gulch Road and the campground loop, but should not attempt driving along the narrow beach access road in any two-wheel-drive vehicle. Due to soft sand and extreme tides, the beach road poses serious driving challenges and should only be attempted in a four-wheel-drive vehicle or ATV. That said, all off-road-vehicles are restricted to the campground loop road, the beach access road, and the saltwater beach, and the speed limit on all recreation area roads is five miles per hour.
Clam Gulch State Recreation Area offers limited amenities on-site, so visitors should be prepared to bring in most supplies or head outside the park to restock. For a wide variety of restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and other shops, guests can plan to head to the town of Soldotna about 30 minutes northeast of the park.
Clam Gulch State Recreation Area offers visitors a spectacular spot to camp, with campsites set along the bluffs overlooking Cook Inlet and the beach below. Visitors can choose from 120 campsites, which can accommodate rigs of up to 35 feet long. While the campsites do not offer sewer, electric, or water hookups, the sites make up for the limited amenities with breathtaking views and refreshing tranquility. Visitors can make use of the water pumps and latrines located inside the recreation area, but for other services, campers will need to leave the park and plan accordingly. The campground is open as soon as snowmelt allows, with the opening date determined by when the park has safe water available for the campgrounds. The park does not charge fees for campsites until drinking water is available, and guests are welcome to stay at the campground for a maximum of 15 days. None of the sites at Clam Gulch State Recreation Area can be reserved ahead of time, so visitors hoping to snag one of these sites should be prepared to choose a spot on a first-come, first-serve basis upon arrival.
With its sandy beaches, steep bluffs, and terrific views, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area also has plenty to offer hikers eager to stretch their legs and explore this 495-acre by foot. Hikers can make a short walk from the campground down to the clam beach, and then enjoy hiking along scenic Cook Inlet, soaking in the views of the Aleutian Mountains and the surrounding wildlife. After a strenuous hike, visitors can relax with a nice picnic at the park’s picnic area, which features picnic tables and fire rings.
All throughout the year, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area offers incredible mountain views for visitors to absorb, get lost in, and photograph. The park’s unique location on the bluffs overlooking Cook Inlet provides visitors with panoramic views of the Aleutian Mountain Range and its three tallest peaks: Mount Iliamna, Mount Redoubt and Mount Spurr. These panoramic views give visitors a sense of the enormity of the landscape, and offer especially great opportunities for photographers interested in capturing the unique mix of beach, inlet, and mountain peaks.
While the park is best-known for its clams, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area is also home to wide variety of other animals and plants worth looking out for. In particular, visitors can keep their eyes peeled for moose, bald eagles, gulls, and many small birds and mammals while exploring the park and its surrounding area. Beyond these animals, visitors can also look out for a wide variety of wildflowers in the park, including wild geranium, Jacob’s ladder, lupine, and the prickly rose.
Clam Gulch State Recreation Area is beautifully situated next to Cook Inlet, which stretches for 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska all the way to Anchorage. The park’s proximity to this sprawling body of water means that boaters also have plenty to explore during a stay at Clam Gulch State Recreation Area. While the park does not have its own dock or marina, boaters can head out onto Cook Inlet by taking advantage of a handful of marinas and boat ramps located within several miles of the park.
Those looking for an adventurous way to explore this park and the surrounding area will be happy to hear that Clam Gulch State Recreation Area also offers great opportunities for off-roading. Since the beach is too treacherous to attempt in a two-wheel-drive vehicle, it becomes prime territory for ATV’s. Guests who bring their ATV’s can cruise along the beach access road and saltwater beach, but use of ATV’s in the campground and on the road to the beach is limited to just direct travel from the campsite to the beach and back again.
As its name implies, Clam Gulch State Recreation Area is known chiefly for the hundreds of thousands of razor clams collected each year from the sandy beaches bordering the park. Most years, visitors can dig for clams during any low tide and any time of year, though a tide of minus two feet or lower is recommended for best results, and most digging occurs from April through September, with the “table quality” of the clam generally considered best in early summer. The Department of Fish and Game has closed clam digging for this area until further notice, but visitors can still spot razor clams by looking for small round dimples or holes on the surface of the sand.