Cripple Creek Campground
Guide

Introduction

Visit Alaska’s vast wilderness for natural areas featuring stunning, untouched beauty. While exploring the backcountry areas of the central and eastern sections of this scenic state, visitors will find the Bureau of Land Management's Cripple Creek Campground, which provides a day-use area, overnight campsites, and an area for fishing access to the Chatanika River. The area is located in the central Alaska wilderness and is productive habitat for numerous animal species. The river is lined with birch and spruce trees. Be aware this is bear country, and campers, hikers, backpackers, and day users should take precautions to store food appropriately so as not to attract wildlife. The region, especially along the creeks and rivers, has heavy insect populations in the summer, so take plenty of bug spray!

The Cripple Creek Campground has 21 un-serviced campsites, 12 of which can accommodate RVs and tow trailers, the rest of which are walk-in sites for tenters. Campsites have basic amenities like picnic tables and fire rings, and several sites feature “universal design” which minimizes disruption to the environment and provides ADA accessibility.

The Cripple Creek Campground is located near the Upper Chatanika River State Recreation Area, where whitewater rafting on class I and class II rapids is available. Other wilderness areas, recreation sites, and natural areas await discovery in wild Alaska. Visit the Lower Chatanika River State Recreation Area, Chena River State Recreation Area, Steese National Conservation Area, and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve while visiting the Cripple Creek Campground area.

RV Rentals in Cripple Creek Campground

Transportation

Driving

The BLM Cripple Creek Campground is located at mile 60 on the Steese Highway. This highway has paved and maintained gravel sections, making the site accessible for travelers with RVs and tow vehicles. Take the Steese Highway, Alaska Route 6, from Fairbanks, 60 miles northeast to reach the site.

This is a scenic highway that follows the Chatanika River. Keep an eye out for wildlife that may be feeding on cleared sites on the shoulders of the highway, or taking the opportunity to lick salt off the road. The Cripple Creek Campground is available from June to November. Later in the year, sub-freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall may impede traveling in the region. Check weather reports before traveling during the winter months, equip your vehicle with winter rated tires, which provide better traction in cold temperatures and on snow and ice, and ensure your vehicle is well maintained to avoid mechanical breakdowns in the harsh climate of this remote region.

The area is sparsely populated with the nearest settlement where services are available in Chatanika, almost 40 miles west of the Cripple Creek campground. Cell phone coverage may not be available along sections of the highway, and at the campground. Ensure you have accurate maps and GPS guided satellite devices.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Cripple Creek Campground

Campsites in Cripple Creek Campground

First-come first-served

Cripple Creek Campground

The Cripple Creek Campground is located on the Chatanika River, just off the Steese Highway Scenic Byway. There are 21 individual campsites here, 12 of which are RV accessible, and the remainder of which are walk-in tenting sites. Some of the campsites have recently been developed as universal design sites, to minimize the impact on the local ecosystem and provide accessibility for ADA patrons.

The river provides excellent fishing, paddling, and rafting opportunities, and has some class I and class II rapids. The dense foliage along the river, and in the region, coupled with riparian areas along the river and tributary creeks, provides the perfect environment for mosquitoes and biting insects. Campers should take plenty of insect repellent for their stay.

The Cripple Creek Campground is a BLM managed site, and overnight camping is available for a nominal fee, on a first-come, first-serve basis, between June and November. There are few amenities of services here. However, there are vault toilets, trash receptacles, and an area to access the river for fishing. Stays are limited to 14 days maximum, and pets are welcome.

Seasonal activities in Cripple Creek Campground

In-Season

Fishing

The Cripple Creek Campground is conveniently located on the Chatanika River, and accessibility to the river for fishing at this site is available. You can put in the river with hand-propelled watercraft like canoes or kayaks, or fish from the shores here. Arctic Grayling are available in the river for catch, and taste wonderful cooked over an open fire at the Cripple Creek Campground!

Be sure to have a State of Alaska fishing license, and exercise caution when fishing in the river, as there is a significant current and banks can be slippery. Don't forget bug spray!

Hiking

While staying at the Cripple Creek Campground, make use of the informal trails along the river and game trails in the region, but use caution, as large mammals including bears frequent the area. Make enough noise so you don't startle a large predator and carry protection for encounters with bears.

You will also need good hiking boots, as naturally surfaced trails have rough terrain, and insect repellent as the dense brush and river are a haven for mosquitos! Just south of the Cripple Creek Campground, hikers will find the Angel Rock Trailhead, which is located in the Chena State Recreation Area. This 3.6-mile loop trail is rated as moderate. Multiple trailheads and excellent hiking opportunities are also located in the Upper and Lower Chatanika River Recreation Areas to the west.

Whitewater Rafting

Float between the Upper Chatanika State Recreation Area, at milepost 39, and the Cripple Creek Campground, at Mile 60 on the Steese Highway, a journey of just over 20 miles. When the water is low, later in the season, river rafters may need to get out and do some boat dragging to get to the next accessible spot along the river. You will find some class I and II rapids along the river, so be prepared, especially early in the year, when high water makes these rapids more intense.

Off-Season

Hunting

Hunters in this region of Alaska will find plenty of game during designated hunting seasons. Be aware of state hunting regulations, and ensure you have the appropriate licenses and tags to hunt in the region. Hunting on most public lands and preserves is permitted. Ensure you have permission by checking with local state agencies.

Hunters in the region may use outfitters to guide them in this unforgiving dense wilderness region. Hunting excursions may include traveling down rivers or flying in and out of prime hunting locations.

Scenic Drive

The trip to Cripple Creek along the Steese Highway is a designed, scenic byway, connecting Fairbanks, Alaska, to settlements to the north and east, and ending just south of the Arctic Circle. The highway is open all year; however, it may be difficult to navigate in the winter after heavy snowfalls. During the fall the trip is especially scenic with some of the aspen trees in the region changing color.

There are multiple recreation areas and pull-offs with scenic overlooks and historical attractions along the way. The highway is partially paved, and partially gravel, so proceed slowly on gravel roads when ruts and washboard have developed.

Mushing

Visitors to the wilderness areas near Fairbanks, Alaska may want to take the opportunity for a recreational experience unique to the area, and try out some dog sledding during the winter months. Outfitters in Fairbanks and other settlements in the region facilitate dog sledding trips during the winter months.

Choose from hourly, day trips, or even overnight tours! Be sure to take a camera to capture this once in a lifetime experience with some furry four-legged transportation.