Located between the Russian River and Kenai River, the Russian River Campground is a much sought after spot for camping in Alaska. In fact, according to recreation.gov, the area’s many natural features (and the salmon fishing) attract more than 100,000 outdoor enthusiasts every year. Read on to see what campers like you love most about Russian River camping.
Sleep Near the Salmon at Alaska’s Russian River Campground
At 13 miles long, the Russian River flows from Upper Russian Lake, through Lower Russian Lake, to its confluence with the Kenai River, near Cooper Landing in Alaska’s wild Kenai Peninsula. It runs through some of the most accessible and spectacular landscapes in Alaska, the rugged Kenai Mountains. The Russian River Campground lies near the western border of Chugach National Forest, where towering mountains, pristine lakes and vast forests dominate the landscape.
Russian River camping is possible at 83 individual campsites, accessed via paved roads and spurs. There are flush toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, water, dumpsters and bear-proof food lockers, but no hookups. In the off season, water and trash service are not available, and toilet facilities may be unreliable.
There is no official opening season at the campground itself, as parts of the campground simply stay open until it begins to snow. It is, however, open with full service from May through September. In the summer season—Memorial Day through Labor Day—you can reserve a campsite up to 180 days in advance. Campers are strongly encouraged to do just that, as sites fill up fast.
In that busy summer season, you can go Russian River camping for a fee between $18 for a single site and $28 for a double one. In the off season, camping at the Russian River is free of charge and first-come first-served.
“Sign up through Recreation.gov as soon as the registration window opens (6 months prior) since spaces fill up incredibly fast. If you’re planning on fishing, try to book one of the loops closest to the Russian River or its confluence with the Kenai River.” –The Dyrt camper Audry P.
“$20 a night is hard to beat for the location.” –The Dyrt camper Jonathan B.
5 Reasons Russian River Camping Is So Popular
The Russian River Campground lies only 2 to 3 hours by car south of Anchorage, a drive through some of the most beautiful roadside scenery in Alaska. The combination of this accessibility, world-class fishing opportunities and wildlife watching makes it an extremely popular campground.
“If you asked me where my favorite spot in Alaska is, I might just choose the Russian River.” –The Dyrt camper Taylor W.
1. A Chance to Spy the Salmon Runs
The seasonal running of the salmon, as they travel from the ocean upstream to the place they were born, is one of the world’s great wildlife migration spectacles. The Russian River just so happens to be one of the top places in Alaska to witness this firsthand.
Every year, there are one run of silver salmon in late-August and two runs of sockeye salmon in mid-June and mid-July. The best place to watch these thousands of traveling fish is the platform at Russian River Falls, a 2.3-mile hike from the campground. This is a major Russian River camping highlight if there ever was one.
“Try the Russian Lakes Trail if you are interested in a short hike to see salmon jump into the Russian River Falls. The Angler’s Trail will take you right to the Kenai-Russian River Confluence. And there’s both a boat launch and Kenai River ferry nearby if you’re willing to go big.” –The Dyrt camper Taylor W.
2. Endless Fishing Opportunities
The amazing abundance of salmon makes the Russian River a phenomenal fishing destination. Additionally, the river is also home to large numbers of rainbow trout, which only adds to its already-huge appeal. This area is Alaska’s most popular stream for sockeye salmon fishing as well as a top spot for fly fishing.
On a Russian River camping trip, spending an afternoon fishing is the area’s most popular camping activity, as the easy access to the river is exactly why many people go there in the first place. From the Russian River Campground, the 1.25-mile Angler’s Trail leads to the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers. There are no fewer than 22 river access points on the way.
Adventurous anglers can cross the Russian River at the confluence and proceed along the Kenai River, where 15 other access points await.
“Amazing fishing for trout and salmon.” –The Dyrt camper Ellen L.
“Great sites, great price, great place to fish for salmon!” –The Dyrt camper Katie B.
3. World-Class Wildlife Watching
Wildlife abounds in this wilderness, including pretty much all the Alaskan icons, such as black and brown bears, moose, bald eagles and, of course, the salmon. Not only people are attracted to this place by the migrating salmon and trout; bears and birds enjoy a fresh salmon dinner, too.
When salmon are present in summer, you bet that bears are around as well. Remember that both black and brown bears live there, and be sure you know how to behave when encountering either of them.
Even if it’s the salmon that steal the show, seeing a fishing bear is an unforgettable experience as well. And if you’re really lucky, you might even spot a moose hanging out in a woodland clearing.
“Beautiful place! Saw plenty of bald eagles and a black bear by the river.” –The Dyrt camper Dori S.
“This is bear country – we’ve had bears walk through camp and past us on the river. Read up on bear safety prior to staying at the Russian!” –The Dyrt camper Audry P.
4. The Location is Epic
This is Alaska at its very best, everything you could imagine the U.S. state with the most preserved nature to be. The Russian River Campground lies in the east of the Kenai Peninsula, in Chugach National Forest, a 5-million-acre expanse of rugged peaks, towering fjords and wild rivers. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is to the west, while sensational Kenai Fjords National Park lies south along the coast.
“Wow! A majestic and beautiful place.” –The Dyrt camper Sonja M.
5. It Is Very Accessible (And Beautiful)
The drive from Anchorage to the Russian River is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Most of it is on Alaska Highway 1, a scenic drive known as the Seward Highway. Along the way, you’ll pass the dramatic shores of the Turnagain Arm and drive underneath the towering summits of the Chugach Mountains. Russian River camping may be your ultimate goal, but the road there is an attraction in its own right, too. It’s about 110 miles from Anchorage to the Russian River Campground, a 2-hour drive through spectacular Alaskan scenery.
“A quick 2 hour drive from Anchorage takes you to the campground, a well-paved and serviced series of loops that you’ll always feel safe in.” –The Dyrt camper Taylor W.