Remote Aniahchak National Monument and Preserve is situated about 450 miles southwest of the city of Anchorage in an area of Alaska known as the "Ring of Fire'' because of its active volcanoes. Accessible only via flights to small airports near the park, this is one of the National Park Service's least visited units and generally attracts visitors only during the slightly warmer summer months, when temperatures top out in the 40s and low 50s on the warmest days.
The 586,000-acre Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is home to both the mighty Aniakchak River and a fascinating six-mile-wide, 2,500-foot-deep caldera that geologists say was formed some 3,500 years ago.
The river tends to be the main focal point of the park and the reason that most people visit. This designated National Wild and Scenic River is suitable for whitewater rafting, but only for those with a wealth of whitewater experience and a lot of stamina. Each year, a handful of the heartiest whitewater aficionados head here to tackle the river on a multi-day trip that takes them through Class V+ rapids on their way from deep inside the volcano out to the ocean. The river is rocky, gradients are steep, and boat damage is commonplace. However, the few parties that run the river each year are rewarded with stunning scenery, views of amazing wildlife, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sport fishing is permitted throughout the preserve and monument with a proper Alaska fishing license and other required cards or stamps. King Salmon is indeed king here and visitors can expect to catch some very large specimens in the Aniakchak River.
There are no designated hiking trails at Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, but those who wish to hike or backpack can explore the ash and cinder fields of the caldera floor. Hikers often follow animal trails but should be aware of wildlife. Like rafting, hiking is best enjoyed in the middle of the summer, particularly in July.
Sport hunting and subsistence hunting are also permitted throughout the park but certain rules apply in accordance with the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
There are no campgrounds located in Aniakchak but hikers or rafters are permitted to enjoy backcountry camping. However, brown bears are a real threat inside this remote park, so any campers should take proper precautions and be well-versed in bear safety. Bear-resistant containers should be used for food and to store trash.
The onsite King Salmon Visitor Center, located near the King Salmon Airport, offers information on the public lands of the Alaska Peninsula, including Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. There are no commercial services inside Aniakchak though a few guide services do operate within the park.