Upper Skilak Lake Campground

Skilak Lake

There are countless Kenai campgrounds to consider when visiting Alaska’s beautiful Kenai Peninunsula. But one campground that is a bit of a hidden gem is the Upper Skilak Lake Campground located in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has a ton of recreation opportunities (e.g., boating, fishing, hiking, mushroom picking) that make Upper Skilak Lake Campground a great place to base out of to explore the Kenai Peninsula.

Alaska has a lot of beautiful campgrounds, but Upper Skilak Lake Campground is definitely near the top of the list. Every time we’ve visited Upper Skilak Lake Campground we have not been disappointed.

In this article, I’ll provide you with an overview of the campground, what ammenities it has to offer, its operating season, and some of the fun activities you can do in the area.

Upper Skilak Lake Campground Review

Upper Skilak Lake Campground campsite

Upper Skilak Lake Campground is located at a nice location near the upper section of Skilak Lake. It sits right on Skilak Lake offering beautiful views and a great access point for boating on the lake or exploring other areas of the refuge.

The campground has a nice boat ramp for accessing the lake. But head the warning signs and respect Skilak Lake because the weather can turn quickly on the lake making it extrememly hazardous to boat on. All of us Alaskans (including myself) have heard harrowing stories from friends about their experience on Skilak Lake when the wind has picked up. You really need to respect the wilds of Alaska!

Upper Skilak Lake Campground Map
Upper Skilak Lake Campground kiosk

The campground is located in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Campsites cost $10 per night for sites that allow RVs or campers, or $5 per night for walk-in sites.

Unlike many Kenai campgrounds which are located just off busy (for Alaska) highways, the campground is a few miles off the Sterling Highway, far away from annoying road noise.

Most of the campsites had good spacing between them with decent privacy.

Upper Skilak Lake Campground Campsites

The campground has 25 campsites; 15 suitable for RVs or campers, and 10 additional walk-in sites. There are no RV size limits. But be aware that the loop around the campground can get a little tight for bigger rigs. With that said, we did see a large fifth-wheel able to snag a site while we were camping there. But it sure looked sketchy!

If you want direct access to the lake, keep your eyes peeled to see if sites 12 and 13 are available. We stayed at site 7 and enjoyed the small creek that flowed behind it. It definitely felt more private than sites 12 or 13.

Upper Skilak Lake Campground campsire
Upper Skilak Lake Campground campsire

Each campsite has a picnic table and campfire pit.

Pay attention to signage in the campground about recent bear sightings and talk to the campground host about any concerns you might have.

Upper Skilak Lake Campground Amenities

The campground offers drinking water from spigots scattered around the site.

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There are multiple outhouses with pit toilets around the campground.

There is also a dumpster for your trash. Please do not leave trash or food unsecured because both grizzly and black bears live in the area and could become problems if people don’t properly manage their camps.

There are no sewer, water, or electric hook-ups at Upper Skilak Lake Campground, so be prepared to deal with your waste water offsite.

Upper Skilak Lake Campground Reservations

Campsites are first-come, first-serve, so you don’t need to make any advanced reservations.

When is Upper Skilak Lake Campground Open

The campground is technically open year-round, but is really only accessible until snow accumulates. Campers can expect full services at the campground from Memorial Day through Labor Day; the typical camping season in Alaska.

A stay at Upper Skilake Lake is best during June or July when Alaska camping is at its prime.

Where is Upper Skilak Lake Campground Located

The campground is located about 125 miles from Anchorage. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach the campground from Anchorage with scenic drives along the Seward and Stirling highways.

The turn off to the campground is a couple of miles past Cooper Landing, Alaska. Then you drive down a relatively well-maintained gravel road for less than 10 miles to reach the campground.

Activities Near Upper Skilak Lake Campground

There are a lot of activities within a short drive of the campground, making it a great basecamp for exploring the Kenai Peninsula.

Hiking Trails in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

View of Skilak Lake from the Hidden Creek Trail

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has a number of hiking trails that are easily accessible from Upper Skilak Lake Campground. The refuge also offers maps for most of their popular trails. There are trails of different lengths and difficulties to meet everyone’s needs.

On a recent weekend of camping, we hiked the Hidden Creek Trail down to Skilak Lake. It was beautiful and easiest enough for our young family.

Rafting the Kenai River

A short drive from Upper Skilak Lake Campground you can find multiple opportunities to raft or float the Kenai River. These are great for just taking in the scenery or for fishing for salmon or rainbow trout.

Brown bears on a Kenai River float

A number of years ago I rafted down the Kenai River and was fortunate to see a family of brown bears just along the shore. It was a truly Alaskan experience!

Salmon Fishing Near Upper Skilak Lake Campground

When you’re camping at Upper Skilak Lake Campground, you’re near some the best salmon fishing in Alaska. The Kenai River has a large run of Sockeye salmon and there are many opportunities to fish it within a short drive of the campground.

You’re also less than 30 minutes away from fishing the famous Russian River. The great part about Upper Skilak Lake Campground is that you’re able to avoid the throngs of people that pass through the Russian River Campground to access the fishing areas. You can spend the day fishing and then come back to the calm of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.


Upper Skilak Lake Campground is a hidden gem on the upper Kenai Peninusla. It’s conveniently located to lots of activities on the Kenai, but far enough off the highway to avoid the noise and crowds that visit the area.

We were extremely happy with the campground when we stayed there two years ago and can’t wait to return soon!

Interested in learning more about other camping opportunities in Alaska? Check out our page on Alaska Campgrounds to learn about other campgrounds to explore. Also, be sure to check out our list of essential Alaska camping gear before your next trip.

Photo of author


Ryan is an avid outdoorsman who loves camping, hiking, and backpacking. He was initially reluctant to join the camper world, but after his first camping trip in one, he became a convert. He especially loves how camper ownership extends the camping season and makes it easier to be more adventurous with young kids. When not enjoying his free time, he works as a professional wildlife biologist studying the ecology and conservation of large mammals in Alaska.