The Chitina House
On all of our trips, we make an effort to get the most authentic local experience possible, and one of the best ways we’ve been able to accomplish is through our selection of accommodations. The Chitina House B&B in Chitina, Alaska, was the perfect way for us to truly experience a small Alaskan town while also providing us with a convenient home base for a host of nearby excursions.
Unless you’re really well-versed on your Alaskan geography, it’s likely that you aren’t familiar with the small town of Chitina. With a population of 126, it isn’t exactly a booming metropolis and thus it’s not on many people’s radar. Prospectors originally came to the area in the early 1900’s when copper was discovered in the Chitina River valley; however, within forty years, the mines closed and Chitina became a veritable ghost town for many years. Currently, salmon fishing is the primary draw, but the town is also the gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias Nationl Park, which we would argue is every bit as stunning as the more popular Denali.
Why stay in Chitina?
So why stay in Chitina? Excellent question. Assuming you’re a tourist like we were, the only reason you would find yourself in Chitina would be if you were visiting Wrangell-St. Elias. If this park is not already on your Alaskan itinerary, then we would recommend crumpling up that itinerary, throwing it in the trash, and then starting from scratch. We won’t be covering the park in detail in this post, but just trust us for now. It’s not as popular as Denali, but just as beautiful. You will certainly have the option of finding accommodation within the park itself, but staying in Chitina provides the opportunity to experience an authentic small Alaskan town, set in a picturesque valley teeming with wildlife.
Despite being such a small town, there is no shortage of things to do in the immediate surrounding area. Here are a few that we would strongly recommend.
- Take a flight over the Wrangell Mountains. Flights leave from the Chitina Airport and land in McCarthy.
- Drive the McCarthy road from Chitina to McCarthy.
- Look for moose and grizzly bears that frequent the area.
- Hike to Liberty Falls
- Check out the fish wheels in the Copper River
- Climb one of the many nearby mountains for incredible views of the town, the Copper River/Chitina River, and the Wrangell Mountains.
The Chitina House B&B
Hopefully by this point we’ve succeeded in convincing you that Chitina is a worthwhile stop and a perfect launching pad for activities in the area. If you do end up staying in town, you’ll have a very limited selection, but there is a right an a wrong choice in this scenario. The right choice, of course, is the Chitina House Bed and Breakfast. A B&B is only as good as the people who manage it, and Carla and Mike are as good as they come. They’ve lived in Alaska for 30+ years and possess a wealth of knowledge of the area and local activities. The other method of judging the quality of a B&B is by the quality of their muffins. We give them a 10 out of 10 here.
The rooms themselves are quaint, comfortable, and clean and each room has a queen size and a single bed. There is also a spacious room where you can relax in a rocking chair with a book and a cup of coffee, and a front porch for the warmer days (there are warm days here…we promise). The small pond out front is home to beavers and otters, who, as we understand, are in the midst of a somewhat violent turf war. There is also another larger pond just across the street that is frequented by swans, but more importantly, moose. We weren’t fortunate enough to see any moose, but apparently they come to the pond every night and often walk right through town.
We would be remiss if we failed to mention the enormous turkey that walks the grounds of the Chitina House. We say “turkey”, but based on it’s size, it is more likely that it is a cross between a turkey and a moose…possibly part brontosaurus but we can’t be sure. This thing strutted around like it owned the place and acted more like one of the pets than a future meal. That being said, we can’t make any guarantees that it will still be there a year or even a month from now. The temptation of a Thanksgiving dinner walking around might just be too much to resist, no matter how lovable it may be.
If you go to Wrangell St.-Elias, you should stay in Chitina. And if you stay in Chitina, you should stay at the Chitina House. It’s a simple equation, really. You’ll take in some breathtaking views, eat some delicious muffins, and maybe see a moose or two. Our time at the Chitina House was one of the highlights of our trip to Alaska, and that’s saying something.