The U.S. Forest Service says it will build 25 new recreation cabins in the Tongass and Chugach National Forests.
The cabins won’t all be built at once. The first seven cabins are out for bid and will be constructed next summer. That first wave of new cabins will be spread across Southeast Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula. They’re all on the road system, except for one, which is a rebuild of a cabin at the Anan Bear Observatory near Wrangell that was crushed by a tree during a storm over the winter.
Other sites in the Tongass will be at Mendenhall Campground in Juneau, Signal Creek Campground at Ward Lake in Ketchikan, and El Capitan Interpretive Site north of Naukati on Prince of Wales Island. In the Chugach, cabins will be at Trail River in Moose Pass, at Porcupine Campground in Hope, and at Meridian Lake in Seward.
Dawn Collinsworth is deputy director of recreation lands and minerals for the Alaska region. She says the Forest Service received over 1,000 comments on where the cabins should go.
“Where we’re siting these cabins is really where the public would like to see them,” she said. “Because that just means they’re going to get more use, which is the goal.”
Collinsworth says the new cabin sites are more accessible than many of the existing ones, which are only reachable by boat or plane or extreme hikes.
“What we wanted to make sure that we’re doing is providing cabins that are more accessible and reach sort of a broader cross-section of the public who would like to recreate, but perhaps don’t have the physical capabilities of taking a long hike up a mountain,” she said.
Congress appropriated the money for the cabins. Over $14 million for the years-long project is coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021. The Forest Service is also getting around $3.7 million from the National Forest Foundation for the cabins project.
After building the first seven cabins next summer, the agency plans to build 18 more over the coming summers. They don’t know where all 18 will go, but they plan to have at least one in every district – that’s eight districts in the Tongass and three districts in the Chugach.
Rachel Weston is the regional recreation planner for the Forest Service.
“The cabins that were selected for this first round were the furthest along in the planning process,” Weston said. “They were kind of the most ready for construction. The remaining cabin locations are still being ground truthed to determine if it’s viable to put a cabin in that spot. And the districts are still working through that.”
Districts with higher public demand might get more than one cabin, depending on the viability of the locations.
Forest Service cabins in Alaska rent for $35 – $75 a night.