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- Portlock—Kenai Peninsula
- Kennecott—Wrangell St. Elias
- Portage—Turnagain Arm
- Why you need good car insurance
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Alaska’s ghost towns are some of the spookiest (albeit, coldest) places to visit in the US. Here’s a rundown of some of the state’s most enchanting ghost towns, Portlock, Kennecott, Portage, and Dyea.
Alaska has been the source of lore for travelers for centuries. With wide-open landscapes of untouched resources, Alaska was a prime location for miners looking to strike it rich. This led to the rise—and fall—of boomtowns.
Even Alaska’s most populated cities can be tough to get to, and getting to these ghost towns can be even more treacherous if you’re not adequately prepared.
Stay safe with the car insurance super app Jerry, so you can visit the ghost towns of Alaska with no problems—except for maybe meeting a ghost.
What is the story of Portlock?
Located on the Southern side of Alaska’s popular Kenai Peninsula, Portlock was once a thriving community known for its successful cannery industry.
It was named after Captain Nathaniel Portlock of the British Royal Navy, who claimed the land for Britain in 1787. Parts of the area were also claimed by Spanish and Russian settlers until the United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867.
Through the early 1900s, the town grew because of its salmon cannery, and a Chromite mine opened in the nearby town of Chrome. Portlock, also known as Chatham Bay, was the site of a territorial boarding school for kids from smaller surrounding villages.
A U.S. Post Office opened in Portlock in 1921, cementing its place as a thriving economic center on the Kenai Peninsula.
However, Portlock’s luck started to change in the early 1930s as hunters and gold miners who headed into the area began to disappear. In 1931, a man was found dead, killed so brutally that the townspeople suspected the culprit wasn’t human.
Subsequently, groups began to report sightings of large footprints—over 18 inches long—trailing after the prints of moose and other animals. Residents reported seeing a hairy man attacking fish and bodies were discovered with markings that were unlike any animal attack they’d ever seen.
These attacks disturbed residents to the point of the town’s extinction. By 1950, the town was abandoned.
What makes Portlock special?
Even today, residents of nearby towns on the Kenai Peninsula consider Portlock to be haunted—earning it the title of Alaska’s spookiest town. Here’s what to look for if you decide to visit:
- Stories that have been passed down for generations note the “evil spirits” that haunt the area. Some of those spirits can still be felt today, according to nearby villagers.
- Many attribute the mysterious disappearances to a murderous Big Foot. If you are chasing Sasquatch, this could be a worthwhile destination.
- Visitors can see the remains of the mining tunnel, house pilings, and rusted cannery equipment still left in the town.
How to Visit Portlock
Portlock has been abandoned for over half a century, so finding a place to stay in the deserted ghost town is near impossible. That said, the Kenai Peninsula is one of the most gorgeous parts of Alaska and well worth a visit.
However, getting to Portlock and the Kenai Peninsula can be quite a challenge. The nearest town, Seldovia, is a remote, quiet fishing village and the home of the Seldovia tribe—but it can only be accessed by taking a ferry from nearby Homer.
You can also visit the nearby Kachemak Bay State Park, which is home to over 400,000 acres of mountains, glaciers, and water to explore. To get here, you’ll need to take a boat, water taxi, or plane from Homer.
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Kennecott—Wrangell St. Elias
What is the story of Kennecott?
In the early 1900s, Kennecott was a booming mining town in the Western part of Alaska. An early rush on the copper mine near the city of McCarthy made Kennecott a popular spot for those who hoped to strike it rich.
The high-grade copper mine led to the formation of the Kennecott Copper Corporation and the Kennecott Minerals Company, comprising both a mine and a processing mill. In the 27 years the plant was operational, it employed nearly 300 people in 200-300 mines and processed over $200 million worth of copper.
Businesses sprang up around Kennecott, including a hospital, general store, school, sports venue, and railroad. However, the town outlawed illicit activities—like alcohol or gambling—which helped to grow the population of the nearby McCarthy.
However, copper deposits began to dry up in the late 1920s, and the mine was shut down by 1938. Soon after the mine’s closure, the town became abandoned except for a few families who watched over the town.
What makes Kennecott special?
Today, Kennecott is recognized as the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark, and it is located within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
- Tourists can visit the approximately 40 structures in the ghost town, including the mill, powerplant, some barracks, and several houses.
- The General Store and Post Office give visitors a complete history of the town, including a short film entitled “The Kennecott Mill.”
- Visitors can get a glimpse of what working in the mill was like by traversing through tunnels, tramways, and trails of the scale model at Bonanza Ridge.
There are many other exhibits throughout the park, documenting different perspectives of life in the time of the mill.
Additionally, the surrounding national park is well worth a visit for those who love outdoor adventures.
How to visit Kennecott
Kennecott is smack-dab in the middle of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which is roughly 200 miles northeast of Anchorage and 250 miles south of Fairbanks.
To get to Kennecott from Anchorage, take Glenn Highway south to Richardson Highway and then go east to Edgerton Highway. You will follow Edgerton Highway to McCarthy Road—one of the two main roads in the park. Note, McCarthy Road is 59 miles long and all gravel. The trip from Anchorage takes approximately 8 hours.
In the summer, visitors can park at the end of McCarthy Road and take a shuttle to Kennecott Mill Town for $5 one way. In the winter, visitors must hike to the mill town from the end of the road. Keep in mind, the road is not maintained in the winter, so it may be a treacherous drive.
While there are several campgrounds within the park, there is no access to other services—like gas or food. Be sure to plan ahead and make sure your car has enough gas for the journey and that you have packed enough food for your trip.
Pro Tip: Many rental car companies don’t allow their cars on gravel roads. If this is the case, you can get to Kennecott on a shuttle or a flight on Wrangell Mountain Air from Chitina.
What is the story of Portage?
Portage is one of the newer ghost towns in Alaska. While its history as a town isn’t remarkable—there’s no record of a booming industry or mining rush—the town is known for withstanding the second-largest earthquake ever recorded.
In 1964, the Portage was hit by what became known as the Good Friday Earthquake. The 9.2 magnitude earthquake only hit for four seconds, but its impact was catastrophic. The town dropped 10-feet in seconds, causing damaging floods to ravage the already devastated city.
The surrounding natural landscape was also impacted as the once dense forest became a “ghost forest”. After the land dropped, the saltwater from the ocean flooded the area, killing the roots of the trees while leaving them standing.
Due to the natural devastation, residents were forced to desert their homes, making Portage a ghost town.
What makes Portage special?
With its scenic location on the Turnagain Arm of the Seward Highway, Portage draws visitors who wish to see the remnants of the abandoned town and those who want to take in its natural majesty.
- Visitors can drive past remnants of the town, including horse stables, homesteader cabins, abandoned vehicles, and more.
- If you’re traveling in the winter, you can see the ominous “ghost forest” become a winter wonderland as frosty snow dusts the trees in a blanket of white.
- The nearby Begich Boggs Visitor Center gives tourists a good overview of the history of the town and features exhibits on the topography of the region.
- Perhaps the biggest draw of the area is its natural landscape. The Portage Glacier is one of Alaska’s most popular destinations, and it can be accessed via car, hiking trails, or guided tour.
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How to visit Portage
To get to Portage from Anchorage, follow the Seward Highway south to the Turnagain Arm for about 48 miles. Once you pass the Alaska Railroad Staging Area, turn left onto Portage Glacier Road. The drive from Anchorage to Portage is approximately one hour.
It’s important to check the weather forecast before you make the trip. The valley is absolutely lovely in the sun, but it can be prone to treacherous storms that will make your trip a challenge.
Portage Valley is part of the larger Chugach National Forest, and there are plenty of campsites within the park. The trip can also be made as a day trip from Anchorage.
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What is the story of Dyea?
Located along a prominent trade route, Dyea became an important boomtown in the Klondike Gold Rush.
Dyea had long been an important fishing camp and staging area for trade trips for the Chilkat Tlingit people and other First Nations groups. In 1879, the Chilkat Tlingit made a pact with U.S. Navy Commander L.A. Beardsley for miners to pass through the area on their way to gold mines. This became the start of the Chilkoot Trail.
In the mid-1880s, the Healy and Wilson Trading Post was established, which became an important source of material and information for the region. Soon after, the secret about the wealth of the region got out, and miners rushed to the boomtown in 1897. From 1897-1898, the town grew exponentially, with over 150 businesses, a fire department, and two newspapers.
However, the prosperity of Dyea was cut short when the 1898 Palm Sunday Avalanche ravaged the Chilkoot Trail. The avalanche surprised many travelers, who were trapped under the crushing snow. Because of spotty records, the exact death toll and names of the travelers are unknown.
The destruction of the main trail caused gold miners to find new routes and destinations, and traffic to Dye dried up. In 1903, less than 10 people were recorded living in the once-prosperous town.
What makes Dyea special?
While it may no longer be a gold-rush destination, Dyea has become etched in history as the Historic Dyea Townsite in the Klondike Goldrush National Historic Park.
- Take a self-guided walking tour through Dyea and relive the days of the gold rush. Though many buildings were destroyed, sites like the Wilkes Warehouse Ruin or A.M. Gregg Real Estate Office tell the history of what once existed.
- The Historic Slide Cemetery recognizes those who were killed in the avalanche.
- Hike along the beautiful Taiya River and watch for Bald Eagles flying by
- Hike the Chilkoot Trail, which has been restored since the deadly avalanche.
How to visit Dyea
Dyea is just 30 minutes away from the well-known town of Skagway. To get to Dyea, take the Dyea Road toward Chilkoot Trail for 9 miles.
Dyea is part of a larger national park, and you can get a backcountry camping permit to camp along the Chilkoot Trail. You also could stay in Skagway and visit Dyea as a day trip.
Why you need good car insurance
If you’re traveling to a ghost town, you’ll likely travel on some unkempt or unpaved roads—or you could meet some wildlife on your way. In case of an accident with another vehicle or animal on your way to your destination, you’ll need good car insurance.
That’s where Jerry can help! Jerry is your handy-dandy insurance broker app. In under 45 seconds, Jerry will source quotes from over 50 top insurance providers and send them right to your phone. Once you make your choice, Jerry will take care of everything else—from filing paperwork to helping you cancel your old policy.
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