For the long and dark winter up here, Nancy Lake is a godsend. The park consists of numerous lakes close to one another that can be hiked over when frozen. There are small trails that are blazed in between for easy navigating. In the summer, you can canoe/kayak and portage between the lakes (which is beyond the scope of this website).
My reason for the 3 hoof rating is the preponderance of snowmobiles. Most are courteous but it can get noisy during the day. If you want real winter solitude, head to Resurrection Pass.
There are many huts for rent after hanging out in this winter wonderland. If you stay over, make sure you go outside after 11 pm and hopefully see some killer northern lights. We stayed at the Lynx Lake Cabin #1 one time and had a great view of Denali as well as a great display of red and green lights.
The following was added February 1, 2004:
This weekend I stayed at the James Lake Cabin. This is one of nicest ones in the state and gives you the most solitude in the Nancy Lake area. Except for one snowmobiler early in the day, I never saw anyone else. It’s six miles in but I had no problems getting there. You have to cross 9 lakes (including James) but the orange portage signs were easy to find.
The following was added January 23, 2005:
This weekend I was going to stay in James Lake Cabin but a shoulder injury precluded hauling my sled for 6 miles. I traded for Nancy Lake #4 which is close to the parking lot and opted to dayhike after getting to the cabin. It’s a large cabin but I would not choose any of the Nancy Lake cabins (there are 4) again unless they were the only ones available. Since they are a short hike, as well as on the lake with the most private houses, it can be quite noisy and crowded. There are much more snowmobilers and later that night, I had to deal with some obnoxious teenagers with firecrackers. However, if I was with a large group and the cabin was more about a get together than a nature retreat, I would definitely choose #4 again as making several trips with my sled would be very easy.
For a detailed description of each cabin and making making reservations for them, go to the Nancy Lake State Recreation Website. You can now make reservations and pay online instead of having to go in person to a State office.
The best way to hike this is to buy a cheap plastic sled and carry your stuff on it. For details about how I built mine, go here.
Make your life easier and pack in lots of water so you don’t have to melt snow.
If you bring a sled, bring a lantern. Once the sun goes down, you’ll be glad you have it.
There’s lots of down time so bring something to read or games/cards for the group.
If you’re not skiing, you may want to pack snowshoes just in case of any new snow while you’re there.
Remember, this is winter. Learn how to layer clothes and avoid hypothermia.
For great information on winter camping, I recommend the book Winter Camping, 2nd Edition by Stephen Gorman (Appalachian Mountain Club Books) 1999.
Note: there are numerous entrances into Nancy Lake and it can get quite confusing. Look for the mile markers (you’re looking for 67 and then 1/2 mile from there). You want to take the Nancy Lake Park Road, which is just past a log cabin building operation. Do not take the road where the Polaris snow machine shop is.