Generally we don't stay overnight in Anchorage in the summer because hotels are outrageously expensive: over $200 a night for low-end places that are marginally safe and comfortable. But we were all in need of shoes and other clothing, books and gear, so decided to do one of our weekly trips to Anchorage. And hey, we'll keep up the tradition of camping. A quick Google search shows Centennial Park at the north edge of Anchorage off of Muldoon Road. Perfect! We realized it might be a little rough, but we'd give it a try. At $25/night, we could make it through a night or two. I was a little suspicious when we checked in and they said the tent sites never fill up. Really? Cheap nights in Anchorage not filling up?!
Let's put it this way: I would exhaust all other options before I would go back to that campground. On the surface, the 88 sites appear nice: 66 or so are tent only, no electricity. It is a beautifully wooded area. A little playground adjoins the bathroom area. There are free showers. While sites are close to each other, it is as nice as plenty of modern campgrounds. Reservations are available online for some sites while others are left walk-in only.
Speaking of bathrooms...Doug said the men's restroom look like a homeless shelter, and Aurora mentioned a person sleeping in the women's restroom. I missed that one. I was a little annoyed when someone must have gotten rambunctious in the showers and every toilet seat and the floors were wet.
Although there is a 5 day limit at any one time; 14 days total for the calendar year, about half the sites had the feel of being permanent homes for folks. Come evening there was a lady walking around the campground who made me think "prostitute" since no one stays at campgrounds with that amount of make up on. And when at 2:30 in the morning some folks moved into the site 2 down from us and began banging on bongo drums and who knows what all else, yelling "bear!" it was less than ideal for sleeping. Since I was awake I decided to go to the restroom, noticing as I walked in a pickup truck parked outside and thinking, "strange--for 3 in the morning." When I walked out a man approached be from the men's restroom carrying what looked like a long-handled axe or sledgehammer, I couldn't tell which, and two more people came around the building from the other side, all following me. I didn't hang out to investigate. Morning couldn't come soon enough.
Amazingly I did fall asleep eventually, but I was happy to pack up the next morning and drive away without getting our second night's fee back. Our son had slept through it all and thought it hilarious that we'd had such a bad experience there. Maybe the moral of the story is, if you want to camp here, be a deep sleeper who doesn't have to use the restroom much! It might not hurt to have bear spray handy though.
As for options, 20 minutes up the road in Eagle River there is a campground, and 20 minutes south of Anchorage there is the Bird Creek Campground. Both are legitimate possibilities for those who want a cheaper option for overnighting in Anchorage.