The settlement along the Palmer Highway in an area that had been home to Denai’ina Athabascans for thousands of years was named "Chugiak" on February 17, 1947, by pioneering white residents. "Chugiak" is said to have come from a Dena'ina Athabascan word meaning "place of many places". Chugiak was first heavily settled in the 1950s, primarily by the homesteading by former military personnel who had served in Alaska during World War II. It is currently one of the main sites of suburban expansion near Anchorage.
There are about 10,000 residents, most of whom work in Anchorage or the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and are spread out mainly along the Glenn Highway. The urban cluster of Anchorage Northeast (including Chugiak and surroundings) has an estimated population of 31,000 (2010), covering an area of 39 km².
Chugiak is also the home of the "Birchwood Shooting & Recreational Park", (adjacent to the Birchwood Airport), the largest rifle, pistol, and shotgun range facility in the State of Alaska. The annual Alaska State Trap and Skeet competitions are held there.
Chugiak has its own post office, with United States postal zip code 99567, which also serves the adjacent small unincorporated communities of Birchwood, Peters Creek, and Eklutna.