Hot summer days do happen in Anchorage. And when those rays blaze, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the sensation of sand between bare toes. Here is our guide to prime spots to throw down a towel, build a castle, take a cool dip, or just take in the coastal views.
Goose Lake Park
If you seek that old-fashioned, high-summer swimming beach experience with sand, lifeguards and teeming humanity, the beach at Goose Lake Park will take you home. Located on the northern edge of the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, the 68-acre municipal park features a panoramic view of the Chugach Mountains (admittedly marred by power lines) and immediate access to the Chester Creek and U-Med bike trail systems. Often simply jammin’ and rockin’ on hot days, the venue is very popular with families and teenagers—and is a fantastic place to people-watch. A definite social experience with lots happening. Amenities include a picnic shelter, kid’s playground, ball courts and a large grassy field. Goose Lake is also known as a quick urban paddling destination, and you’ll often see people trying out recreational kayaks or rafts. Pacific loons often raise a brood on the lake, so avoid the far south shore where a nest box floats. Lifeguards on duty Noon to 9 pm daily from late May to start of school in August.
Note: Goose Lake can trigger Swimmer’s Itch. Towel or rinse off after leaving the water.
Goose Lake Park is at 2811 UAA Drive just south of the intersection with Northern Lights Boulevard. Chester Creek and the UAA connecter trails pass through it. Parking spaces galore.
With a sandy bottom reaching from a well-maintained family-oriented park with many amenities, the Jewell Lake beach is the most popular in town, drawing 30,000 bathers each summer. Aside from the inviting water, the 40-acre park is a great place to hang out while picnicking or barbecuing. (It includes a shelter with an electrical outlet.) It’s the kind of place that just begs you to play around. The beach is backed by an extensive lawn. You can swim, launch your kayak or canoe, fish for stocked rainbow trout, play beach volleyball or toss a disc, romp on some way-cool playground equipment (shaped like a pirate ship) or zoom down a kid-friendly zip-line. Or how about a round of outdoor ping pong on a stone table? A rain garden and nice landscaping contribute to its wholesome vibe. Lifeguards on duty Noon to 9 pm daily from late May to start of school in August.
Note: Jewell Lake can trigger Swimmer’s Itch. Towel or rinse off after leaving the water.
Jewell Lake Park is on West Dimond Boulevard, with the parking area at 4242 W. 88th Avenue. Take 88th west from Jewell Lake Road, or take Jewell Terrace Street north from Dimond. Easy to find.
Little Campbell Lake
Tucked into the forest on the northeast corner of Kincaid Park, Little Campbell Lake (also called Point Campbell Lake) has the aura of a swimming pond at an old-fashioned summer camp. A 50-foot dock reaches out into deep water from a firm shoreline with a picnic-ready lawn. Though surrounded by Kincaid’s mature spruce-birch forest, the grassy approach gets good summer sun and is a great place to lounge. The bottom is sandy and invites wading or boating. Kincaid’s trail system surrounds the lake—classic style only in winter, non-motorized multi-use in summer—so it’s a great jumping off point for outdoor adventures. The shoreline is a good bet for evening and morning fishing, and the 8.6-acre lake is regularly stocked with catchable-length Arctic char, Chinook salmon and rainbow trout. Big jets landing at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport often pass close by, a spectacle that somehow makes the place even more intriguing.
Take Raspberry Road west to the entrance of Kincaid Park and turn right (north) on the gravel access road. About .6 miles to a small parking area.
Kincaid - Point Campbell
A wild beach with an expanse of gorgeous sand and a million-dollar view stretches along Anchorage’s southwest coast at Point Campbell in Kincaid Park. Right at the tip where Turnagain and Knik arms meet, the Kincaid Beach can be windy and brisk. Offshore waters oscillate with one of the biggest tidal ranges in the world, exposing vast mud flats at low water. But go there on a calm and sunny summer afternoon, and you might feel like you’ve magically transported a thousand miles to the south. How hot does it get? Hot enough that people wade into the brisk waters of Cook Inlet and wallow in the mud! People lay out towels and picnic. Kids run and throw stones in the water. Families beachcomb north on a sand spit and southeast along Turnagain Arm. It may be the best place in the region to experience Cook Inlet up close.
First take Raspberry Road west into Kincaid Park until it ends at the Chalet parking lot. Then follow the paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail downhill about 9/10hs of a mile to the bluff. Take the dirt path south (left if facing the coast) and then descend the access trail built in 2015 to the Point Campbell beach.
With its gentle slope (no steep drop-offs), this south-facing beach along Mirror Lake off the Glenn Highway in Chugiak invites wading and boat launching. Spanning about 150 yards, the beach features easy access to the water for picnicking families and is great place to take young kids and let them splash in the shallows (always under supervision, of course!) On hot summer days, people float, paddle, swim, wade and lie on blankets in the grass and firm sand. The surrounding park offers fields, picnic tables, shelter and some playground equipment. About three miles of trails wind through the rolling woods to the north toward Edmonds Lake, popular in winter with skiers. The 64.5-acre lake has a mile of shoreline for paddling—and is used by floatplanes. Fishing can be excellent: it’s regularly stocked with Arctic char, Chinook salmon and rainbow trout. On calm days, the lake lives up to its name, sometimes painting the looming massif of Bear Mountain across its placid surface.
Exit the Glenn Highway at the Mirror Lake exit about Mile 24 and drive south on the Old Glenn Highway to the Mirror Lake Wayside Park. It’s on the mountain side of the freeway.
Coastal Trail West of Fish Creek
A strip of sandy beach runs along the shore of Knik Arm (off and on) between the Fish Creek bridge and Earthquake Park parallel to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This unexpected and very walkable shore lies between the upland and the gooey mudflats that become exposed when Knik Arm’s big tide retreats. Popular with strollers ambling along the trail, the beach is a great place to experience Anchorage’s marine connection. Watch for container ships, tug boats and other traffic steaming into and out of the Port of Anchorage. At high tide, when the waters of Knik Arm creep close, it’s even possible to catch sight of beluga whales swimming offshore. A productive spot to look for shorebirds and other exotic migrants as well.
Best and most immediate access is off the coastal trail at Lynn Ary Park in west Anchorage. (2009 Foraker Street.) If starting at Westchester Lagoon, go west/south of the coastal trail about one half mile to the bridge over Fish Creek and look for the beach just off the trail.
One of the most spectacular viewpoints in Anchorage overlooks one of the most accessible beaches. Located in a park at the far west end of Northern Lights Boulevard, the Point Woronzof beach features a smooth, cobbled surface scoured by Knik Arm’s powerful tides. During summer evenings, dozens of people hike down the access road from the parking area on the bluff and wander the shore. For those prepared to safely paddle in Knik Arm, the beach’s usually calm waters offer a good launching spot for kayaks—though beware of strong tidal currents. While not particularly sandy, and not known for swimming, the beach is an exotic place to walk and beachcomb and exercise dogs. Bikers and walkers on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail often descend to the beach, making it a great destination for an excursion from Westchester Lagoon or Earthquake Park. Once on the shore, you can go almost a mile to the north and east along Knik Arm, and almost a half-mile further south. A prime location to watch the sunset and look for beluga whales!
Take Northern Lights Boulevard west until it curves south to become Point Woronzof Road. Woronzof’s parking lot is on the right at 9700 Point Woronzof Road, less than a quarter mile after the curve. From the parking lot, take the obvious access road to the beach. It is steep in spots, dropping about 70 feet over 150 yards. The overlook parking area is at Mile 4 of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Campbell Creek Wading Beach
Want to commune with Anchorage’s most dramatic stream? Crystal-clear Campbell Creek spreads out and becomes shallow enough for wading next to a great family park in a midtown Anchorage neighborhood. On hot summer days, dozens of people will hitch up their pants and splash in the chilly water, or walk out to a gravel bar in the middle of the creek. The best wading is between two multi-use bridges, and right off the playground area. Part of the much more extensive Campbell Park, this family-oriented gem also features an upgraded playground and a beautiful grassy field along a lighted bike path. It’s also a stop on the Campbell Creek bike trail system, with connections to Chester Creek trail system and the Tour of Anchorage Trail. Salmon do migrate up the creek, and this section opens to coho fishing in season.
The parking area is off East 48th Avenue on the east side of Lake Otis Parkway, a long block south of Tudor Road.