Photo Credit: Portage Glacier

Anchorage Ice Skating

With its extensive wetlands and lakes, Southern Alaska may be one of the best places in the world for skating wild ice. More and more people have been discovering skating routes close to Anchorage. They invite exploration of unexpected enclaves and mazes.

These frozen passageways meander along sloughs. They crisscross pond-to-pond over wetlands. Some follow frozen river channels for miles, offering slick access to territory only reachable by boat in summer. Others center on vast lakes, some freshwater fiords beneath stunning mountain walls.

The sport becomes especially satisfying during that in-between season when the world has frozen solid but snow has not yet become too deep.

Depending upon snow depth, the season for skating wild ice can be short—ranging from a week or two to a couple of months. Many people find that skating remains fun even with a couple of inches of snow on the ice. A lot depends on the texture and density of the snow cover, and the underlying smoothness of the ice surface. Most winters, snow does eventually become too deep, and you have shift your skating adventures to ice that’s been shoveled off or mopped.

Still, even after snow blankets most ice, a mid-winter meltdown can sometimes strip the cover and rehab the frozen surface for a new round of skating.

Best Places for Adventure Skating Near Anchorage

The Anchorage Parks Department monitors ice thickness and then authorizes hop mopping and maintenance in skating zones at five lakes and one skate pond.

  1. Westchester Lagoon & Other Anchorage Area Lakes - 2-10 miles out. For the classic city ice skating experience where hundreds of people might spend the afternoon careening along smooth, winding paths or warming themselves at burn barrels, try out Westchester Lagoon. Other lakes include Goose Lake, Cheney Lake, Delong Lake, Jewell Lake, Cuddy Family Midtown Park
  2. Potter Marsh — 12 miles from downtown. If ice skating around frozen channels and ponds inside a wildlife refuge sounds fun, try exploring the wild ice of Potter Marsh along the Seward Highway in South Anchorage. After a hard freeze-up, the marsh morphs from bird-nesting habitat into an intriguing maze, with miles of twisty routes leading to unexpected rinks. Very popular with families.
  3. Eklutna Lake — 37 miles out. Freeze-up turns this seven-mile long fresh-water fiord in Chugach State Park into a multi-mode travel corridor for ice skaters, hikers, skiers and bikers.
  4. Rabbit Slough / Wasilla Creek — 38 miles out. These frozen channels wind for miles across the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge off the Glenn Highway in the mouth of the Matanuska and Knik valleys.
  5. Portage Lake — 50 miles out. Once this glacier lake in Portage Valley at the head of Turnagain Arm freezes solid, people flock across ice on skates, skis, bikes and foot.
  6. Nancy Lake State Recreation Area canoe trail — 72 miles out. A premier paddling destination in summer, this eight-mile loop through 14 lakes can be skated after freeze-up and before significant snowfall.

Show Map

Ice Skating

For an oth­er­world­ly encounter with a famous glac­i­er you can’t eas­i­ly approach or even glimpse dur­ing sum­mer, lead the fam­i­ly across frozen Portage Lake to a fan­tas­tic wall of jum­bled, blue ice. Once the lake sur­face has frozen sol­id, peo­ple flock across on foot, ice skates, skis and bikes. 50 miles from Anchorage.

A pre­mier pad­dling des­ti­na­tion in sum­mer, the eight-mile loop canoe trail through 14 lakes can be skat­ed after freeze-up and before sig­nif­i­cant snow­fall. Peo­ple often cruise the entire route in one long day, or skate out a few lakes and return. Be pre­pared to hike portages up to a half-mile between lakes. 71 miles north of Anchorage.

These frozen chan­nels wind for miles across the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge off the Glenn High­way in the mouth of the Matanus­ka and Knik riv­er val­leys, just 35 miles north of Anchor­age. Either trav­el the streams or explore exten­sive pond net­works on the flats.

Freeze-up turns this sev­en-mile long fresh-water fiord in Chugach State Park into a mul­ti-mode trav­el cor­ri­dor for ice skaters, hik­ers, skiers and bik­ers. Adven­ture skat­ing can be good before snow gets too deep, or after mid-win­ter thaws or wind rehabs the surface. 

Explore the wild ice of Pot­ter Marsh along the Seward High­way in South Anchor­age. After a hard freeze-up, the marsh morphs from bird-nest­ing habi­tat into an intrigu­ing maze, with miles of twisty routes lead­ing to unex­pect­ed rinks. Very pop­u­lar with families. 

For the clas­sic city ice skat­ing expe­ri­ence where hun­dreds of peo­ple might spend the after­noon careen­ing along smooth, wind­ing paths or warm­ing them­selves at burn bar­rels, try out Westch­ester Lagoon at the west end of the Chester Creek green­belt off the L Street / Min­neso­ta Dri­ve corridor. 

In 1984 when the Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter was being built plans were includ­ed for Town Square. In the sum­mer it is a good spot to sit and take a break. In the win­ter, the trees are strung with christ­mas lights and an ice skat­ing rink is cre­at­ed at the cen­ter of the park.

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