Flattop is Alaska’s most visited peak. Ascend the 1.5 - mile, 1,350 vertical foot trail to the rocky, football field-sized summit in about an hour and take in panoramic views from Denali (Mt. McKinley) to the Aleutian Islands. If you want vistas without the hike, walk the short path from the parking lot to the overlook.
This clearing at the edge of town once functioned as a firebreak between Anchorage and its neighboring forest. At other times, it acted as an airstrip, a golf course and even a makeshift housing development, when people lived here during the 1940s boom in apartments created out of old barracks. Today the Park Strip—just one block wide but 13 blocks long—is home to ball More...
For a challenging and compact cross country ski area where you’ll find just about every kind of terrain, you can’t go wrong at Beach Lake Nordic Ski Trails off South Birchwood Loop in Chugiak. The 15-kilometer-plus system ranges from easy gliding to a sprawling advanced loop with sudden headwalls that morph into thrilling, high-speed descents. You can make it as challenging or as sedate as you like.
If you only have a limited amount of time in Anchorage but want go out for a great hike, consider Kincaid Bluff Trail. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Anchorage, this is a 6-mile loop hike to Kincaid Chalet. Along the way, you’ll find 3 miles of rugged trail that skirt the summit of precipitous bluffs at the end of the Anchorage Peninsula.
This trail starts out on a boardwalk, but shortly afterwards turns onto a trail that traverses the right side of the valley as you head away from the parking area. Some people choose to go straight up to a pass that looks down on Ship Creek and is a high ridge traverse. However, if you continue down the main trail, it eventually drops down to the South Fork of the Eagle River and a couple miles further to two lakes, Eagle and Symphony, that nestle together towards the end of the valley.
This trail starts out on a boardwalk, but shortly afterwards turns onto a trail that traverses the right side of the valley as…
You’ll have a hard time losing your way on this 2.5-mile climb of 4,301-foot-high McHugh Peak. You’ll also have a hard time forgetting the view from the summit, which extends up the length of Turnagain Arm and across Knik Arm to the Alaska Range. It’s even more satisfying knowing that you found your way to the summit with only minimal help from the trail.
Spencer Glacier rises 3,500 feet in a stunning, natural ramp from a lake of royal-blue icebergs in the Chugach National Forest just 60 miles south of Anchorage. It’s a family-friendly recreation destination featuring camping, hiking, glacier exploration, nature walks, paddling and sightseeing. Maybe best of all: You have to take a train to get there!
Trail head begins by traversing private land, but an easement has been provided for such. Easy to bike, ski, run or walk to mild slope with a wide sides, making is safe from avalanches in the winter. Should you choose to turn left at the start, you can go to Flat Top as an alternative route or Peak 2 or 3, depending how far down you go down the trail before turning left. Ptarmagan Peak would be a more prominate peak just before the Rabbit creek head waters. Directly in behind the head waters is South and North Suicide Peak. On the right of the lake is McHugh Lake and a drainage continuing south from there, and the main peak on the right of this valley is McHugh Peak itself.
If you’re looking for a wild oasis that’s just a 15-minute walk from downtown Anchorage, look no further than Westchester Lagoon (also known as Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park). One of the city’s most popular places, this is where locals come to play, as it has something for everyone. You’ll find access to great trails and wildlife, as well as year-round activities and events for the entire family.
This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, an entire neighborhood slid into the ocean during last century's most powerful earthquake. The earthquake was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted 4 minutes. Today, this tragic event is commemorated in Anchorage’s Earthquake Park, where you’ll find signs explaining the circumstances of the quake and its effect on the area.
Black Tail Rocks is a very airy climb that stretches to 4,446 feet above Eagle River, a town located just north of Anchorage. It’s a journey that involves only a minimal amount of hand-over-hand scrambling; you’ll be following a trail for most of the 4-mile, 2,750-foot hike. And you’ll have a fine view from the top, looking up the length of the secluded Meadow Creek Valley and well into the deep inner reaches of the Chugach Mountains.
Some 50 miles north of Anchorage, this 1.5-mile trail makes for a fine family outing. From the picnic table at the uppermost end of the trail, you’ll find a satisfying panoramic view of the Matanuska River and Knik River valleys. It’s a view as good, or better, than that from many summits.
Who can say no to a cool waterfall only a half-hour’s drive from town? One of the most popular “first hikes” for families with small children, the one-mile trail to Thunderbird Falls traverses a handsome birch forest along the Eklutna River canyon to reach a deck with views of a 200-foot waterfall. During winter, the falls can freeze, forming fabulous columns of blue ice.
Set along the Coastal Trail at the very end of 5th Avenue in Anchorage, Elderberry boasts 1.5 acres of scenic parkland with great views of Cook Inlet. Because it’s close to downtown, you can make this a rest stop while touring and shopping downtown. Come with a picnic, or just a walk while enjoying the view.
June - September
Rent a mountain bike (and all the body armor you need) for a thrilling, two-wheel ride down Mt. Alyeska. Lessons and tours of the route are offered. Or, go for a hike on one of the many area trails, either with a guide or on your own. You can even strap on some crampons and go trekking on a glacier.
Rent a mountain bike (and all the body armor you need) for a thrilling, two-wheel ride down Mt. Alyeska. Lessons and tours of…
If you only have a little experience doing off-trail hiking, then this scenic 5-miler will help you get a bit more under your belt. Beginning on Rabbit Creek Trail, in the Front Range just above Anchorage, this hike visits a surprisingly expansive and scenic plateau that remains hidden from sight until you actually climb to it.
For an easy, scenic walk in Anchorage, check out the Chester Creek Trail. The 4-mile-long path, which runs from Westchester Lagoon to Goose Lake, is not only flat, but also paved, making for an easy stroll. And though it passes close to neighborhoods, the trail is part of the city’s “greenbelt”—a wooded area that makes you feel like you’ve left the city behind.
For one of the loopiest and fun Nordic ski areas in the city, try out the trails behind Bartlett High School along the boundary of the military base. Hilly, with lots of curves that spring into quick and sudden climbs, this five-kilometer-plus system through a mature forest packs a lot of skiing into a small footprint.
Not everyone should undertake this 13-mile traverse that begins at Glen Alps above Anchorage. Considerable off-trail hiking, plus a steep climb to a ridge top, might be outside your comfort zone. But this trail does offer a profound sense of solitude and some spectacular views. It also includes the novelty of hiking a mile-long sheep trail that traverses the back of The Wedge, some 500 feet above the secluded waters of Ship Lake.
Forty minutes from downtown Anchorage lies Eagle River Nature Center, a gateway to Chugach State Park and a glacial river valley as wild and dramatic as any in Alaska. Enjoy an easy, 3-mile nature walk on the Albert Loop or trek up-valley 5 miles to see plunging waterfalls and 3,000-foot cliffs. In winter, traverse the trails on cross-country skis or snowshoes.
While many people find satisfaction in climbing to the top of Bear Point, others may wonder about reaching the summit of Mount Eklutna, the prominent peak rising just to the east. It involves two more miles of hiking, up 1,100 feet, including a short, sharp scramble up a gravel trail. You can return to the Peters Creek Trail trailhead via an alternate route, which makes for a fine loop hike.
If people suggest climbing Flattop, tell them you’d rather climb Rendezvous Peak. Flattop is arguably Alaska’s most popular (and therefore, most crowded) mountain; Rendezvous is far less crowded and offers better views from the summit. See them by hiking up 1,500 feet to the 4,050-foot summit.
You don’t have to be a mountaineer to reach the summit of O’Malley Peak—the prominent spire rising from the Front Range above Anchorage—but don’t mistake it for an easy climb. Some of the 5-mile-long trail climbs quite steeply; other parts add very loose gravel to the incline. Still, these conditions don’t make this hike excessively dangerous, just satisfyingly laborious.
Reaching the summit of Avalanche Mountain takes a considerable amount of effort: a 5.5-mile hike up Powerline Trail followed by a 1.5-mile off-trail scramble. But this 3,200-foot climb—which begins at the Glen Alps parking area, just 10 miles from downtown Anchorage—takes no mountaineering skills. If you feel at all comfortable hiking and climbing over some loose stones and boulders, you should find this to be a very gratifying adventure.
It’s not as difficult as you might think to hike to stand atop the precipitous, gully-scarred face of Bear Point. But it’s not easy, either. The 2-mile hike ascends 2,100 feet and can be tricky. But your reward is an amazing view in all directions, from the Kenai Peninsula to Denali and the Chugach Mountains to Matanuska Peak.
This trail has its own sitting area and viewing deck with views of Anchorage, the Alaska Range, and Cook Inlet. It is really good for seeing sunsets in the evening but it is also windy. The whole route is wheelchair accessible. This is a good short hike for the family to see the view over Anchorage, but not a good trail for the training runner.
Kincaid Park offers the easiest way to get deep in the woods right in town. It's a mecca for outdoor sports of all kinds in a wilderness-like setting on the site of a former Cold War missile base. This 1,500-acre park sprawls over an ancient and rugged moraine at the southwest tip of the Anchorage Bowl at the west end of Raspberry Road. From its panoramic views of Denali and the vast Cook Inlet to its intimate deep woods enclaves, the park is crisscrossed by a world-class trail system usable all year round.
The Campbell Creek Gorge overlook is one of Anchorage’s best kept secrets. It’s just a 25-minute uphill hike—even shorter on bike— from both the Hillside Ski Chalet parking area and North Bivouc Trailhead, or a slightly longer 1-hour hike from Campbell Airstrip. From the tree-covered overlook, you can gaze hundreds of feet down a sheer cliff to Campbell Creek as it crashes through a narrow, brush-infested canyon.
April 1 to Nov. 30
If you’d like to explore a snow-bound trail system through a majestic rain forest that gets little visitation in winter, try out Bird Valley in Chugach State Park south of Anchorage off the Seward Highway. You and the family can stroll, ski, snowshoe or snow-bike for hours through a serene and almost surreal setting of towering trees with an occasional stupendous view of Penguin Peak and Bird Ridge.
Explore the 4000-acre Far North Bicentennial Park to experience true wilderness within Anchorage. Though the area looks very wild, a few locations near Campbell Creek had substantial development during World War II when the nearby Campbell Airstrip was readied for use by fighter planes.
Older books might have referred to this as the old Johnson Trail, but another trail of the same name on the Kenai Peninsula made it too confusing for them to both keep their names. This trail is the first of the trails available for hiking in the spring. It follows the highway, with mild elevation gains to allow awesome views of the Turnagain Arm.
Cuddy Family Park was a labor of love for many volunteers for years. The park was established in the early 1980’s. But it was only when the speed skating oval was built out in 2011 and the playground added in 2013 that Midtown Anchorage gained its own park on par with Westchester Lagoon in downtown.
An off-shoot of the Viewpoint Trail, Moose Meadow Trail cuts back towards the South Fork of Campbell Creek. You'll wind through mixed forests of spruce, aspen, and even some cottonwoods. Keep an eye out for a special type of moss known to locals as Old Man's Beard. It typically grows on the underside of evergreens boughs and, in the right light, creates an More...
Without hesitation, the Bird to Gird is the most beautiful bike path in Western Alaska. This trail is 6 miles one way or 12 miles round trip; either way, the paved ride hugs Turnagain Arm and connects three communities (Girdwood, Bird and Indian). It’s perfect for any level biker—whether you just want to just cruise, go fast on a mountain bike, or experience the trail as a tourist (or even as a curious local). It’s a shared trail, so you’ll also see hikers, dog walkers, and in the winter, cross-country skiiers.
The Ship Creek Trail itself begins at the Alaska Railroad depot on the north side of Anchorage and travels east from downtown for 2.6 miles to end at Tyson Elementary School in the city's Mountain View neighborhood. The paved trail follows its namesake creek for nearly its entire length, crossing it a few times.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is Alaska’s sole National Historic Trail. This network of 2,300-mile winter trails evolved to connect Alaskan Native villages, established the dog-team mail and supply route during Alaska’s Gold Rush, and now serves as a vital recreation and travel link.
Much of the trail is not passable without snow cover, at least without More...
Goose Lake is located in central Anchorage, near the university district. You'd never know you're in the heart of Anchorage as you view Pacific loons nesting at the far end of the lake from mid-May to mid-September. Rent a paddleboat from the Paddleboat cafe (certain days of the week) to get a closer view of the loons. Obey the signs, and don't get too close. More...
This hike is popular in spring for those looking for an aerobic workout. It is very steep, but offers secure footing. One of many highlights along the scenic Seward Highway, Bird Ridge Trail climbs 3,000 feet in a little more than a mile to magnificent views of the fjord-like Turnagain Arm.