Anchorage Parks & Trails
Taste of the Wilderness
For a feel of authentic Alaskan wilderness, head to the Eagle River Nature Center. You’ll need to carve out some time-3 hours or so—since it’s a 40 – minute drive each way. There you’ll find a dramatic mountain valley with sky-piercing granite cliffs, a swift glacial river, and waterfalls further up the valley.
If you don’t have a lot of time but want a steep mountain trail with great city views, hike Flattop Mountain at Glen Alps-Alaska’s most-climbed mountain. It’s a 20-minute drive to the trail head and a heart-pumping 45-60 minutes to the top.
To immerse yourself in the woods in town, head to Kincaid Park. It’s only 15 minutes away, and you’ll find more than 80 miles of trails through the trees, some overlooking the Inlet. A quick warning: Many of the trails are hilly.
If you want a leisurely stroll with sweeping vistas across the Inlet (and you don’t mind crowds), check out the Coastal Trail. It’s 12 miles from downtown to Kincaid Park along mostly flat terrain. Don't corner moose into fences or houses.
Peace & Quiet in Midtown
If you have only a short time and you’re somewhere near the Chester Creek Trail, take a walk onto it. The trail follows a winding creek through tall trees-perfect for finding solitude even if you have only a half-hour.
If you're really into hiking, invest in the excellent book, 55 Ways to the Wilderness in South Central Alaska. It remains the classic after more than 20 years in print.
Anchorage Hiking Trails
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.
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.
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. ...more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want a great workout — to stunning mountain views high above the valley floor below — but want to save your knees on the way down, this trail is for you. It leaves from the Alyeska Resort tram building and climbs steep switchbacks 2.2 miles and 2000 feet to the mid-mountain restaurant where you can catch a free aerial tram ride back down to the hotel.
About a half a mile past where the road turns sharply left (by the old Motherlode Restaurant) is a pull off on the left and archangel road to the right. The road is dirt, and in the summertime you can drive the trail for a mile or two, but it is pitted with deep holes and rocks. After a mile or two, a parking area and trail turns off to the right. Here the trail continues with little elevation gain initially, but after a mile or so you will ...more
A short road called Konikson located just past Bird Ridge heading east will take you to the trailhead. Stay to the right until you see a trail about a quarter mile in going right and up. The trail follows a small drainage, and quickly gets past the tree line.
A straightforward trip with big scenery payoffs, like the picturesque Mint Hut and a valley dotted with hanging glaciers. This trip is a great first backpacking trip in Alaska with simple logistics. It’s 16 miles with options for additional miles and side trips.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...more
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.
Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood (45 minutes south of Anchorage) is one of our favorite trails to take visiting friends and family. It’s an easy 3‑mile hike or bike ride on a wide, well-developed trail with gentle elevation gain that winds through America’s northernmost rainforest, crosses a wooden bridge over a thundering blue-water gorge, connects to a hand tram high above thrashing Glacier Creek, then ends on Crow Creek Mine Road just below ...more
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.
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.
Rarely do two lakes lie within a few feet of each other. Fortunately, the trail to see this geological rarity begins just a 30-minute drive north of Anchorage. From the trailhead for South Fork Eagle River Trail, it’s a gradual 4.8‑mile (one-way) climb up a wide valley, leading to a narrow isthmus between the green waters of Eagle Lake and the blue waters of Symphony Lake.
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.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is one of four greenbelt trails located in Anchorage. Even though the trail spans 11.0 miles each way (from Kincaid Park to just north of where 2nd Avenue ends in the Cook Inlet), it is easily picked up from several points in the city, so you can enjoy any segment and hike as little or much of the trail as you desire. In the winter, the trail is groomed for cross country skiing.
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 ...more
This 7‑mile hike, which begins in the mountains just above Anchorage, takes you to the numerous Williwaw Lakes, all of which are clustered below the sheer north face of Mount Williwaw — the highest peak in the Front Range.
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.
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.
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 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 fields, a gym, ice rink and a giant steam… ...more
This trail quickly gains elevation on its way to an alpine meadow framed by the dramatic Twin Peaks and Goat Rock, but climbs to magnificent views overlooking the entire valley. Dall Sheep are often spotted above the timberline. From here there is a spectacular view of the lake below. This is also a good place for berry picking in the fall. Because of the crushed rocks, the trail is hardly ever muddy.
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.
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.
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.
Hiking up Mt. Alyeska is a challenge, but the reward is great views of Turnagain Arm, the seven “hanging” glaciers of Girdwood Valley, and peaks stretching deep into the Chugach Mountain range. Below you’ll find our recommended routes to the top; all leave from the Alyeska Hotel (where you’ll find trail maps). While any summer day is good for this hike, try to time your visit around one of the area’s events — you’ll have something extra to… ...more
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.
At its peak, the Independence hard-rock gold mine was home to 206 workers and 16 families who lived high above tree line. Digging and blasting, these workers recovered 140,000 ounces of gold before the mine shut down in the wake of World War II. There are 1.5 miles of paved walkways throughout the site, with informational placards for a self-guided tour.
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 eerie ambiance. The Moose Meadow Trail connects up with Rover’s Run near the Creek. If… ...more
The name says it all – during the winter months at least. The trail is off limits once snow flies, but as soon as the snow is gone in the spring, recreate to your heart’s content. This network of wintertime dog mushing trails offers a wide array of options throughout the summer. With a little creativity you can put together outings from 1.4 to 12+ miles. Do be aware that mushers sometimes train their teams here with wheeled buggies. If you… ...more
This is part of the Hillside Trail System. It is one of the trails that is groomed for skiing in winter. There is access to this trail available via the Powerline, Gasline, White Spruce, Blueberry Hollow, Alder, Panorama View, and Golden Grass trails.
This wide trail continues from mile 4, up the valley to the Bird Creek crossing. A less developed trail continues on for another 2 miles, then quickly gains elevation to the pass. Traveling to the East from Bird Creek Pass will lead you to Grizzly Bear Lake and Moraine Pass.
This trail is perfect for days when your time or energy for a longer hike is lacking. Lying on the outskirts of Anchorage, these trails are mostly flat. Though it is popular with locals, especially for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, the trail is hardly crowded.
This trail is an offshoot of the South Fork Trail that leads to Eagle and Symphony Lakes. It provides some awesome views of the Eagle River Valley and South Fork Eagle River as it works its way up into the hanging valley perched above the Eagle River Valley floor. The final destination for most hikers, near the end of the valley, is the hidden Hanging Valley Tarn, nestled in a secluded cirque. This is an excellent camping area garlanded with… ...more
This trail is a good one for runners with dogs. Dogs must be on a leash when on the trail and open fires are prohibited. This is a beautiful trail any time of year and is easy and a good trip for the whole family. Please be sure to avoid the water because there are beavers in the area and it is possible to get beaver fever aka Giardiasis.
This trail is popular in the winter for skiing (low avalanche danger) and summer for views, and berry picking. Many people begin at Glen Alps Parking lot and initially follow Powerline Pass trail until it turns off to the left. Go down and over the creek and then follow the trail up an easy slope towards what is commonly known as the Ramp and the Wedge, on either side of the valley. When you get to the pass, or ridge, look down towards the… ...more
After parking, continue down the road until it narrows into a trail. The land crosses briefly some private land. Hundreds of people hike or ski this trail every year. The trail is a gradual ascent up Rabbit Creek Valley, with the creek and McHugh Peak on the right and the back side of flattop, and Ptarmagan Peak on your left. The trail starts in alders, but within a mile or two, opens onto alpine meadows. The trail eventually takes you to… ...more
This trail begins at the Bird Ridge parking lot. Access the paved trail and follow it south to the Bird Ridge turn-off where you’ll have the option to take a right for great views of Cook Inlet. The trail is flat and paved or covered with a boardwalk so this is a great option for all age groups.
This is part of the Hillside Trail System and is open all year long. This is one of the Hillside trails that is groomed for skiing. It is a short connective trail and there is access to it via the Powerline, Gasline, South Fork Rim, Blueberry Hollow, and Denali View Trails.
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.
Take the trail on the right hand side of the road a mile or two before Alpenglow Ski resort. The area is forested and heads downward two miles prior to reaching Ship Creek. There is a branch that goes straight and follows the road that many kids use for sledding in the winter, and it will take you to the Arctic Valley road in a couple of miles where parents await to pick them up. However, hikers take a left after a mile and this trail… ...more
There is a campground here located North East side of town, with soccer fields, etc. It is up against Military land to the East. This trail is mostly used for cross-country skiing. 3.1 miles of the trail is unlighted and 0.6 miles of the trail is lit. There is access to the ball fields from this trail. This trail is also used for sledding and is very kid-friendly. There are some who use this trail for Alpine skiing and there is a rope tow to… ...more
Steep mountain walls, mountain peaks, beautiful valleys and streams, mature Sitka spruce forest, and areas rich in wildlife provide plenty of enjoyment. Dall sheep can sometimes be seen grazing. Use binoculars to scan grassy fingers below ridges across the valley, especially during spring and summer mornings.
If you like cascading waterfalls, a great stream, and exceptional views of Turnagain Arm, you don’t want to miss this hike. The rumbling stream with gradual cascading falls and mountain views provides a picturesque valley setting unique to this trail. The trail is rough and steep and climbs high enough that you’re likely to see Dall sheep, golden eagles, and Arctic ground squirrels in the higher elevations. Spruce grouse can also be spotted… ...more
With just a short walk from the parking area you will find a beautiful 20 foot water fall. The trailhead starts off paralleling the Turnagain Arm and there are a number of small trails that go to different lookouts. Take the trail to the left for a short distance and you will find the McHugh Trail branching off to the right. The trail zig-zags upward through the woods and provides ever better views of the Turnagain Arm and mountains.
This 191.7‑acre Anchorage park, which was created in 1994 as Municipal dedicated parkland, is highly valued for its wildlife habitat, coastal tidelands and recreational value. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail runs through it and the area has spectacular views of the inlet and surrounding mountain ranges. You can spot whales in the inlet and watch the jets land and take off from the Ted Stevens International Airport. Point Woronzof got its name… ...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.
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.
The Alyeska Multi-Use Pathway is a paved, lighted multi-use trail that extends from the Seward Hwy to the Hotel Alyeska. The path is popular with walkers and runners, and with a fresh batch of snow it becomes a great classic ski trail.
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 ...more
This is a great pocket of wilderness right in Anchorage: easy to get to, quiet and pretty idyllic. Set in the northeastern section of Kincaid Park, Little Campbell Lake is packed with lily pads and surrounded by a thick forest lined with trails. Spend the afternoon hiking, swimming, fishing, or paddling around the lake.
Here’s another great stop to take in the scenic beauty of the mountains and the Turnagain Arm. Here you can access the Bird to Gird paved multi use pathway. From this spot it’s a six-mile journey down the trail, which features stunning views and interpretive signs. Take a walk or a bike ride to Girdwood for a bite to eat. And don’t forget to look for Beluga whales a few hours before high tide (as they come in with the tide to feed on the… ...more
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.
The View Point Trail is also known as the Tour of Anchorage Trail. It offers gentle terrain and a touch of solitude for those looking for an easy trail not far from the city. Because the Campbell Tract is adjacent to the Chugach National Forest it offers a direct corridor for animals moving in and out of the Anchorage bowl so keep an eye out for moose with their young in the spring and be especially mindful of bears throughout the spring and ...more
Difficulty: EasyDistance: 0.3 milesElevation Gain: Less than 500ftType: Out-and-BackThis trail is part of the Hillside Trail System. It is groomed in winter for cross-country skiers. Access to this trail is available via the Woverine Bowl as well as Middle Fork Loop.Features: Kid Friendly, Skiing, Running
This area is accessed from multiple trails. Most people start at the Glen Alps parking lot and follow the trail toward Williwaw Lakes. Once you cross over Campbell Creek, you can go over the ridge by taking a right where the trail forks (steep but fast) or around to left (easier, but much longer). Good for hiking, snowshoeing or skiing. Some even run this trail.
285.8 acres 16 parking spaces available as well as 2 handicap parking spaces. Toddler playground equipment for 2 – 5 year olds (ADA accessible), small ball field area, a portable restroom may be available May through August, fishing on Campbell Creek, lit trail, skiing, salmon viewing. Located in the Campbell Creek Greenbelt.
Access the Beaver Dam Trail across Campbell Airstrip Rd from the Campbell Tract parking area. You’ll head off into a forest of ancient aspen trees and shoulder height rose bushes. This is a favorite hangout spot for the local moose because the browse is so accessible. During late summer and into the fall you’ll also find copious amounts of rosehips, an abundant natural vitamin C ‘pill’. Miners were known to eat a hip or two a day to ward off… ...more