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...
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
This rustic log cabin nestles into the forest about 1.5 miles up the Iditarod Trail off on a side trail. It has the feel of an old-time Alaskan trapper’s home. Although perched at the edge of hard-core wilderness — deep inside the mountains — this cabin is close to trails maintained by the Nature Center itself, giving families with small children the option of combining short hikes with education. The facilities can also be used as a first-night stop for people doing the Cross Pass Crossing to Girdwood. They will be quiet: no motorized recreation allowed.
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.
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, More...
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 More...
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. More...
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 More...
Hiking up Mt. Alyeska is a challenge, but the reward is great views of Turnagain Arm, the seven…
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.
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.