Anchorage Points of Interest
Points of Interest
How would your kids like to scramble up a huge dune of cool, clean sand? Nap in a groove carved by a glacier? Watch scores of salmon spawn? Here are family adventures within an hour’s drive or less from Anchorage. They offer amazing sights, fun activities ¬— and the option to return home in time for dinner.
Sometimes you just want to be amazed. The overlook at the Glen Alps trailhead of Chugach State Park on the Anchorage Hillside offers a grand front-row seat on the forces of geology as well as one of the best postcard views anywhere. Like — how about a three-volcano vista? Or the profile of Denali, Foraker and Hunter in a single glance? Plate tectonics at your feet? The skyline of the biggest city within 1,000 miles?
The most spectacular and accessible waterfalls around Alaska you can see from the road, from a hike, or from a day cruise.
Crystal-clear Williwaw Creek and its bank-side trail system in Portage Valley at the head of Turnagain Arm offers exceptionally good conditions for watching spawning in action. Coho, sockeye and chum salmon converge on the creek as it winds through the brushy flats beginning in mid-August, with some late-arriving fish still present after first frost in the fall.
The City of Anchorage may be largest urban area within a thousand miles, but it still supports a full menagerie of its original Alaska wildlife. Look for moose, eagles, migratory birds, and more.
More than 1,000 moose live year around inside greenbelts and neighborhoods throughout the Anchorage Bowl. It’s not unusual for cow moose to bed down twin calves in suburban backyards, or for a bull moose with a full rack of antlers to amble straight across busy a boulevard, halting traffic as it passes.
What elements make a great city? When Anchorage’s forefathers landed at Ship Creek in 1915, those elements were people, education, jobs, culture, capital investments, productivity and growth, food production and subsistence, wildlife and natural beauty. So these pioneers set out to make them all a reality. Four distinct neighborhoods arose to meet the call for housing and land management offices, as well as school, library, and museum facilities. ...more
Today, this unique, geographically isolated area is accessible only by bridge. But it’s worth the effort: you can stand on the very spot where Anchorage’s first neighborhood began, at the corner of Delaney and West Harvard streets. From here you can see the Brown’s Point Cottages to the west, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And walk north along West Harvard Street to see what remains of the old cottages.
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
To snatch a sense of the state’s only real city, take this quick, two-to-three hour driving tour. It works whether you’re a local resident with a house full of wired (and maybe jetlagged!) guests — or a visitor with a rental car and few hours free to explore. Perfect for that first afternoon after arrival.
Fairview was built beyond the city boundary and became an established community after World War II. Yet the area maintained a fierce independence streak. Those who lived here hoped to avoid bureaucratic oversight and taxation, and even had their own public utility district. It was the only neighborhood that African-Americans could buy property in. And when Anchorage tried to annex the area in the 1950s, locals fought back, in a lawsuit that ...more
Portage Valley southeast of Anchorage at the head of Turnagain Arm offers so many potential adventures that you might have to tow a trailer loaded with gear to sample them all. What will you find here? Biking, hiking, picnicking, fishing, paddling, wildlife viewing, potential iceberg sightings — plus a natural history visitor center packed with interactive displays about the ecosystem of the valley and Prince William Sound. It’s like an outdoor ...more
Volcanoes not only shaped the face of Alaska but also make for spectacular sights. Here are the top volcanoes to look for and photograph during your Alaska vacation.
Quick: what’s the longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America? It’s the Anderson Memorial Tunnel, and you’ll drive through it on the scenic and historic drive to Whittier. The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area is a place whose valleys and mountains, communities and people tell the larger story of a wild place and a rugged frontier. This audio guide gives you the inside scoop on its fascinating history. You’ll… ...more
When you feel weary of cold season weather and yearn for a whiff of summer, you can visit Anchorage’s own tropical greenhouse almost any day. The Mann Leiser Memorial Greenhouse in near-east Anchorage inside Russian Jack Springs Park features birds, fish and a collection of exotic plants from around the world.
If you want to marvel at the sight of thousands of fish schooling in gigantic tanks, take the self-guided tour inside the state fish hatchery on the banks of Ship Creek east of downtown. The museum-quality observation deck offers intimate views of a complex operation that produces up to six million sport fish each year.
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.
All five species of Pacific salmon converge on Anchorage streams each summer, sometimes in spectacular numbers. And they’re easy to view — whether you seek feisty chinooks as long as human’s arm in spring, or dense congregations of humpies during the summer peak, or the last, lingering cohos after the first frost.
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!
Alaska Wild Berry Products has two convenient locations. One, inside the 5th Avenue Mall in the heart of downtown Anchorage. The other is just a brief 10-minute drive from downtown. The shop itself features great Alaskan gifts like Alaskan jelly, salmon, meats, and chocolate.
A giant sand dune rises into the trees of Kincaid Park near the southwest corner of the Anchorage Bowl. Its brown face of gorgeous speckled grains looms more than 40 feet above the surrounding forest floor, presenting a pyramid-steep slope that just begs to be climbed. This natural feature is a blast for the whole family, perfect for anybody who has ever delighted in a romp at the beach.
A stretch of exposed bedrock southeast of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm was gouged and polished by mile-thick glaciers during the last ice age. The grooves appear as smooth channels carved into the rock itself by almost unimaginable forces. Some are subtle, like ripples, and hard to see. Others are large enough to lie inside on a sunny afternoon.
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.
Update: As of March 27, 2019, this area is now closed. After the November 30, 2018 earthquake, it is a high rock-fall risk area. We’ll keep an eye out for a new great spot to grab fresh Alaska water! Drive just a few miles south of Anchorage, and you can taste the best water that Alaska has to offer. No fees, no gimmicks: just a 5‑foot pipe protruding from a granite cliff face that gushes crystal clear water capable of causing instant brain ...more
A short drive from downtown Anchorage will land you in the middle of Kincaid Park, the jump-off point for this moderate two-mile out and back hike to Anchorage’s only big, sandy beach. If not for the cool Alaska temps, it’d be easy to think you were in Southern California. The sand is fine and very little mars its surface other than the occasional piece of driftwood. Flanked on one side by tall bluffs and on the other by gorgeous views of… ...more
How and where to find Alaska’s glaciers — some of the state’s most beautiful natural attractions
Here you’ll find one of the most accessible wildlife viewing areas in Alaska. The marsh is a rest area for migratory birds including trumpeter swans, rednecked grebes, golden eyes, and pintails. Also watch for beavers, moose and bald eagles. You may even spot salmon spawning in the deeper water.
Dating back to 1650, the park is the area’s oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan settlement. View the colorful Spirit Houses built over the graves of the deceased, along with an Orthodox Christian Cross — a custom that came from the melding of the cultures.
A short drive from 5th Ave, you’ll find this great display of Anchorage’s natural environment, which coexists alongside the industrial port and rail areas that supply much of southcentral Alaska. There are hardly ever any people here, making this a great place, close to downtown, to get a moment of solitude.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is one of Anchorage’s greatest assets, providing exercise opportunities coupled with spectacular views. But most people who come here don’t embrace the easy access to the coast — and it’s simple to follow one of the many side trails down to the beach where miles of sand are available for walking, picnics, and watching the summer sun set over The Sleeping Lady. Where To Go The easiest access points to the… ...more
Eagle River campground is convenient and modern. Right beside it are also class IV rapids. Kayakers and rafters call them Campground Rapids. But nearby are a couple of places not normally associated with camping. Do you like ghost stories? Do you have some trash piling up in the back of your truck? Maybe you should stop in and have a look. But don’t say we didn’t warn you!
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.
Given its vast size and rugged terrain, it’s logical that Alaska has had a long love affair — and even dependence — on aviation. It was July 4, 1913, that the first flight took place in Alaska, and today there are more planes here, per person, than anywhere else in the world.
This is a popular stop as you travel the Seward Highway. Here you’ll find 180 degree views of Turnagain Arm with spotting scopes and interpretive signs. Look for beluga whales rolling in the surf, often seen from mid-July to August following the salmon run. And, try and catch the bore tide, and incoming tide that stretches the entire width of Turnagain Arm and can be up to six feet high.
This is one spot you don’t want to miss. July through September you’ll witness a spectacular run of Silver Salmon. Fishermen from all over the world come into Alaska to cast a line here. There will be hundreds of people coming and going from Bird Creek on any given day. In their hands will be the days bounty; a nice big silver salmon that is delicious when smoked and even better when grilled and coated with lemon and a honey mustard glaze.… ...more
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
The United States Congress wanted to open the Territory of Alaska for economic development and recognized the only way that was going to occur was to construct a rail line. Private sector companies attempted to build a rail line but went bankrupt early in the process. Therefore, Congress adopted the Enabling Act of 1914 which authorized the President of United States to locate, construct and operate a 1,000 mile rail line in the Territory.
Anchorage, Alaska’s center of commerce, is the present day headquarters for the Alaska Railroad. The Railroad was granted the land by the US Congress and sold off most of the property in a land auction in 1917. Today, the Railroad has some 600 acres of land reserves remaining in the downtown area of the city. The City of Anchorage exists because of the Railroad.