It’s like a block of wilderness nestled within the heart of the city. This easy 7.5-kilometer loop circumnavigates much of the undeveloped reserves of Alaska Pacific University and University of Alaska Anchorage—connecting several city parks while serving as a major hub for cross-city skiing, snow biking and other activities. Combined with the popular Goose Lake Park, with maintained ice skating beneath a postcard panorama of the Chugach Mountains, a trek around APU’s Jim Mahaffey Trails can transport you deep into an Alaska winter setting without ever leaving the urban zone.
The system is remarkable for its “through the looking glass” contrast with surroundings
Despite being centered on two university campuses, very close to two of Alaska’s major hospitals and employers—and bordered by dense residential neighborhoods—the APU-UAA ski system often feels like you’ve escaped the city entirely. (In summer, the land regularly draws calving moose and black bears.) Very popular among local residents who ski or walk from their homes, the trail system is mostly flat, featuring several fun hills when paralleling Northern Lights.
The APU “soccer field” at the northeast end of University Lake often features wide corduroy lanes excellent for new skiers. Depending upon grooming, there can a challenging descent off a hill overlooking University Lake. The biggest climb, nicknamed Cardiac Hill, runs through the woods west of APU and east of the Elmo Sackett Broadcast Center.
The city’s multi-use hub
Skiers often cruise through APU-UAA trails on their way to someplace else—Chester Creek, Russian Jack, Far North Bicentennial Park or University Lake parks. While the loops are restricted to ski-only once grooming begins, a segment of the Chester Creek multi-use winter trail bisects the area, following the bog and the power line. (Major dog mushing races follow this course too.) The Tour of Anchorage race trail from Hillside straddles the system as well, making its connection from the Tudor Bridge crossing to the Chester Creek Trail.