For a spectacular ski along Anchorage’s coast with views of icebergs, active volcanoes, a salt marsh and the majestic white massif of Denali, take a cruise along the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This multi-use civic gem draws skiers, bikers and walkers in almost every winter condition. Once the city parks department starts regular grooming, it is often the easiest of skis, popular with families, with only two significant climbs along its entire length.
Aside from its stunning views—including a postcard vista of downtown Anchorage against the Chugach Mountain backdrop—the Coastal Trail offers fascinating insight into geography and wildlife. Ski over the estuary of Fish Creek with its animal tracks and tidal impact. Climb to Earthquake Park through land jumbled by the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. Scan the Aleutian Range and vast Cook Inlet from the 150-foot bluff of Point Woronzof. Watch for moose too (they’re out there all winter long!)
After extended cold snaps, the Coastal Trail is one of the best places in the region to get close to the large ice boulders—called stamukhas—that litter Knik and Turnagain arm beaches. Pause during high tide and listen to the scouring hiss of ice grinding through the current.
Depending upon wind direction, airliners and cargo jets from the international airport approach or take off right over the trail. Sometimes they seem so close that you will think you need to duck! It is endlessly diverting to kids—a new jet roaring overhead every few minutes.
The two big climbs:
Earthquake Park and Woronzof
The trail climbs from sea level to about 150 feet in less than two miles. Most of it is between Mile 3 and Mile 4.
The last mile climbs about 190 feet from the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet to the Kincaid Chalet parking area. Almost all of it is in the last half mile.
Many skiers love the trail for a chance ski long distances without missing a beat. The Westchester-to-Kincaid segment includes much of the second half of the cross-city Tour of Anchorage ski marathon. With one on-grade crossing at Point Woronzof Park, the trail forms one of the longest uninterrupted ski routes in the region.
But lots of people simply intersect the trail for quick out-and-back jaunts. You can ski as far or as little as you like.