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.
The lagoon always draws a crowd. It lies at the convergence of two of Anchorage’s most popular trails—Tony Knowles and Chester Creek—so locals and visitors come to enjoy running, walking, biking, skate-skiing, roller-skiing. Out on the lagoon, you’ll see people kayaking and paddleboarding; while you can’t rent kayaks at the park, you can at a couple nearby sports stores (see below). Families especially love the playground, which has toys and equipment for people of all ages: slides, rocking “animals,” even an outdoor exercise station.
Alaska’s animals love it here, too. You can see moose year-round, and you may spot a beaver in the early morning or late evening. Muskrats, red foxes, otters, and minks make their home here, too, but it’s very rare to see them. And Westchester’s varied habitats make it a great place for birding, especially in the spring. Look for songbirds and raptors on the lagoon’s wooded east side, while the west side has marshes that attract ducks, mallards, pintails, wigeons, scaup, geese, grebes, and shorebirds.
Alaskans don’t hibernate just because it’s cold! You’ll always find activity at Westchester Lagoon: couples on ice-skating dates, local college hockey players, parents teaching their kids to skate, leisurely cross-country skiers on the groomed Coastal Trail, and much more. There’s even a wintertime-only disc golf course. (Buy discs at REI or Play it Again Sports—see below). You may even see people roasting marshmallows over huge metal barrels on the lake. No marshmallows? These barrels also make great places to warm up.
The big activity is family skate, which draws quite a crowd for wintertime Alaska—100 people or more. You’ll find that happening every Saturday in January through the middle of March from 1pm to 3pm. It’s free to join, and there’s free hot chocolate. Each week has a different theme, with games related to that theme.
Animals don’t hibernate either. Where the creek comes in, you can see waterfowl like mergansers, goldeneye ducks, mallards, eagles, and moose. And look for fox tracks.
Don’t fret if you didn’t bring your bike or skis. Here’s where to find them.
- Cross-country skis
- Ice skates
- Cross-country skis