Here are winter adventures within a 90-minute drive or less from Anchorage. Some are outdoors and take advantage of Alaska’s winter snow cover and frozen ground. Others offer intimate indoor escapes to unexpected sights. All point toward fun activities — and the option to return home in time for dinner.
What do these adventures have in common?
- An hour’s drive or less from most areas in the city
- Features the unexpected and/or the educational
- No strenuous or epic approach needed
- No unusual hazards
- Free or reasonable fee
- Most have restrooms nearby
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.
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.
For an epic sled run that drops nearly 500 feet in less than a mile, visit what some locals call “The Luge” off Arctic Valley Road in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains just east of town. Depending upon on snow conditions, it takes intrepid sledders three-to-five exhilarating minutes to descend a narrow chute-like trail to the bottom.
Explore the wild ice of Potter Marsh along the Seward Highway in South Anchorage. After a hard freeze-up, the marsh morphs from bird-nesting habitat into an intriguing maze, with miles of twisty routes leading to unexpected rinks. Very popular with families.
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.