Photo Credit: Bob Kaufman

The Best Mountain Hikes in Alaska

Alaska’s biggest mountains can make amazing photographs—all those calendar-worthy frosty behemoths that shimmer on the horizon. Who doesn’t marvel at the immensity of Denali? Flanked by Foraker and Hunter, it’s visible from just about every place on the road system from Anchorage on Cook Inlet to Fairbanks north of the Alaska Range. It demands your attention. And it’s great!

But what if admiring Denali from an impossible distance —or one of Alaska’s many other awesome peaks—just doesn’t satisfy your mountain hunger? What if you actually need to climb one of them, but don’t have the time or resources to book an expedition?

Here is our list of Alaska mountains that are both spectacular to view while also offering reasonably fit people a route to the summit. These include mountains that can be explored during a day trip without professional guides or specialized mountaineering equipment. All of them also feature good-weather, summer-season road access. As a result, many of these peaks are beloved among residents because they feature doable, no-fuss summits close to home. Climbing them is a great way to meet local mountain enthusiasts out for adventure.

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Mountain Trails

Anchorage

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 1 mile Elevation Gain: 1350 feet

Flat­top is Alaska’s most vis­it­ed peak. Ascend the 1.5 — mile, 1,350 ver­ti­cal foot trail to the rocky, foot­ball field-sized sum­mit in about an hour and take in panoram­ic views from Denali (Mt. McKin­ley) to the Aleut­ian Islands. If you want vis­tas with­out the hike, walk the short path from the park­ing lot to the overlook.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 1 mile

If you only have a lit­tle expe­ri­ence doing off-trail hik­ing, then this scenic 5‑miler will help you get a bit more under your belt. Begin­ning on Rab­bit Creek Trail, in the Front Range just above Anchor­age, this hike vis­its a sur­pris­ing­ly expan­sive and scenic plateau that remains hid­den from sight until you actu­al­ly climb to it. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 12 miles

On a sun­ny sum­mer day, take a delight­ful hike to Ship Lake Pass then climb a 5,240-foot peak. From the pass, the moun­tain­side does indeed resem­ble a ramp. The walk up is a mod­er­ate­ly steep climb, gain­ing 1,200 feet ele­va­tion in about half a mile. From the top are fine views, espe­cial­ly of the Ship Creek head­wa­ters, and the drop toward Willi­waw Lakes takes your breath away. An eas­i­er sum­mit is The Wedge (4,660 feet) south­west of the pass. The…  ...more

Elevation Gain: 3293 feet

You don’t have to be a moun­taineer to reach the sum­mit of O’Malley Peak — the promi­nent spire ris­ing from the Front Range above Anchor­age — but don’t mis­take it for an easy climb. Some of the 5‑mile-long trail climbs quite steeply; oth­er parts add very loose grav­el to the incline. Still, these con­di­tions don’t make this hike exces­sive­ly dan­ger­ous, just sat­is­fy­ing­ly laborious. 

Difficulty: Moderate

Some peo­ple elect to fol­low the ridge­line fur­ther back and that can take you to many more peaks, and views. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 10 miles

This is an easy hike, if not a bit mud­dy in the spring up to a pop­u­lar peak. Take the trail out of Prospect Heights park­ing lot and turn left with­in 200 feet. The trail drops down to a creek and then climbs to where it even­tu­al­ly splits. Go straight for Near Point, or turn right for Wolver­ine. Near the top ridge, keep your eyes open for the remains of an old air­craft that crashed many years ago. Direc­tions: From the new Seward High­way go…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

Well used trail by locals as a short (12 hour) aer­o­bic hike with nice views. Take Eagle Riv­er Loop to Sky­line, and fol­low the road as it swich­backs going up and even­tu­al­ly ends with park­ing along­side the road. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

If peo­ple sug­gest climb­ing Flat­top, tell them you’d rather climb Ren­dezvous Peak. Flat­top is arguably Alaska’s most pop­u­lar (and there­fore, most crowd­ed) moun­tain; Ren­dezvous is far less crowd­ed and offers bet­ter views from the sum­mit. See them by hik­ing up 1,500 feet to the 4,050-foot summit. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

This hike is pop­u­lar in spring for those look­ing for an aer­o­bic work­out. It is very steep, but offers secure foot­ing. One of many high­lights along the scenic Seward High­way, Bird Ridge Trail climbs 3,000 feet in a lit­tle more than a mile to mag­nif­i­cent views of the fjord-like Tur­na­gain Arm. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 4 miles

If you want a great work­out — to stun­ning moun­tain views high above the val­ley floor below — but want to save your knees on the way down, this trail is for you. It leaves from the Alyeska Resort tram build­ing and climbs steep switch­backs 2.2 miles and 2000 feet to the mid-moun­tain restau­rant where you can catch a free aer­i­al tram ride back down to the hotel. 

Matanuska-Susitna Valley

Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Gain: 5200 feet

Are you a moun­tain run­ner look­ing for a tough work­out? Con­sid­er Pio­neer Ridge Trail. This trail, locat­ed a 1‑hour dri­ve north of Anchor­age on scenic Knik Riv­er Road, climbs some 5,200 feet over its 6 miles. Oth­er trails, like Lazy Moun­tain Trail and Mount Marathon Race Route, may be steep­er or rock­i­er, but no trail in the Chugach Moun­tains climbs so steadi­ly for so long as Pio­neer Ridge.

Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Gain: 3000 feet

Why Take This Hike This trail, locat­ed 90 min­utes north of Anchor­age just across the Matanus­ka Riv­er from down­town Palmer, makes no pre­tense about its pur­pose. Almost imme­di­ate­ly after leav­ing the park­ing area, it begins to climb straight up the steep west face of Lazy Moun­tain. For some 2,000 feet, there’s nary a switch­back or respite as the trail winds up to the sum­mit ridge. It’s a tru­ly breath­less work­out. The Details Out of Palmer,…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Gain: 5670 feet

No offi­cial trail in South­cen­tral Alas­ka climbs as high as Matanus­ka Peak Trail. Begin­ning in a sub­di­vi­sion across the Matanus­ka Riv­er from Palmer, this near­ly 6‑mile-long trail runs up some 5,700 ver­ti­cal feet. Your des­ti­na­tion is the 6,119-foot sum­mit of Matanus­ka Peak, the very promi­nent rock spire that fills the sky just east of Palmer. But despite the impos­ing appear­ance of this moun­tain, the trail to its sum­mit requires no extensive  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Elevation Gain: 3700 feet

Begin­ning a 1‑hour dri­ve north of Anchor­age in Gov­ern­ment Hill Recre­ation Area, Gov­ern­ment Peak Race Trail offers a fine oppor­tu­ni­ty for a hard work­out; it climbs some 3,700 ver­ti­cal feet in just 3 miles. Plus, this climb doesn’t include any extra­or­di­nary dan­gers. (A friend refers to one short ledge on this trail as death rock,” but she tends to exag­ger­ate.) Some sec­tions require spe­cial care to nego­ti­ate, but you won’t have to tra­verse any  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

If you have some seri­ous time and seri­ous ener­gy, take an adven­ture: hike the 20 miles out the Chase Trail to see what’s left of a lux­u­ry hotel built as a lay­over for the rail­road jour­ney between Seward and Fairbanks.

Distance: 7 miles Elevation Gain: 3300 feet

Begin­ning almost 120 miles north­east of Anchor­age on the Glenn High­way, the trail to the sum­mit of Gun­sight Moun­tain takes a while to reach. After all, it involves a 3.5‑mile, 3,300-foot climb through some very big coun­try. But the view from the top makes for an all-day excur­sion that you won’t eas­i­ly forget.

Difficulty: Difficult

Dur­ing peri­ods of clear weath­er, this route through Denali State Park offers sim­i­lar ter­rain and scenery to Denali Nation­al Park — includ­ing unpar­al­leled views of Denali — with­out the cum­ber­some per­mit­ting process. This trail sys­tem offers many options for start­ing and end­ing points, as there are four trail­heads along its length. 

Kenai Peninsula

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 3600 feet

This fam­i­ly-friend­ly, 2.5‑mile trail climbs 3,600 feet to a sum­mit halfway between the sea and the heavens

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 4 miles

Many peo­ple know of the gru­el­ing Mount Marathon race­course in Seward, some 130 miles south of Anchor­age. How­ev­er, most peo­ple don’t know that there’s also a hik­ing path to the top at Race Point — and it’s far less demand­ing. This 2.25-mile route, which entails hik­ing three dif­fer­ent trails, takes you up the moun­tain and lets you to explore a glacial val­ley along the way.

Distance: 6 miles Elevation Gain: 3000 feet

Don’t expect to run very much of this world-famous race route, which begins 2.5 hours south of Anchor­age and climbs near­ly 3,000 feet from down­town Seward. Though the first part of the route is very runnable, the next 1.5 miles climb Mount Marathon and are too steep and rocky for most to run. Just the hike itself makes for a very inten­sive workout. 

Fairbanks, Denali & Interior

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 6 miles

The first mile of this trail, which begins near the new Murie Sci­ence and Learn­ing Cen­ter, is mod­er­ate­ly steep, hik­ing through the for­est. The for­est even­tu­al­ly gives way to tun­dra. Trees turn to shrubs, and the land­scape opens wide. The last 1.5 miles are even steep­er. Your reward, how­ev­er, is sweep­ing views of the Denali Nation­al Park entrance area, the Nenana Riv­er Val­ley, Healy Ridge, and near­by alpine ridges. Those who want to climb to the  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles

Eas­i­ly one of the most scenic dri­ves in the Inte­ri­or, the trip out to Table Top Moun­tain from Fair­banks winds deep into the cen­ter of White Moun­tains Nation­al Recre­ation Area, ris­ing up hill­sides and dip­ping down into val­leys for a rolling pic­ture show of spruce for­est and snaking riverbeds. The hike to Table Top Moun­tain is just as spec­tac­u­lar, pro­vid­ing panoram­ic views of the White Moun­tains from the cen­ter of the range, and is a short must  ...more

Southeast

Difficulty: Difficult

Steep trail that is worth the climb: you’ll find excel­lent views of Gastineau Chan­nel, Juneau, and Dou­glas from here. NOTE: The 6th Street trail head is no longer main­tained. Hik­ers must access Mt Roberts via the Basin Road trail head. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

Deer Moun­tain is Ketchikan’s icon­ic back­drop. The path briefly threads between res­i­den­tial lots, then turns to a rocky trail that quick­ly ascends. On the way up there are mul­ti­ple scenic overlooks.