Alaska Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing in Alaska is a spectacular way to explore the winter wonderland. Glide through serene landscapes, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and pristine wilderness. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier, you’ll love the following destinations.
Cross Country Skiing
Forty minutes from downtown Anchorage lies Eagle River Nature Center, a gateway to Chugach State Park and a glacial river valley as wild and dramatic as any in Alaska. Enjoy an easy, 3‑mile nature walk on the Albert Loop or trek up-valley 5 miles to see plunging waterfalls and 3,000-foot cliffs. In winter, traverse the trails on cross-country skis or snowshoes.
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 ...more
When snow allows, several looped ski trails are groomed near Eagle River High School and along the slope overlooking the river canyon. A fun option connects trails near the school to a multi-use section over the snowbound roads inside the Eagle River campground of Chugach State Park. This 6‑kilometer system is a fun way to explore the river corridor, with connections to extensive multi-use routes
Pastoral is the word here. This 300-acre park on Anchorage’s near-east side features groomed paths over the gentle fairways of a snow-bound golf course. Loops explore a handsome forest with bridges over a meandering spring-fed creek. Most groomed trails are lit or near lights, and are very popular with new and younger skiers. Still, you can find plenty of hills, plus a more challenging classic-style loop in the north-side forest.
In the Talkeetna Mountains between the towns of Willow and Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a local favorite for recreation or a scenic drive. Hike in alpine tundra dotted with wildflowers and ptarmigan, ski fresh, deep powder, or visit Independence Mine Historical State Park.
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. A trek here can transport you deep into an Alaska winter setting without ever leaving the urban zone.
This 10-mile circuit of different loop trails is well-maintained and makes for fun hiking and skiing. Look for access from the parking lot at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, where there are bathrooms and outdoor port-a-potties. If you come here to ski, warm up inside the center, next to the soapstone masonry heater.
For one of the loopiest and fun Nordic ski areas in the city, try out the trails behind Bartlett High School along the boundary of the military base. Hilly, with lots of curves that spring into quick and sudden climbs, this five-kilometer-plus system through a mature forest packs a lot of skiing into a small footprint.
For a challenging and compact cross country ski area where you’ll find just about every kind of terrain, you can’t go wrong at Beach Lake Nordic Ski Trails off South Birchwood Loop in Chugiak. The 15-kilometer-plus system ranges from easy gliding to a sprawling advanced loop with sudden headwalls that morph into thrilling, high-speed descents. You can make it as challenging or as sedate as you like.
In summer, the trails are open to all kinds of foot-powered recreation — walking, running, hiking, biking, photoshoots, wildlife watching and berry-picking. There’s even an 18-hole disc golf course. K‑9 feet are welcome, too. In winter, locals hit the trails for cross-country skiing and fat-tire biking. There are more than 25 kilometers of groomed ski trails, perfect for classic and skate cross-country skiing.
With an astonishing maze of groomed trails over all kinds of terrain — including 12 to 15 miles equipped with lights for night skiing — Kincaid Park is the region’s premier destination for cross country skiing. The system ranges from sedate, pastoral loops suitable for families on an outing to demanding expert workouts with hard climbs and screaming descents. This venue has skiing for every level of experience.
With a 1,620 ft. vertical drop, 640 acres, and impressive backcountry access, Eaglecrest combines big mountain terrain with a local feel in Alaska’s capital city. It’s one of the few community-owned ski areas in the US, offering affordable prices, fewer crowds, and breathtaking ocean views. You can’t drive to Juneau— you have to fly, or ferry, which means shorter lift lines and untracked powder. Whether you are a beginner looking to play in the ...more
For a leisurely ski along a scenic greenbelt that crosses Midtown Anchorage along an ecologically rich bottomland, try out the Campbell Creek Trail — reaching 7.5 miles from the University Lake area to West Dimond Boulevard. It’s another one of the city’s “through-the-looking-glass” experiences where you’ll feel surrounded by a wintry riparian habitat even though you’re often skiing a few hundred feet from industrial areas and neighborhoods. Very ...more
The wooded, hilly trails of Hillside Park loop through the mountain foothills between Service High School and Chugach State Park, offering more than 25 kilometers of grooming. They range from the potentially strenuous Spencer Loop with the city’s biggest climb to mild Randy’s Loop close to the stadium by the school. These trails include just about every kind of terrain
Whether classic touring through deep woods or driving hard on your skate skis down a race route, you will find every kind of skiing inside Anchorage’s largest park. Scores of multi-use trails suitable for skiing crisscross this vast, 4,000-acre tract, reaching from lowland forest into the foothills of the Chugach Mountains. The most popular groomed route may be the Tour of Anchorage Trail. But with at least 65 trails covering nearly 100 miles, ...more
The Chester Creek multi-use trail system connects city parks and mountain venues in east Anchorage with the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail along the shore of Knik Arm. The main trunk runs without break some four miles from Goose Lake Park to Westchester Lagoon, lighted all the way. Using tunnels and bridges, the fun trail offers an uninterrupted travel corridor for skiers of all ages and ability level across the heart of the city. Call it ...more
It’s easy to take a “grand tour” ski across Anchorage. Using the city’s 120-mile-plus multi-use trail system, you can kick-and-glide from the mountains to the sea. Start at an urban trailhead noisy with traffic and end in a quiet forest. Launch from a sidewalk below skyscrapers to find a wildlife refuge with a vast ocean view. The city’s extensive multi-use trail system features dozens of itineraries
If you’re seeking some fun skiing over groomed, forested trails away from crowds, the Coyote Trail system behind Mirror Lake Middle School in Chugiak is worth checking out. Used most often by middle school athletes and the neighboring community, the loop features 5.6 kilometers easy enough for beginners to enjoy and yet challenging enough to entertain more advanced skiers.
Alyeska Resort is famous for its downhill skiing and snowboarding for a reason — it’s truly world-class, featuring tons of snow, steep mountains, and views that stretch on forever. But there are a ton of other winter activities that make Alyeska an epicenter for winter adventure. Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on one of the area trails; or head off into the backcountry with a guide for some heli- or cat-skiing; try a snowmobile excursion; ...more
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is Alaska’s sole National Historic Trail. This network of 2,300-mile winter trails evolved to connect Alaskan Native villages, established the dog-team mail and supply route during Alaska’s Gold Rush, and now serves as a vital recreation and travel link.
This is a groomed, multi-use trail that is mostly flat and makes great snow-shoeing and Nordic skiing. The trails are wide and have both skate and classic tracks. Access is from the end of Arlberg Rd where there is parking or the parking lot near Aspen Mountain Rd. It’s also possible to link these trails together with the new 5k Nordic ski trails just north of the Hotel Alyeska.
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.
Most of the loops in the campground are groomed for cross country skiing. Starting with the main road into the campground and cross the bridge to see beautiful winter views up and down the river. To access the trails, park before the first road closure gate just off of the Seward Highway.
This is the highest mountain close to town. If you tackle this hike, you’re in for a climb, but a large portion of the trail is in the alpine, with beautiful flowers and tundra. You’ll be climbing 2,400 feet in elevation in just two miles. Watch for upland birds including Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, and American Pipits.
An annual New Year’s Eve tradition, the Luminary Ski is a free community event on the Divide Ski Trails (at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway). The trails are lit by candlelight, and you can walk, snowshoe, or ski, depending on your preference. Hot cocoa, cider, and a campfire are provided.
At the Government Peak Recreation area you will find an extensive trail system for nordic skiing, walking, hiking, fat tire biking, and mountain biking. The newest addition is a Chalet that is available to warm winter visitors. It’s also available for rent.
Located north of Wasilla about 45 minutes on the west side of the Parks Hwy. Lakes are all connected with trails, and make for a great day of canoeing. They can also be skied in the winter and campgrounds are available as well. This hike can only be done in winter or the lakes will not be frozen enough to walk on.
Chena Lake has two distinct personalities: The Lake Park and The River Park. The two parks were created at the same time an earthfill dam was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in response to devastating Chena River floods in 1967. The dam is 7.1 miles long and controls nearly 1,500 miles of watershed that would otherwise freely flow into Fairbanks.
The Alyeska Multi-Use Pathway is a paved, lighted multi-use trail that extends from the Seward Hwy to the Hotel Alyeska. The path is popular with walkers and runners, and with a fresh batch of snow it becomes a great classic ski trail.
With flat stretches and steep hills (that are groomed in winter), this trail is very popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, and cross-country skiers. It was built on landfill, so as it expands, these trails will change. Most of it is rolling forest that has covered the gravelly moraines left by retreating glaciers.
March is the month to get outside. The days are longer and the weather is starting to warm, but winter still has its icy grip. To avoid going stir crazy or for some good, clean Alaskan winter fun, head north to Trapper Creek for the Cabin Fever Reliever. Held the second Saturday in March in this picturesque small town (there are great views of Denali), the celebration includes a pancake breakfast, a raffle, cross-country ski races, games, ...more
A winter trail system consisting of two north-south trails and one east-west route that allow snowmachiners, dog mushers and skiers to travel the area lying north of Petersville Road and west of the Parks Highway. The combined mileage of the trails is over 50 miles.
This is a triathalon event (not race) that takes place in Seward every spring. It begins with a 3km section at Mile 12 ski area. For this section participants can either snowshoe, use classic skis or skate skis. Next is a 15 km bicycle ride to Seward from Mile 12, ending with a 6 km run to a specified location on the Waterfront Trail for a picnic.
At its peak, the Independence hard-rock gold mine was home to 206 workers and 16 families who lived high above tree line. Digging and blasting, these workers recovered 140,000 ounces of gold before the mine shut down in the wake of World War II. There are 1.5 miles of paved walkways throughout the site, with informational placards for a self-guided tour.
The White Mountain National Recreation Area has over 200 miles of winter trails that are shared by dog mushers, skiiers, skijorers, and snow machiners and several cabins have been built along the White Mountain winter trails to provide visitors with safety and comfort during their adventures.