Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood (45 minutes south of Anchorage) is one of our favorite trails to take visiting friends and family. It’s an easy 3-mile hike or bike ride on a wide, well-developed trail with gentle elevation gain that winds through America’s northernmost rainforest, crosses a wooden bridge over a thundering blue-water gorge, connects to a hand tram high above thrashing Glacier Creek, then ends on Crow Creek Mine Road just below the mine.
Popular with hikers and backpackers, this easy-to-follow trail connects the state’s most intense sockeye salmon sports fishery with stunning mountain backcountry. It offers many of the Kenai Peninsula’s highlights in one trip. The 21-mile route accesses Russian River Falls, Lower and Upper Russian Lakes, Cooper Lake, 3 federally managed recreational cabins, and numerous campsites
The wildflowers are abundant and verdant undergrowth can be check high sometimes. Most of the trail lies below treeline, so there are established camp clearings along the way that are nestled into the trees. One of the best campsites is 10 miles in from the northern trailhead, set among trees on a spruce-covered knoll looking over the trail and Bench Lake.
Well-maintained and suitable for summer hiking and biking, the 10-mile Devil’s Pass Trail features a steep route up a spectacular V-shaped valley that intersects with the Resurrection Pass Trail and a rental cabin in the alpine realm. The country is rugged, with great access to cross-country tundra exploration and berry picking.
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.
This is one of Homer's top hikes. It starts on top of Baycrest Hill, crosses Diamond Ridge Road, then follows Crossman Ridge to the Bridge Creek Reservoir. Throughout, it rolls through forests, meadows and over streams. The area is excellent for birding and catching a glimpse at the occasional moose.
From the base of the Homer Spit, take this 4-mile paved trail to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. The trail is in excellent condition and is flat as a pancake for most of its length. The first mile of trail is along a broad estuary that is great for birding. Once you pass the one-mile mark you’ll be riding past fishing boats that are out of the water being worked on as well as a few shops.
This trail is a good day hike for the whole family. It alternates between open meadows and forests and offers the option of tent camping or staying in Crescent Lake Cabin. There are options for longer hikes and there is a lot of wildlife to be seen such as moose, goats and bears.
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.
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.
This is a popular weekend hike if you want to spend two-to-four hours in the Tongass National Forest and is only about 15-20 minutes north of town. Though you gain elevation on the hike up to the lake, it is not unforgivingly steep. Perseverance Lake is one of Ketchikan’s picturesque mountain-lake scenes.
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.
Who can say no to a cool waterfall only a half-hour’s drive from town? One of the most popular “first hikes” for families with small children, the one-mile trail to Thunderbird Falls traverses a handsome birch forest along the Eklutna River canyon to reach a deck with views of a 200-foot waterfall. During winter, the falls can freeze, forming fabulous columns of blue ice.
This 38 mile long USFS trail climbs Resurrection Pass (elev. 2,600) and descends to the north to another trailhead trailhead near Hope on Turnagain Arm. There are 8 public use cabins along the trail, making this an advanced but comfortable day cabin-to-cabin hike. There are also 19 More...
Portage Valley may be one of the most popular visitor destinations in Alaska, but don't let that scare you away. The truth is that most people stop at the visitor’s center for a quick walkthrough, take a photo on the deck and then get back on the road, to Whittier or elsewhere. And while it’s true that the valley's blue ice and glacial scenery is outstanding from More...
More a gated road than a trail, this hike largely remains a local secret among the residents of Cooper Landing, the fishing mecca located some 105 miles south of Anchorage on Sterling Highway. Many in this town consider it their personal getaway, which makes it quite a popular secret. A foreman for Chugach Electric (the company that manages the dam on Cooper Lake) said he often experienced congestion while driving to the dam, due to the heavy volume of families, hikers, and bikers who come here. But no matter what your purpose, this trail, which ends at the Cooper Lake dam, makes for a fine excursion into the Kenai Peninsula’s high country.
The Campbell Creek Gorge overlook is one of Anchorage’s best kept secrets. It’s just a 25-minute uphill hike—even shorter on bike— from both the Hillside Ski Chalet parking area and North Bivouc Trailhead, or a slightly longer 1-hour hike from Campbell Airstrip. From the tree-covered overlook, you can gaze hundreds of feet down a sheer cliff to Campbell Creek as it crashes through a narrow, brush-infested canyon.
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.
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 More...
With a length of just 1.5 miles and a summit reaching only 874 feet, West Butte Trail on Bodenburg Butte—a 45-minute drive north of Anchorage—makes for a fine family outing. But even if you’re a more experienced hiker, don’t let the butte’s dwarf-like height dissuade you. This small bump in the center of a grand alluvial plain offers far-reaching views from its summit; plus, the climb includes a pulse-quickening 0.25 miles of stairs up the steep north face.
This 38 mile long USFS trail starts in Hope and climbs Resurrection Pass (elev. 2,600) towards the south before descending to the opposite trailhead near Cooper Landing. There are 8 public use cabins along the trail, making this an advanced but comfortable day cabin-to-cabin hike. There are also 19 campsites available for tent camping.
The Fishhook Trailhead parking lot is located at mile 16.5 of Hatcher Pass Road. This area is actively used year round. In the summer it's a great area to hike and in late summer the slopes are abundant with blueberries. This trailhead also leads to Marmot Mountain, were paragliders launch from the top and land in the parking lot. In the winter, the area draws individuals to sled, ski and snowmachine. This trailhead intersects with The Hatcher Pass Snowmobile Corridor Trail, making it an launching point for a ride to over Hatcher Pass to the West.
For an easy, scenic walk in Anchorage, check out the Chester Creek Trail. The 4-mile-long path, which runs from Westchester Lagoon to Goose Lake, is not only flat, but also paved, making for an easy stroll. And though it passes close to neighborhoods, the trail is part of the city’s “greenbelt”—a wooded area that makes you feel like you’ve left the city behind.
This popular trail attracts lots of folks, so don’t expect to be the only hiker. It’s still worth the trip. The trail begins at Mile 0.9 on the park road near the railroad tracks. You’ll walk on a developed trail down to the lake. After you reach the Overlook, the trail drops steeply. Along the way, especially at the overlook bench, you’ll have a panoramic view of the Nenana River, the development called “Glitter Gulch” right outside the park, and surrounding mountains. A beaver dam and lodge are evident in the oxbow lake.
Length: 3 miles Roundtrip Elevation Gain: 200 ft. Time: 1-1 1/2 hr. Roundtrip
The path to the Perseverance trailhead, Basin Road, showcases a dramatic change from urban to wilderness, leading from downtown Juneau to a spectacular canyon. At the end of it is where Perseverance Trail begins, and this former rail line (named for the mine it once serviced) quickly climbs up above the Gold Creek valley. There’s plenty to see along the way, including old mine shafts that blow cool winds, and a stretch of trail where the mountain drops steeply away to Gold Creek.
This trail quickly gains elevation on its way to an alpine meadow framed by the dramatic Twin Peaks and Goat Rock, but climbs to magnificent views overlooking the entire valley. Dall Sheep are often spotted above the timberline. From here there is a spectacular view of the lake below. This is also a good place for berry picking in the fall. Because of the crushed rocks, the trail is hardly ever muddy.
The 5-mile-long Eska Falls Trail is located a 2-hour drive north of Anchorage in the mountains above the town of Sutton. And it leads to one of nature’s symmetrically framed wonders—a 100-foot waterfall located at the end of a mile-long valley that’s flanked by two massive summits. This setting makes Eska Falls not so much a hike to a destination as much as a hike to a presentation.
This wildlife sweet spot is worth a visit. The Russian Lakes Trail begins off the access road to the Russian River Campground in Cooper Landing, at milepost 52 of the Sterling Highway. Get off-the-beaten path, hike two miles to the falls and enjoy the immediate reward of spectacular salmon viewing.
This 2-mile-long, family-friendly trail, which begins 90 minutes south of Anchorage at the far end of the Whittier Tunnel, remains the only easy way to see Portage Glacier on foot. And it’s has a spectacular conclusion: After cresting Portage Pass, the trail drops through glacial scrub before popping out on the wide gravel shores of Portage Lake, directly across from the snout of gorgeous Portage Glacier.
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.
As you approach the Independence Mine Parking Lot, the trail can be seen to the far right end. It crosses over a small bridge, and winds up past an old abandoned mining cabin, and then up a debris field and finally to the lake. Round trip, the hike is almost 2 miles, and the elevation gain is approximately 600 feet. The trail can be muddy and wet for the first .25 miles, but it's worth the hike to see Gold Cord Lake, and a great view of the Mine area. If you are adventurous, you can climb to the pass at the back end of the lake for views in Archangel Valley. Marmots, Arctic ground squirrels, and tundra birds are often seen and heard on the hike.
You’ll have a hard time losing your way on this 2.5-mile climb of 4,301-foot-high McHugh Peak. You’ll also have a hard time forgetting the view from the summit, which extends up the length of Turnagain Arm and across Knik Arm to the Alaska Range. It’s even more satisfying knowing that you found your way to the summit with only minimal help from the trail.
This meandering, single-track path leads to some of the Kenai Mountain’s most remote and fragile high country. On a route once trekked by gold rush prospectors, this trail ascends from spruce forest through the jungled zone of alders into a realm of sweeping tundra, with incredible views and productive berry picking. Plus, the top of the nine-mile journey ends in Resurrection Pass, about midway through the 39-mile Resurrection Pass Trail.
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.
This trail starts out on a boardwalk, but shortly afterwards turns onto a trail that traverses the right side of the valley as you head away from the parking area. Some people choose to go straight up to a pass that looks down on Ship Creek and is a high ridge traverse. However, if you continue down the main trail, it eventually drops down to the South Fork of the Eagle River and a couple miles further to two lakes, Eagle and Symphony, that nestle together towards the end of the valley.
This trail starts out on a boardwalk, but shortly afterwards turns onto a trail that traverses the right side of the valley as…
Two trails travel over the Mat-Su College lands; one from the college and one from Snodgrass Hall. The Mat-Su College trailhead leads to a hilly loop and opens to beautiful views of Lazy Mountain, Twin Peaks, Bodenburge Butte, and Knik Glacier—the best mountain views in the entire greenbelt system.
Close to town on moderate terrain, this trail is a popular destination for locals and travelers and is used for everything from family walks to trail runs. The trail follows the turquoise blue Indian River up through the valley to a waterfall. This riverside terrain makes it a good place to look for birds and other wildlife like deer. In late summer, the river fills with salmon (though fishing is prohibited). The bears have their own trail on the other side of the river, so it’s rare to encounter one.
The White Mountains National Recreation Area is home to 200+-miles of trail traversing a million acres of wilderness and a mountain range named for the dominant color of its limestone foundation. To get there, drive 28 miles on the Elliott Highway from Fox (where it splits with the Steese) and look for signs marking the trailhead. The trailhead is the starting point for both the Summit Trail, and the Ski Loop Trail, a 5-mile loop and a nice option for a shorter hike with less elevation gain than the 7-mile out-and-back to Wickersham Dome.
Located in Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge, this trail is wheelchair-accessible and close to the airport. It has many opportunities for waterfowl and bird watching. It is excellently maintained. This makes the trail a very easy hike. Many times you will see strollers, runners and bikers on this trail because it is paved.
The one-mile gravel trail to Coast Guard Beach winds through Ketchikan Gateway Borough land and then crosses into Alaska Mental Health Trust Land. Mostly the trail descends to the beach; however, a few hills do rise along the way. This beach is a good place for walking, sunbathing, beachcombing, photography, writing, reading, meditation, tai-chi, just sitting, marine-life viewing, and dog swimming.
About a half a mile past where the road turns sharply left (by the old Motherlode Restaurant) is a pull off on the left and archangel road to the right. The road is dirt, and in the summertime you can drive the trail for a mile or two, but it is pitted with deep holes and rocks. After a mile or two, a parking area and trail turns off to the right. Here the trail continues with little elevation gain initially, but after a mile or so you will begin the steeper section, with lots of boulder jumping. The trail turns left and follows a creek over some beautiful waterfalls, and eventually ends up at the Reed lakes, which are being fed by glaciers and are turquoise blue. While it's possible in a day, most prefer to do this as an overnight backpacking trip.
Primarily built to provide pack-rafters and kayakers access to the headwaters of Twentymile River, this 9-mile-long trail has also proved a draw for hikers—and with good reason. Just 45 minutes south of Anchorage, it makes for a very scenic hike into some high, wild, glacier-girted country.