Alaska Parks & Hiking Trails
The joys of hiking in Alaska are clear: amazing panoramic views, the chance to see wildlife (moose, eagles, maybe even bears), and it doesn’t cost anything. But national, state, and local parks all have great trails—how do you decide which ones to visit? A good start is with our list of more than 750 trails, highlighting the best in each area of Alaska. Whether you’re a casual walker or a veteran hiker, you can find a trail suited to your ability.
Many trails are easily accessible; some are short and located close to towns, while others require multiple days to complete and take you far away from everyone. (Some even have public use cabins along the way, so you won’t even need a tent.) If you’re hiking a mountain trail, you’ll often begin in the forest—surrounded by the scent of spruce, alder, and cottonwoods—then finish above tree line, with a spectacular view laid out in front of you. Just remember, stay away from Devils Club and Cow parsnip plants. Be prepared for mosquitoes. And be wary of bears, especially when hiking near spawning salmon.
What to Wear
Of course, plan to dress in layers (the weather can change very quickly) and bring plenty of water (some glacial water is suitable for drinking, but don’t take chances). See our complete hiking clothing guide here. If you need hiking gear, like trekking poles, a day pack, waterproof layers, and more, you can rent it from Alaska Outdoor Gear Outfitters & Rentals.
If you see a trail that you've hiked that could use a better description, please email Bob. Thanks!
This is a 6.6‑mile round-trip trail with very little elevation gain, making it a great option for the whole family. Along the way, you’ll glimpse amazing views of Prince William Sound. It takes about 90 minutes to hike halfway, out to the cove. And it’s worth the trip: Here you’ll find a lagoon fed by the tide and full of huge starfish.
This 4.5‑mile trail, some 2 hours north of Anchorage on the west side of Hatcher Pass, climbs 1,000 feet up a very typical Talkeetna valley — long, broad, and lined with towering peaks on both sides. It also passes by relics and ruins of old mining days, when these valleys echoed with the sounds of picks and drills.
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.
Haines offers great biking, both along mountain bike trails and roadside bike lanes. Its road system deservedly serves as the final two legs of the annual Kluane-Chilkat International Bicycle Relay, a 160-mile, all-day race from Haines Junction, Y.T.
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.
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 ...more
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 ...more
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.
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.
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
This clearing at the edge of town once functioned as a firebreak between Anchorage and its neighboring forest. At other times, it acted as an airstrip, a golf course and even a makeshift housing development, when people lived here during the 1940s boom in apartments created out of old barracks. Today the Park Strip — just one block wide but 13 blocks long — is home to ball fields, a gym, ice rink and a giant steam… ...more
Located in the Tongass National Forest, Ward Creek is wide enough to drive a truck down, though no vehicles are permitted, and is popular with the locals for walking dogs. Across the road from the Ward Lake Recreation Area parking lot, trailhead 1 takes you north and follows Ward Creek, which flows out of Connell Lake, by the Last Chance campground, and through Ward Lake to eventually meet the ocean in Ward Cove.
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.
Summit Lake, located some 60 miles north of Anchorage at the crest of Hatcher Pass, offers a short, memorable lakeside ramble. Here you can explore the surrounding gullies and slopes or just sit and watch hang gliders drift out over the long Willow Creek Valley, which extends for miles from the west side of the pass.
This easy loop trail — just 0.8 miles long with less than 500 feet in elevation gain — offers probably the best bang for your buck in Valdez. It’s close to town yet feels immersed in nature, comes with awesome views, and you can do it in just 30 – 45 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Some 50 miles north of Anchorage, this 1.5‑mile trail makes for a fine family outing. From the picnic table at the uppermost end of the trail, you’ll find a satisfying panoramic view of the Matanuska River and Knik River valleys. It’s a view as good, or better, than that from many summits.
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.
A short road called Konikson located just past Bird Ridge heading east will take you to the trailhead. Stay to the right until you see a trail about a quarter mile in going right and up. The trail follows a small drainage, and quickly gets past the tree line.
A roadside hike that gains quick elevation and leads to soaring views? Count me in. A little traveled creek that rushes into one of the wildest whitewater rivers in Alaska? Hmm. Yes, please. A trail all to yourself just a few minutes from Denali’s busy front country area? Now you’re talking. Dragonfly Creek has all this and more, and you’ll only just be getting your feet wet.
This path was constructed to provide a place for hikers to view the plantlife around interior Alaska. This is a unique trail that allows hikers to view things that would be impossible to hike without a trail. There are all types of wildlife and small plants. Waterboots are recommended in spring.
This recreation area is just a mile and a half from town, but it feels like wilderness — with deep woods and several lakes, it’s a great place to hike, run, canoe, fish, or look for wildlife. Watch for otters, beavers, bears, foxes, moose, and more than 100 species of birds, including raptors and loons. The park’s best feature is a nicely groomed 3.5‑mile walking trail around X Lake through lush old-growth forest. Custom log benches are a nice… ...more
This trail has its own sitting area and viewing deck with views of Anchorage, the Alaska Range, and Cook Inlet. It is really good for seeing sunsets in the evening but it is also windy. The whole route is wheelchair accessible. This is a good short hike for the family to see the view over Anchorage, but not a good trail for the training runner.
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.
Leaving from the end of Tongass Highway, enter the Lunch Creek Trail and very soon take the trail to the left as this steps you quickly down to a waterfall viewing platform and then the rest of the way down to where, to the right, you can also cross the Lunch Creek bridge, which provides waterfall views as well as the ocean where the creek flows into.
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.
This short, paved trail is an hour’s drive north of Anchorage in southern Wasilla. It leads out to a bluff on Palmer Hay Flats — a large stretch of wetlands with all kinds of wildlife. There, a viewing platform overlooks the flats and the Chugach Mountains beyond.
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.
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 ...more
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 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.
A straightforward trip with big scenery payoffs, like the picturesque Mint Hut and a valley dotted with hanging glaciers. This trip is a great first backpacking trip in Alaska with simple logistics. It’s 16 miles with options for additional miles and side trips.
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
This 0.4‑mile-long trail, which begins within earshot of downtown Homer, plays host to a variety of birds and plants. Wheelchairs may have some trouble in the first few feet of soft gravel, but once they reach the plastic boardwalk they should find the going much easier — and maybe worth the trouble it took to drive 4 hours from Anchorage.
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 7‑mile hike, which begins in the mountains just above Anchorage, takes you to the numerous Williwaw Lakes, all of which are clustered below the sheer north face of Mount Williwaw — the highest peak in the Front Range.
Your best bet for this trail is to go out on one low tide, spend the night — in either a forest service cabin or campsite — and then return the following day or several days later on another low tide. Great forest-to-beach hiking trail.
Probably the second most traveled trail in the park, this trail offers a great day hike for those spending time in the lagoon. You can start hiking the trail from the ranger station or the trailhead in Halibut Cove Lagoon. The trail traverses up numerous switchbacks to a place called First Lake. On a hot summer day, a soak in this lake can’t be beat.
Either drive your own car or take the free shuttle 15 miles out the park road to the Savage River check station. This is a popular hiking trail, and you won’t be alone, but at least you’re away from the entrance area and entering the true wilderness of Denali National Park. This is a tundra walk on a developed trail that follows the river. Good hike for kids, with possibility of seeing Dall sheep, marmots, and caribou. You can do a loop walk, ...more
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.
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.
While many people find satisfaction in climbing to the top of Bear Point, others may wonder about reaching the summit of Mount Eklutna, the prominent peak rising just to the east. It involves two more miles of hiking, up 1,100 feet, including a short, sharp scramble up a gravel trail. You can return to the Peters Creek Trail trailhead via an alternate route, which makes for a fine loop hike.
This 4.1‑mile trail starts through forest and muskeg meadows. You’ll cross a beautiful bridge over a creek that in mid-July and August is full of spawning chum salmon Then once you’re at the top take in views of Cordova, Nelson Bay, and Prince William Sound.
Eaglecrest is one of the few community-owned ski areas in the US — and the only one that can boast of being on an island, which gives it the unique perk of having ski slopes with ocean views. Whether you are a beginner looking to play in the snow, or a longtime skier or boarder, Eaglecrest makes a great all-ages winter playground. In summer, enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and berry picking.
If you’re interested in seeing remnants of Alaska’s Gold Rush heritage, you’ll find some fantastic ruins from that era along this 12.2‑mile trail that follows an old gravel road and takes about 6 hours. Don’t want to walk it all? Rent a bike in Valdez and pedal your way.
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.
The Chena Riverwalk makes for a relaxing self-paced stroll along the Chena River and through the most scenic parks and plazas of historic downtown. It’s best when flowers are in full bloom (July-August). The path stretches approximately 3.5 miles between Pioneer Park and Airport Way, with longer options available. Or — park at Immaculate Conception Church or in the Downtown Transportation Center for a shorter jaunt.
This trail, hands down, is one of the most popular hikes in the Kachemak Bay State Park. It is one of the easiest hikes in the park as the trail is well maintained, and you can’t beat the view of the glacier at the lake. For the first 1.5 miles, the trail meanders through mixed cottonwood and Sitka spruce. These cottonwoods are some of the largest in the park so take time to appreciate their enormous size. After 1.5 miles, the trail proceeds ...more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 drive out to the Dude Mountain trailhead is one of the most scenic drives that Ketchikan has to offer. The trail begins winding through lush rainforest. The last part is steep and can be muddy in wet weather or covered in snow in spring and fall.
Located one-third of the way from Palmer to Wasilla, this 33-mile trail system meanders through boreal forest, farmland, and the rolling moraines left by the glaciers of the last Ice Age. The trails are some of the only non-mountain, non-motorized pathways in the area, and they’re popular with dog walkers, mountain bikers, geo-cachers, cross-country skiers, runners, and equestrians.
The 23-mile Johnson Pass Trail offers hikers, backpackers and bikers a well-marked route through a lush pass in the Kenai Mountains — featuring gradual climbs, two lakes with fish, spectacular peaks and some way cool gorges.
Rent a mountain bike (and all the body armor you need) for a thrilling, two-wheel ride down Mt. Alyeska. Lessons and tours of the route are offered. Or, go for a hike on one of the many area trails, either with a guide or on your own. You can even strap on some crampons and go trekking on a glacier.
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.
This trail is less than a mile, and very kid friendly. Two viewing decks offer views looking down the impressive valley, and wildlife is often seen here. Beaver Pond is also part of the show, and salmon spawning can be seen in late August through September. This popular trail is usually packed with walkers, strollers, and the family dog — all easily accommodated. The trail is wheelchair accessible and begins on a wide, slightly downhill path to ...more
Kincaid Park offers the easiest way to get deep in the woods right in town. It’s a mecca for outdoor sports of all kinds in a wilderness-like setting on the site of a former Cold War missile base. This 1,500-acre park sprawls over an ancient and rugged moraine at the southwest tip of the Anchorage Bowl at the west end of Raspberry Road. From its panoramic views of Denali and the vast Cook Inlet to its intimate deep woods enclaves, the park is ...more
Rarely do two lakes lie within a few feet of each other. Fortunately, the trail to see this geological rarity begins just a 30-minute drive north of Anchorage. From the trailhead for South Fork Eagle River Trail, it’s a gradual 4.8‑mile (one-way) climb up a wide valley, leading to a narrow isthmus between the green waters of Eagle Lake and the blue waters of Symphony Lake.
It’s not as difficult as you might think to hike to stand atop the precipitous, gully-scarred face of Bear Point. But it’s not easy, either. The 2‑mile hike ascends 2,100 feet and can be tricky. But your reward is an amazing view in all directions, from the Kenai Peninsula to Denali and the Chugach Mountains to Matanuska Peak.
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.
This trail has a split personality: It’s broken out into two different sections that will appeal to two different kinds of hikers! Section A is the tame sibling — a 6.5‑mile moderate round-trip that takes about 4 hours. Section B is the wild child: A full 12.6 miles out and back, this stretch takes 10 hours or so to hike and is difficult.
This is a beautiful hike in June and July, when the alpine wildflowers are at their peak. But it’s a beautiful hike anytime, because the views from up top — facing Mount Edgecumbe and overlooking Sitka Sound — are awesome. There are two ways up this mountain: a big climb or a big drive.
Once you reach the Mountain House at the 1,800-foot level of Mount Roberts, step onto trails that begin in a sub-alpine ecosystem and climb another 300 feet into the true alpine. With sixty stair steps, a length of one-half mile and an elevation gain of just 150ft, the main trail will take you to open vistas, mountain valleys, snow gullies, rocky ridges and stunning views of mountains in Glacier Bay, British Columbia, the Southeast Alaskan… ...more
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.
Bridal Veil Falls and the Valdez Goat Trail: This two-mile-long hike is a restored section of the Trans-Alaska Military Pack-train Trail that was the first glacier-free route from Valdez to the interior of Alaska. There’s a fantastic overlook about a mile down the trail.
No other mining trail on the Kenai Peninsula climbs as high or takes in more extensive views as the 6‑mile-long Crown Mine Trail. Beginning some 2 hours south of Anchorage on the appropriately named Mine Road just south of Trail Lake, this trail climbs to 3,900 feet above sea level to a unique spot — a glacial cirque littered with mining paraphernalia.
Visible outside the windows of the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau, this state wildlife refuge is the result of the 1964 earthquake. Literally overnight, the land dropped by 6 to 20 feet; hay fields and pastureland became salt flats and marshland. Once home to cows and grains, the land is now prime habitat for moose, birds, and fish. Some 20,000 acres are protected in the refuge, which is a popular recreation and wildlife-viewing… ...more
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.
Beginning 103 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, the 3.5‑mile-long Ptarmigan Lake Trail makes for a fine family outing. The lake itself is a long and narrow body of water squeezed between ridges and mountains that tower as high as 6,000 feet. It even offers a small beach upon which to relax and enjoy the view while cooling your feet.
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
It’s not very often that people can see a glacier in an untamed and remote location, far from any road or cruise-ship route. But if you feel capable and confident enough to climb a very rough trail up many vertical feet of rocky terrain, then you might consider undertaking the hike to Snowbird Pass, located high in the Talkeetna Mountains just north of Hatcher Pass. From this vantage point you can look down the entire length of Snowbird Glacier. ...more
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.
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, ...more
This 15-mile loop is well worth the moderate to strenuous hike. This trail provides views of tors, unusually shaped outcroppings that were formed 70 million to 90 million years ago when molten rock pushed upward and cooled before reaching the surface.
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.
Connell Lake is a good choice if you want a trail that is less popular but just as close to town as the Perseverance trail. The rocky, dirt path gently climbs through the rainforest canopy and hugs the shoreline of the lake. On the other side is a nice flat area that the creek bows around, creating a small peninsula. A fire-pit indicates that this is a preferred spot to spend some time or camp.
Reaching the summit of Avalanche Mountain takes a considerable amount of effort: a 5.5‑mile hike up Powerline Trail followed by a 1.5‑mile off-trail scramble. But this 3,200-foot climb — which begins at the Glen Alps parking area, just 10 miles from downtown Anchorage — takes no mountaineering skills. If you feel at all comfortable hiking and climbing over some loose stones and boulders, you should find this to be a very gratifying adventure. ...more
Sitka was Alaska’s first official Bike-Friendly Community, and it shows. Bike lanes and racks abound. Besides 14 miles of paved roads, there are many mountain biking trails, and even a new, single-track route of the intimate experience of riding through old-growth forest.
If you have some outdoor experience and an adventurous spirit, consider this 11-mile traverse up the Colorado Creek valley and down the Summit Creek. Beginning 2 hours south of Anchorage, this traverse doesn’t involve any rock scrambling, river crossings, or arduous bushwhacking. But if you feel comfortable hiking in wide and trackless country, you may reap the reward of having an entire valley to yourself.
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.
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. 2021: Hand tram currently closed
If you are a lover of alpine, stunning views, and longer, more challenging hikes, then this all-day, one-way mountain traverse between Carlanna Lake and Perseverance Lake is the perfect choice.
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 38 mile long USFS trail climbs Resurrection Pass (elev. 2,600) and descends to the north to another trailheadtrailhead 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 campsites available along the trail.
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.
One of the most visited natural attractions along the Richardson Highway, this four-mile-long glacier descends almost to pavement and is easy to approach on foot. The state recreation site features parking, pit toilets, and a covered pavilion with a model of the glacier and interpretive signs, all close to small lake.
If you have the ability to transport bicycles, this trail makes for a great afternoon trip. The dirt path winds through the Portage Valley, passing glacial lakes and ending at Portage Lake (this part of the trip is 5 miles each way). Make sure to bring your camera: you’ll see hanging glaciers and, very likely, some wildlife.
Want to feel dwarfed by Alaska’s mountains? Take a 2‑hour drive north on the Parks Highway and then up Hatcher Pass Road, where you’ll find this 2‑mile-long ATV trail — a wide but occasionally steep path that leads to the crest of Box Lake Ridge. From the big, rounded top of this ridge, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the enormous Talkeetna Mountains that surround you.
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.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is one of four greenbelt trails located in Anchorage. Even though the trail spans 11.0 miles each way (from Kincaid Park to just north of where 2nd Avenue ends in the Cook Inlet), it is easily picked up from several points in the city, so you can enjoy any segment and hike as little or much of the trail as you desire. In the winter, the trail is groomed for cross country skiing.
The mostly-flat Ward Lake trail follows the circumference of the lake’s shore in a swath of gravel that is wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Ward Lake is tucked into the edge of the Tongass National Forest boundary. Its proximity to town makes the recreation area popular with the locals.
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 ...more
Not everyone should undertake this 13-mile traverse that begins at Glen Alps above Anchorage. Considerable off-trail hiking, plus a steep climb to a ridge top, might be outside your comfort zone. But this trail does offer a profound sense of solitude and some spectacular views. It also includes the novelty of hiking a mile-long sheep trail that traverses the back of The Wedge, some 500 feet above the secluded waters of Ship Lake.
Our guide to the best bike trails around Girdwood and Turnagain Arm. You’ll find gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, creeks, and a variety wildlife — as well as plenty of bicycle trails that make it easy to absorb it all at your own pace. Need a bicycle? You can rent them at Powder Hound Ski and Bike Shop, located in the heart of Girdwood at the base of Alyeska Resort.
Running just above and parallel to Ketchikan’s Third Avenue Bypass, Rainbird Trail is perfect if you only have a couple hours but still want to experience a small piece of Southeast Alaska’s rainforest. The trailhead is only 20 minutes from downtown (a short drive relative to most other trails), and the trail’s southern end — just beyond the top of the metal stairs — offers great views of downtown Ketchikan, the Tongass Narrows, and the neighboring ...more
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.
Where else can you walk to the end of Main Street and find yourself at the confluence of three wild rivers, overlooking a 20,000-foot peak? Close to downtown, this large, river-centered park offers wide open, untouched spaces, along with great panoramic view of the Alaska Range.
You can hike right up to Seward’s Exit Glacier and feel the dense blue ice while listening to it crackle. Walk the lower trail to get a good photo in front of the glacier face. Or, choose the more challenging 7‑mile round-trip Harding Icefield Trail. There is a short ranger-led walk daily at 11am and 3pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
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.
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 ...more
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 ...more
If you want to get away and don’t have a boat or a plane, this is as far away north one can easily get from Ketchikan. The trail ends at the headwaters of Lunch Creek — the shores of Lake Emery Tobin, which is surrounded by a rim of steep mountainsides often capped with snow ridges and peaks.
If you only have a limited amount of time in Anchorage but want go out for a great hike, consider Kincaid Bluff Trail. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Anchorage, this is a 6‑mile loop hike to Kincaid Chalet. Along the way, you’ll find 3 miles of rugged trail that skirt the summit of precipitous bluffs at the end of the Anchorage Peninsula.
This is a wheelchair-accessible trail that follows the Mendenhall River greenbelt area, starting at Brotherhood Bridge off Glacier Hwy. The name is Tlingit for “going back clearwater trail.” Expect a lot of traffic. The trail is 2‑miles long, paved, and provides one of the great views of Mendenhall Glacier, beginning at the Brotherhood Bridge trailhead. In mid-summer, over a flat field of iris and fireweed, the Mendenhall rises between… ...more
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 ...more
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
Refuge Cove State Recreation Site is a sliver of land lining part of an edge of a neighborhood and is a popular beach picnicking destination with the locals. The site comes complete with pit toilets, sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables with fire grates, and a quarter-mile trail accompanied by interpretive signs that address the local natural history.
This is a very steep, 6.4‑mile round-trip trail that’s mostly unmarked and requires experience with scrambling and climbing over rocks. Your reward for the effort, though, is some very dramatic views of Shotgun Cove and the glaciers in Blackstone Bay.
The lake and glacier are the premier destination for the thousands of cruise-ship tourists who visit Juneau, but they don’t venture much beyond the visitor center and the short trails just outside it, leaving the mountains above the center very quiet in comparison.
Trail head begins by traversing private land, but an easement has been provided for such. Easy to bike, ski, run or walk to mild slope with a wide sides, making is safe from avalanches in the winter. Should you choose to turn left at the start, you can go to Flat Top as an alternative route or Peak 2 or 3, depending how far down you go down the trail before turning left. Ptarmagan Peak would be a more prominate peak just before the Rabbit creek ...more
Sugarloaf offers fun, steep, and challenging ridge hiking above the hotels and restaurants of the commercial area North of Denali National Park. It’s a great place to scramble freely in this region’s semi-arid alpine zone or to enjoy a long midnight sunset. The broad, west facing peak of Sugarloaf Mountain is a rewarding summit, and once you’ve climbed the steepest trail section at the beginning you’ll likely have the rest of trail to yourself, ...more
Considered to be one of the best hikes in all of the Chugach Mountains, Crow Pass follows a portion of the original Iditarod Trail, including its highest point. End to end, it’s a 21-mile trail, which most people do in 2 days, but just the first 4 miles will lead you past some breathtaking scenery. Along the way you’ll find glaciers, waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, mine ruins, and berries (in late August and September). Hiking is not ...more
Settlers Cove State Recreation Site offers two of the best sandy beaches to be found in the Ketchikan area and provides pit toilets and sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables with fire grates. A campground with eight campsites is available as well and one public-use cabin on the water that can be rented.
This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, an entire neighborhood slid into the ocean during last century’s most powerful earthquake. The earthquake was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted 4 minutes. Today, this tragic event is commemorated in Anchorage’s Earthquake Park, where you’ll find signs explaining the circumstances of the quake and its effect on the area.
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.
This hike offers a nice wide-open space experience and is not very long. Much like hiking the access road to Lower Silvis Lake, the Whitman Trail is another service road to two dams that generate electricity for Ketchikan residents and was recently made available for hiking and recreation; however, no motorized vehicles are permitted. Informative signs are posted on a fence gate up the road and on both dams.
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.
Black Tail Rocks is a very airy climb that stretches to 4,446 feet above Eagle River, a town located just north of Anchorage. It’s a journey that involves only a minimal amount of hand-over-hand scrambling; you’ll be following a trail for most of the 4‑mile, 2,750-foot hike. And you’ll have a fine view from the top, looking up the length of the secluded Meadow Creek Valley and well into the deep inner reaches of the Chugach Mountains.
This leisurely, 0.75-mile trail begins just south of Whittier, a little seaside town located some 2 hours south of Anchorage. The trail doesn’t climb much, but it will take you high enough to get an unobstructed view of numerous waterfalls, including the long-dropping waters of Horsetail Falls as it sheets over the sheer rock face of Blackstone Ridge.
Whittier’s newest trail is a gem — a gentle, ¾‑mile stroll that follows Whittier Creek from the railroad crossing up to the waterfall. Locals love it: It’s right in the middle of town, but the lush greenery makes you feel like you’re far from civilization.
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.
How to get ThereThe Plumley-Maud Trail can be accessed from the end of Maud Road, or from the corner on Plumley Road near Caudill Road. 1) Access from Maud Road: From Palmer go south east 3 1⁄2 miles on the Old Glenn Highway, take a left on Maud Road, follow Maud Road for 1 1⁄2 miles. There is a small turn around and limited parking before the creek directly east of the road. Please be careful not to block the entrance to the trail or the… ...more
This hike introduces you to the best that Denali has to offer. The Bison Gulch trail is all about stunning views of steep river canyons, a solid, well-broken trail through alpine tundra, and an exciting summit scramble for those that reach it. For those with less time, this hike is favored for its quick access to high alpine views directly off of the Parks Highway. No need to go all the way to the summit if you haven’t the time or motivation; the ...more
Set along the Coastal Trail at the very end of 5th Avenue in Anchorage, Elderberry boasts 1.5 acres of scenic parkland with great views of Cook Inlet. Because it’s close to downtown, you can make this a rest stop while touring and shopping downtown. Come with a picnic, or just a walk while enjoying the view.
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.
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 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 ...more
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.