Featuring: Anchorage, Girdwood, Seward
One of the top reasons to visit Alaska is to witness its wild, natural beauty and awesome scenery. Reach some of the most incredible (and accessible) vantage points on this 3-day sample trip filled with family-friendly day hikes in the Southcentral region.
Day 1 — Flattop Mountain, Anchorage
Start your day in Anchorage with a hearty breakfast, because you’re about to bag a peak. Flattop Mountain is Alaska’s most-climbed mountain, and Anchorage kids get their feet wet on this little peak, which is easily identified from town by its namesake flat summit.
Flattop is a short hike, but it’s steep and at times requires you to use your hands as well as your legs. But if your quads and acrophobia are up for it, you can scramble to the top, after which you’ll be able to say you climbed a mountain in Alaska.
The trail starts from the Glenn Alps parking lot and rises immediately through a short, wind-twisted hemlock forest. As you climb, take your time and enjoy the views. It’s 1.7 miles up to the top, and along the way you might see moose and wild blueberries. The last few hundred feet will require some scrambling, but you’ll pop out to a wide, flat plateau – that’s the summit. Enjoy the expansive views of Anchorage, Mount Susitna (aka “Sleeping Lady”) and, on a clear day, Denali.
Return the same way you came and treat yourself to a big meal in the big city.
Day 2 — Winner Creek Trail, Girdwood
The drive from Anchorage to Girdwood is an easy 45 minutes, but consider spending the night in this rainforest ski town. With a very high ratio of excellent restaurants compared to its small population, you’ll find the perfect place to refuel after your adventure on the Winner Creek Trail.
Starting right behind Alyeska resort, this mellow trail winds through mossy forest. Your destination is the hand-pulled tram, a 2.4-mile walk from the resort. The first half is along a raised boardwalk to keep you of out of that rainforest-created mud. Just after two miles you’ll cross a bridge where Winner Creek squeezes into a dramatic gorge, and about 0.2-miles beyond is Glacier Creek. A rope and metal tram await you. Step inside and then pull yourself across the silty glacier creek, and then back again.
The trail continues but this is a good turning-around point for a mellow hike.
Day 3 — Ptarmigan Lake at Moose Pass near Seward
Drive south just past Moose Pass, a small town about 60 miles from Girdwood. The Ptarmigan Lake trailhead is at milepost 23 (miles start from Seward).
This rewarding hike takes you to an alpine lake in a steep mountain valley. Unlike many of Alaska’s wide glacier-carved valleys, this one is lined by vertical rocky peaks.
It’s a 3.5-mile hike to the toe of Ptarmigan Lake. You’ll loosely follow Ptarmigan Creek through the forest, on a gentle incline. The trail gets a bit steep before opening up to the lake. Stop here and have lunch on the banks of the blue water, or continue on the path alongside the 4 mile lake. Either way, you’ll be constantly bombarded with rocky peaks that rise out of the lake, first covered in trees, then wildflowers, and finally craggy summits topped with rocks and snow. Prepare to look up a lot.
After your hike, head into Seward for dinner and either spend the night there or drive the two-and-a-half hours back to Anchorage.