A Hiker's Paradise in Southcentral Alaska
One of the top reasons people come to Alaska is to witness its wild, natural beauty and awesome scenery firsthand. Reach some of the most accessible vantage points on this four-day trip filled with family-friendly day hikes in the Southcentral region. All distances given are one-way.
Day 1: Flattop Mountain, Anchorage
Start your day in Anchorage with a hearty breakfast because you’re about to bag a peak. Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park is one of Alaska’s most-climbed mountains, easily identified from town by its namesake flat summit. Keep an eye out for moose, wild blueberries, and sometimes even brown or black bears as you hike. The trail measures 1.7 miles and is short but steep; the last few hundred feet require both hands and feet to maneuver up the steep, rocky path. But if your quads and acrophobia are up for it, you can scramble to the wide, flat plateau that marks the top, where on clear days you can enjoy expansive views of Anchorage, Mount Susitna (aka “Sleeping Lady”), and even far-off Denali.
The starting point for this hike is known as the Glen Alps trailhead. If you don’t want to rent a car to make the drive, you can book a group shuttle from downtown Anchorage. Once you’re done, return the same way you came and treat yourself to a nice meal in the big city.
Day 2: Winner Creek Trail AND NORTH FACE 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, it’s the perfect place to refuel after your adventure on the Winner Creek Trail in Chugach National Forest. Starting right behind Alyeska Resort, this mellow trail winds 2.4 miles through mossy forest with views of the rushing waters of a glacier-fed creek.
If you haven't had enough hiking, you can work your quads on the North Face Trail, climbing over 2,000 feet in 2.2 miles up Mt. Alyeska. This trail also starts right behind Alyeska Resort - and to top it all off, you can enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the two restaurants perched on the mountain, and then take the Alyeska Aerial Tram back down to the hotel.
Day 3: Crow Pass Trail, Girdwood
Today, you’re going to hike the first 5 miles of the 23-mile Crow Pass Trail. Most hikers who’ve done the entire trip agree that the first 5 miles are the most beautiful, taking you through a lush mountain valley, across a rocky slope dotted with small cascades, and up to a lake-filled pass and views over nearby Raven Glacier. The trip is challenging but also exciting, and all but very young children can do it if you leave yourself enough time. Make sure you bring a picnic lunch to enjoy beside the lake.
Day 4: Ptarmigan Creek Trail, Moose Pass
The Ptarmigan Creek Trail starts at mile 23 of the Seward Highway—5 miles past the small town of Moose Pass, which is itself about 60 miles from Girdwood. This rewarding, 3.5-mile hike winds through the forest to an alpine lake surrounded by steep, rocky peaks. Stop here and have lunch on the banks of the blue water, or continue walking the path alongside the long, narrow lake. Either way, you’ll be constantly bombarded with views of rocky peaks rising around the lake, covered first in trees, then wildflowers, and finally craggy summits topped with snow. After your hike, drive another 23 miles to Seward (home to even more fantastic hiking trails) for dinner and either spend the night there, or drive the two-and-a-half hours back to Anchorage.
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