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Hiking Alaska

Hiking

Hiking

We might be biased, but there’s no better place to hike than Alaska. From paved nature paths to singletrack trails through the forest to ridgeline hikes in the mountains — Alaska has a trail for everyone. With the state’s vast network trails, it may feel overwhelming to plan your perfect Alaska hiking trip — but don’t fret. No matter where you go, you’ll find countless ways to explore Alaska’s wide open spaces and incredible backcountry on foot.  

Alaska’s sprawling parks and public lands are a great place to start when planning your Alaska hiking trip. When you’ve decided where in the state you’d like to go, find the parks and public lands in that region to learn about some of the best hiking trails in Alaska. If you’re not able to get too far off the beaten track, many communities have their own trail systems that weave along coastlines, through the forest, and even to mountain summits — leaving right from town. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for wildlife no matter where you are. Moose, bears, eagles, and other wildlife can be spotted on both urban and backcountry trails.

While we can’t even scratch the surface to recommend the best hikes in Alaska, here are a few trail options in each region of the state:

INSIDE PASSAGE TRAILS

HAINES: BATTERY POINT TRAIL, 3.7 miles roundtrip, Easy
This unpaved trail starts at the end of Beach Road and takes you through rainforest to a pebble beach and views of Lynn Canal. Bring binoculars to look for marine life and shorebirds.

JUNEAU: PERSEVERANCE NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL, 4.6 miles roundtrip, Easy to moderate
This old mining trail starts near downtown Juneau, leading through temperate rainforest to waterfall and river views. Perseverance Trail’s moderate elevation gain makes it easy to moderate for most hikers. Side trails leading from the main Perseverance Trail range from moderate to difficult.

KETCHIKAN: DEER MOUNTAIN NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL, 5 miles roundtrip, Moderate to hard
The partly gravel Deer Mountain Trail starts approximately 1 mile from town (up the steep Ketchikan Lakes Road) and moves through muskeg and temperate old growth rainforest to the summit of Deer Mountain. The trail is initially steep but rewards with spectacular views of the Tongass Narrows. An A-frame shelter is available to rent for overnight use. This trail connects to a longer track leading to Blue Lake and Lower Silvis Lake, approximately 10 miles one way from the Deer Mountain trailhead.

SITKA: SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK TOTEM TRAIL, 1.3 miles roundtrip, Easy
This gravel loop trail starts at the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center and takes you past 18 totems created by Alaska Native carvers and to the Indian River — site of an 1804 battle between the local Tlingit people and Russian colonists, which ultimately led to Sitka becoming the capitol of Russian North America.

WRANGELL: PETROGLYPH BEACH STATE HISTORIC PARK, Less than 1 mile roundtrip, Easy
Located approximately 1 mile from the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry Terminal, this boardwalk trail takes you to more than 40 rock carvings, the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the Inside Passage. The carvings, some more than 8,000 years old, are best viewed at low tide.

SOUTHCENTRAL TRAILS

ANCHORAGE: TONY KNOWLES COASTAL TRAIL, Up to 11 miles one way, Easy
This paved multi-use trail connecting downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park weaves its way along the waters of Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet, with sweeping views of Mt. Susitna (also known as Sleeping Lady) and the peaks of the Alaska Range. Take a leisurely walk from Elderberry Park (off 5th Avenue) to see the birds at Westchester Lagoon for an easy there-and-back evening walk or rent a bike to ride the full 11 miles to Kincaid Park.

NEAR COOPER LANDING: KENAI RIVER TRAIL, 10 miles roundtrip, Easy – Moderate
This unpaved, maintained trail — accessed from Skilak Lake Road — offers stunning views of the Kenai River’s vivid blue water and the Kenai River Canyon. In spring, wildflowers abound, and the trail weaves its way through alder forests. Be aware of bears and make plenty of noise as you hike, especially when the salmon are spawning in July and August.

CORDOVA: PIPELINE/MCKINLEY TRAIL, 4.2 miles roundtrip, Easy
These two trails, taken individually or together, offer impressive views of the Chugach Mountains, along with access to two public use cabins and the Lucky Strike gold mine interpretive site. The mostly boardwalk Pipeline Trail was once a water pipeline route to supply locomotives on the CR&NW railway. The trailhead is located 20 miles “out the road” from downtown Cordova.

DENALI STATE PARK: K’ESUGI RIDGE TRAILS NORTH AND SOUTH, 27.5 miles one way, Moderate – Difficult
Located south of Denali National Park in Denali State Park, this trail provides amazing views of the Alaska and Talkeetna Mountain ranges, providing spectacular views of glaciers, wild river valleys, and soaring Alaska Range peaks — including Denali. Plan 3 to 4 days to do the full backpacking trek or embark on an out and back day trip from one of the several trailheads along the route.

GIRDWOOD: WINNER CREEK TRAIL, 6.4 miles roundtrip, Easy – Moderate
Easily accessible from the Alyeska Resort, this trail — a mix of boardwalk and gravel — takes you through the most northernly portion of Alaska’s temperate rainforest. Look for wildflowers in the spring and blueberries in the fall. Enjoy beautiful views of the the rushing waters of Winner Creek.

HATCHER PASS: REED LAKES TRAIL, 8.7 miles roundtrip, Difficult
This route takes you into one of Alaska’s most beautiful — and accessible — alpine valleys. While the initial section of this trail is maintained, the majority of the Reed Lakes Trail can be rugged, including large boulder fields, before reaching Lower Reed Lake. Stop there for a picnic lunch or overnight camp before continuing to Upper Reed Lake surrounded by the rugged Talkeetna Mountains.

KENNICOTT/MCCARTHY: ROOT GLACIER TRAIL, 4 miles roundtrip, Easy
Starting from the historic mining town of Kennecott in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, take the relatively level trail along the edge of the broad Root Glacier or continue on another 2 miles to the Erie Mine tram cables.

PORTAGE VALLEY: TRAIL OF BLUE ICE, Up to 5 miles one way, Easy
This multi-use, paved trail wanders along the floor of Portage Valley and connects multiple campgrounds. Look for salmon at the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform and keep an eye out for black bears on the steep mountainsides above. Be sure to stop by the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center for information about the area’s natural history and to see bits of ice calved off from Portage Glacier on Portage Lake.

SEWARD: HARDING ICEFIELD TRAIL, 8.2 miles roundtrip, Difficult
Starting from Exit River Valley in Kenai Fjords National Park, this challenging trail takes you from cottonwood forests to the edge of the 700 square mile Harding Icefield. Plan extra time for this trail, which gains more than 3,000 feet over 4 miles, leading to an otherworldly moraine landscape overlooking the massive Harding Icefield. Trekkers should be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

WHITTIER: PORTAGE PASS TRAIL, 4 miles roundtrip, Moderate
This short but scenic trail leads over a low pass and features stunning views of Portage Glacier and Passage Canal. The Portage Pass trail was traditionally used by Alaska Native peoples to travel from Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm to Prince William Sound. The trail has some moderate uphill sections.

INTERIOR TRAILS

CENTRAL: PINNELL MOUNTAIN TRAIL, 27 miles one way, Difficult
Take a hike under the midnight sun along the Pennell Mountain National Recreation Trail, stretching between Eagle Summit (Steese Highway MP 107) to Twelvemile Summit (Steese Highway MP 85.5). This primitive trail is entirely above timberline with areas of extremely steep grade. Rock cairns mark your way along open tundra, and the trail provides sweeping views of the Yukon River and Alaska Range.

CHENA RIVER STATE RECREATION AREA: ANGEL ROCKS TRAIL, 3.5 miles roundtrip, Easy – Moderate
This unpaved loop trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area leads you through spruce and birch trees to rock outcroppings and panoramic views of alpine tundra and surrounding mountains. The trail is steep in some places.

GRANITE TORS TRAIL: 15 miles roundtrip (optional 2-mile loop), Moderate – Difficult
This unpaved loop trail, located in the Chena River State Recreation Area, takes you past granite pinnacles — called tors — to views of the Alaska Range and Chena River Valley. The public use Granite Tors Trail Shelter (approximate midway point of the longer loop trail) is available to backpackers on a first-come, first-served basis.

DELTA JUNCTION: QUARTZ LAKE LOOP TRAIL, 1.8 miles roundtrip, Easy
This unpaved trail, located in the Quartz Lake Recreation Area north of Delta Junction, takes you through birch and spruce forests to Quartz and Lost Lakes. Boat launches and campsites are available, and Quartz Lake — stocked with rainbow trout and coho salmon — is a great family fishing spot.

DENALI NATIONAL PARK: SAVAGE RIVER LOOP TRAIL, 1.9 miles roundtrip, Easy
This easy gravel loop trail, at Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road, meanders along Savage River with very little elevation gain. Look for wildlife and wildflowers. The parking lot is the last point for private vehicle access along the Park Road.

FAIRBANKS: CHENA RIVERWALK, 3.5 miles one way, Easy
This paved pathway runs along the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks, connecting the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center and the historically themed Pioneer Park recreation area. Watch canoes and kayaks paddle by in the summer, or cross-country skiers in winter.

CREAMERS FIELD: Varies, Easy
You’ll have multiple trail options at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, all leading from the Farmhouse Visitor’s Center — a historic dairy farm. Wander along the boreal forest trail or along the platforms of the seasonal wetlands trail. The highlight of any trail is the wildlife — look for moose and birds, especially the sandhill cranes. In winter, glide along on cross-country skis.

NORTH OF FAIRBANKS: SUMMIT TRAIL, 20 miles one way, Moderate
There are two access points to the unpaved Summit Trail — one from Milepost 28 of the Elliott Highway and one off of Nome Creek Road — both in the White Mountains National Recreation Area. Hike straight through or just a portion of the trail for panoramic views of the White Mountains. Highlights include Wickersham Dome, approximately 3.5 miles from the Elliott Highway trailhead. The Summit Trail Shelter, approximately 8 miles from the Elliott Highway trailhead, can be rented through the Bureau of Land Management.

SOUTHWEST TRAILS

KATMAI NATIONAL PARK: DUMPLING MOUNTAIN TRAIL,3 miles roundtrip, Moderate – Difficult
Hike through boreal forest and alpine tundra for 360-degree views of Brooks River, Naknek Lake, and Katmai National Park. The trail starts from the Brooks Camp Campground and leads to the overlook, although you can continue another 2.5 miles to the summit of Dumpling Mountain. Take in views of boreal forest and alpine tundra.

KODIAK: TERMINATION POINT TRAIL, 6.3 miles roundtrip, Moderate
Termination Point Trail, at the end of the Kodiak road system, offers sweeping scenic views. This loop trail offers a chance to enjoy spruce forest, rocky coastline, and beach access all in one hike. Panoramic views mixed with a possible bird and whale-viewing make it a spectacular experience. The trail closely follows the coastline, then heads inland where you can enjoy small lakes and wildflower meadows. The elevation change is kept to a minimum but the trail does include a lot of moderate ups and downs as you traverse the varied landscape.

PYRAMID MOUNTAIN: 2.4 miles roundtrip, Difficult
The Pyramid Mountain trail is a quick ascent through thick salmonberry bushes. As the habitat zones change, the low-lying vegetation features a beautiful array of wildflowers in spring and summer. Before you reach the 2400’ peak, you’ll negotiate an extremely steep section before reaching the peak. Once you do make it to the top, you will be rewarded with sweeping views of Kodiak — you may even see some Kodiak brown bears or mountain goats!

FORT ABERCROMBIE STATE HISTORICAL PARK, Up to 5 miles, Easy
Ft. Abercrombie is one of the most popular hiking and sightseeing locations on Kodiak Island. The northern temperate rainforest within the park is dominated by Sitka spruce (Alaska's State Tree), which can grow over 200 feet tall. Beneath these giants, a trail system and shade-tolerant understory is a profusion of moss, lichen, and wild berry species. Look for red fox, songbirds, bald eagles and — occasionally — Kodiak brown bear along the lush forest trails. Explore World War II-era bunkers along the cliffs and scan for whales and other marine life from panoramic ocean views.

PORT ALSWORTH / LAKE CLARK NATIONAL PARK: TANALIAN FALLS TRAIL, 5 miles roundtrip, Moderate
Plan for some elevation gain as the trail leads upward, but the reward are stunning views of Tanalian Falls — created by an ancient lava flow — and the wilderness of Lake Clark. Bring a fly rod and try your hand at flyfishing at the base of the falls or wander through birch forests and listen for birds. Stop at the falls or continue another .5 miles to vivid blue waters of Kontrashibuna Lake.

UNALASKA: MT. BALLYHOO, 3 miles roundtrip, Moderate – Difficult
This trail leads to the tallest peak on Amaknak Island, home of Dutch Harbor. There are two trailheads but few markers as there are no trees to obscure stunning views of the port and surrounding coastal landscapes on a clear day. You may also see the remnants of World War II-era fortifications near the base of the mountain. The trail is on private property and a recreational land use permit is required.

ARCTIC TRAILS

MP 98 Dalton Highway (near Livengood): FINGER MOUNTAIN WAYSIDE, Less than 1 mile roundtrip, Easy
It wouldn’t seem like a 40-foot rock outcropping should be a mountain, but in the vast tundra landscape, this granite tor provides a highly visible landmark. Hike the short loop trail for views of the Trans Alaska Pipeline and read informative signs about area habitat and wildlife

NOME: TOM’S TRAIL, 6 miles roundtrip, Easy
This hike along a multi-use trail starts at Milepost 7.5 of the Nome-Teller Highway and ends at a historic mining claim and cabin. Look for wildlife and birds, as well as stunning fall colors across the tundra later in the summer.

WINDMILL LOOP: 9.5 miles roundtrip, Easy
There are more than 2,000 species of wildflowers growing on the Seward Peninsula between June and August. You’ll find lots on this loop trail, as well as spectacular views of Nome and the Bering Sea from Windmill Rock.

IDITAROD NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL

And finally, one of the most famous trails of them all — the Iditarod Trail. Stretching across Southcentral and Interior Alaska, the Iditarod National Historic Trail is the only winter trail in the National Trails System and the only Congressionally designated National Historic Trail in Alaska. With more than 2,400 miles of primary and connecting trails between Seward and Nome, there's lots to explore, summer or winter!

Learn about Guided Hiking & Camping Trips in Alaska.

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