Best Hikes in Alaska: 15 Hikes from Easy to Adventurous
Hiking is one of the best ways to experience Alaska’s varied landscapes. Lacing up those hiking boots and venturing out for anything from a short stroll to a multi-day backcountry adventure allows you to slow your pace and truly soak up your surroundings. Notice the wildflowers blooming on the side of the trail, feel small in the presence of towering mountains and glaciers, and enjoy the chance of seeing wildlife like moose, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, and more in their natural habitats.
With countless miles of trails and backcountry routes across the entire state, you’re sure to find a hiking trail that suits your activity level. From easy to challenging, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks for hikes in every region of Alaska.
Top Hikes in the Inside Passage
Easy: Sitka National Historical Park in Sitka
Distance: 1.6 miles roundtrip
As you stroll through the Sitka spruce and western hemlock forest in peaceful Sitka National Historical Park, you’ll encounter 18 beautifully painted Tlingit and Haida totem poles nestled among the trees. The park also features views of the Indian River and beaches along Sitka Sound. You can learn about the local Russian and Tlingit history at the Visitor Center and watch Alaska Native artists demonstrate totem carving and other art forms through their Demonstrating Artists Program.
Moderate: Mendenhall Glacier Trails in Juneau
The Mendenhall Glacier area is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Juneau, and for good reason. The impressive Mendenhall Glacier cascades down from the Juneau Icefield surrounded by jagged peaks, terminating in the waters of Mendenhall Lake alongside the rushing Nugget Falls. Several trails of various lengths and difficulty depart from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center to explore this scenic area. Easier trails such as the Nugget Falls Trail and Photo Point Trail stay low alongside the lake, while more challenging trails like the East Glacier Trail and the West Glacier Trail climb on either side of Mendenhall Lake for higher views of the glacier.
Challenging: Chilkoot Pass Trail in Skagway
Distance: 33 miles one way
One of the most famous thru-hikes in Alaska, the Chikloot Pass Trail allows you to walk in the historical footsteps of the tens of thousands of Stampeders that hiked from Skagway to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. The entire trail takes 3 – 5 days to complete and permits are required to hike the trail between June 1 and September 13. The trail climbs through temperate rainforest, boreal forest, and high alpine terrain, with gold rush artifacts visible along the way. Nine backcountry campgrounds are located along the route with tent platforms, outhouses, and food storage, and some campgrounds feature warming huts and are staffed with Park Rangers to answer questions and provide information on trail conditions.
Top Hikes in Interior Alaska
Easy: Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks
Distance: up to 2 miles
Visitors to Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge are treated to several leisurely and peaceful trail options. Short walks through the boreal forest and along the raised walkways and viewing platforms over the area’s wetlands lead to fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. Keep an eye out for moose and over 60 species of migrating birds that congregate in the former dairy field – including the impressive sandhill cranes that arrive in early summer.
Moderate: Angel Rocks Trail in Chena River State Recreation Area
Distance: 3.6 miles roundtrip
This loop trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Fairbanks area. The trail begins next to the north fork of the Chena River and then ascends via a short but steep climb through the forest to Angel Rocks. The namesake rocks are unique outcroppings known as tors and provide a great vantage point for taking in panoramic views of the surrounding tundra and mountains. Make sure to bring bug spray if you’re hiking this trail in summer.
Challenging: Backcountry hiking in Denali National Park
Distance: As far as your feet will take you
While the iconic Denali National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Alaska, the vast majority of the park is not seen by visitors. Why? Because only one road and a handful of established trails exist in the park. However, the park welcomes off-trail hiking for those with backcountry experience and a sense of adventure. The park’s unique hop-on / hop-off transit buses allow you to start an off-trail hike anywhere along the park road, where you can choose your own route and hike along the vast expanse of tundra, riverbeds, and alpine ridges. When you’re done hiking you simply flag down the next transit bus to take you back to the park entrance. This type of hiking is challenging and only recommended for those who are comfortable with backcountry travel and route finding, and is one of the best opportunities for off-the-beaten-track hiking Alaska.
Top Hikes in Southcentral Alaska
Distance: 1 mile to 2.2 miles roundtrip
Featuring various viewpoints of Exit Glacier cascading down the steep mountainside, these trails are some of only hiking trails in Kenai Fjords National Park. The wheelchair accessible Glacier View Loop Trail starts at the Exit Glacier Nature Center and follows a gentle path through the forest, leading to a viewpoint of the glacier from the outwash plain. If you’re up for a little elevation, continue on to the Exit Glacier Overlook Trail which climbs moderately to an overlook for up-close views of Exit Glacier.
Moderate: Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip
Climbing gently through a temperate rainforest, the Winner Creek Trail is a mix of boardwalks, gravel, and dirt trail. Highlights of the trail include the bridge over the rushing Winner Creek as is cascades through the narrow channel and pools of Winner Creek Gorge, and views overlooking Glacier Creek from the platform at the end of the trail. This trail leaves from right behind the Alyeska Resort and is a great spot for blueberry picking in the fall.
Challenging: K’esugi Ridge Trail in Denali State Park
Distance: 27.5 miles one way
The K’esugi Ridge Trail follows the spine of a broad ridge overlooking the Chulitna River Valley and features expansive views of Denali and the Alaska and Talkeetna Mountain Ranges. While the trail’s length might sound daunting, several trailheads along the George Parks Highway lead up to the ridge trail, making shorter treks possible if you are able to stage a car at different trailheads. The trail makes for a great 3-4 day backpacking trip or you can plan an out-and-back day hike. Learn more about the southern end and the northern end of the trail system.
Top Hikes in Southwest Alaska
Distance: up to 5 Miles
A network of trails meander through the towering Sitka spruce and mossy green understory, leading to views of the rocky coastline, World War II relics, and wildlife. Over 95 species of birds can be seen in the area and whales can sometimes be spotted from the panoramic ocean viewpoints. The area features some wheelchair accessible trails, interpretive trails, and picnic areas. Stop by the Ranger Station on your way into the park to grab a trail map so you can better navigate the trail system and World War II historical sites in this beautiful park.
Moderate: Mt. Ballyhoo Trail in Unalaska
Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
If you’re up for a short but steady climb with breathtaking views overlooking Unalaska / Port of Dutch Harbor and the surrounding islands and mountains, plan a day hike up Mt. Ballyhoo. This trail climbs the tallest peak on Amaknak Island and has two trailheads: one on the north side of the mountain, and one on the south. Please note that the trail is on Ounalaskha Corporations lands and a day-use recreation permit can be purchased online.
Challenging: Tanalian Falls Trail / Tanalian Mountain Trail in Port Alsworth
Distance: 5 – 8.6 miles roundtrip
While the Tanalian Falls Trail itself is only a moderately challenging hike, we’ve marked it as challenging due to its remote location. This trail is one of the few established trails in Lake Clark National Park and starts in the remote community of Port Alsworth on the shores of Lake Clark, accessible only by plane. Most visitors arrive by air taxi from Anchorage, Kenai, or Homer. The trail climbs gradually over 2.5 miles up to the cascading Tanalian Falls. If you’d like more of an adventure, continue another .5 miles to the edge of Kontrashibuna Lake, or backtrack about a mile to the intersection with the Tanalian Mountain Trail for a steep climb up the mountain.
Top Hikes in Arctic Alaska
Easy: Interpretive Trails near the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot
Distance: about 1 mile
The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is a must-visit for anyone driving the Dalton Highway or visiting the small community of Coldfoot – one of the few communities north of the Arctic Circle accessible by road. This informative visitor center is a partnership between three federal agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, providing information on the public lands in northern Alaska including Gates of the Arctic National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. You can learn about these vast Arctic landscapes at the center and then walk the trails leading from the building. Several short interpretive trails wander through the boreal forest for views of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and historic sites.
Also Try: Beach walking in Nome
Moderate: Anvil Mountain in Nome
Distance: Varies depending on starting point
A local’s favorite, Anvil Mountain can be hiked from a few starting points in Nome and along the first couple of miles of the Teller Highway. The trail is notable for the rock outcropping shaped like an anvil on the summit’s west side and the looming White Alice antennas on the summit’s east side – part of a Cold War era communications system. From the top of the mountain you’ll also be treated to panoramic views of the mountains and alpine tundra surrounding Nome.
Also Try: Tom’s Trail in Nome
Challenging: Multi-Day Backpacking in Gates of the Arctic National Park or Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
For some of the most challenging and rewarding hiking in Alaska, consider a multi-day backcountry hike in the Arctic’s vast stretches of public lands. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are two remote parks situated around the Brooks Range, a rugged mountain range that extends 700 miles east to west through the heart of Alaska’s Arctic region and into Canada’s Yukon Territory. You won’t find any services, designated camping areas, or established trails in these parks, so hiking here on your own is only recommended for visitors with backcountry and route-finding experience. However, several tour operators offer guided multi-day treks in these areas that explore river valleys, tundra, mountain ridgelines, and wildlife, including the state’s largest caribou herds.
Also Try: Backcountry hiking in Kobuk Valley National Park
Be Prepared and Have Fun!
As with any outdoor adventure in Alaska, make sure to be prepared, give wildlife plenty of distance, respect private property, and practice Leave No Trace principles. Depending on the difficulty and distance of your hike, make sure to pack proper layers, food, water, and know your route before you leave. Check out these Alaska hiking safety guidelines from the National Park Service to learn more.
It’s incredible to see wildlife in their natural habitat and important to keep yourselves and the wildlife safe when encountering them. Make sure to learn about bear and moose safety in Alaska before starting your hike.
Remember that when you are hiking, you are walking on the traditional homelands of Alaska's Indigenous Peoples. Learn more about the five distinct Alaska Native cultural groups so you can acknowledge their land as you travel through the state, and learn how you can practice Alaska Native values when visiting Alaska.
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