See Alaska's Wild Side with 5 Easy Day Trips from Anchorage
Brought to you by Visit Anchorage.
Explore a vast state park. Find wildlife and wide-open natural beauty. With Anchorage as your base camp, unforgettable Alaska adventure is always right around the corner. These five easy day trips offer up-close views of Alaska’s outsized outdoor splendor.
Hit the scenic Seward Highway and head for Girdwood, the picturesque ski community nestled in the Chugach Mountains. The 45-minute drive is an adventure of its own: The Seward Highway is a designated USDA Forest Service Scenic Byway, an Alaska Scenic Byway, and an All-American Road, and it carves an awe-inspiring path between towering mountains and the powerful tides of Turnagain Arm. Roadside pullouts at Beluga Point and Bird Creek feature jaw-dropping photo ops.
In Girdwood, take the short stroll to Virgin Creek Falls, or hike the Winner Creek Trail, then board the Alyeska Aerial Tram for an elevated view of the valley and surrounding summits. Ski world-class slopes in winter and spring, and speed through an adrenaline-pumping, lift-assisted bike park when the snow clears. The scenery astounds in every season. Girdwood is called “Glacier City” for good reason, and a trip up the aerial tram reveals panoramic views of seven glaciers spilling over nearby mountainsides.
An hour’s drive south of the city, Portage Valley is one of the best places to spot glaciers in the Anchorage area.
Start by walking the Williwaw Nature Trail from the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform. The path connects to the Trail of Blue Ice before reaching the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, with stunning glacier views the whole way. Spend time at the visitor center to learn more about the area’s fascinating natural history, then lace up your boots for the level, 1.4-mile hike to Byron Glacier. For an up-close look at Portage Glacier, board the mv Ptarmigan for an hour-long glacier cruise on Portage Lake.
Portage provides more than just glaciers — it’s also one of the best places to find wildlife in the Anchorage area. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to explore 200 acres of wildlife habitat, home to everything from moose and bears to wood bison and wolves.
A 15-minute drive north of downtown Anchorage, Eagle River hosts some of Chugach State Park’s most scenic trailheads. Spend an afternoon exploring at the Eagle River Nature Center: It offers interpretive material and a variety of educational programs, and opens the door to a vast trail system offering everything from short walks to days-long backcountry treks. Explorer Walter Mendenhall called the Eagle River Valley “a miniature Yosemite.” From the viewing platform along the Rodak Nature Loop, it’s easy to see why.
The nature center sits at the end of Eagle River Road, tucked along the north fork of its namesake Eagle River. The south fork of the river is home to South Fork Falls, otherwise known as Barbara Falls – a scenic, 60-foot waterfall accessible from a trailhead at the end of Ken Logan Circle (remember to observe and respect all private property and parking signage in the area).
An hour’s drive north of Anchorage, Eklutna Lake is a turquoise gem set between lofty Chugach peaks. The area is an outdoor playground in all seasons. In summer and fall, hike the popular Twin Peaks Trail – a 2.5-mile uphill route leading to a scenic mountainside lookout — or explore the level, 12.7-mile Lakeside Trail. Walk, bike, or enjoy an ATV tour, or rent kayaks and paddle the lake when the weather is calm. In winter, cruise the lakeside trail on skis, or stay past sunset to watch for the aurora when the skies are clear and the forecast is strong.
As the Crow Flies
Anchorage is home to the largest floatplane base in the world, and Lake Hood is an ideal place to catch a flight. From there, flightseeing tours deliver amazing views of Chugach State Park or Denali itself. Head out to watch for bears in Katmai National Park, or buzz the fractured face of a bright blue glacier. Spend 30 minutes soaring over the city, or book a day-long expedition into a national park.
Wherever you wander, by road or by air, Anchorage hotels and restaurants are waiting when the day’s excursions are done. Experience unforgettable Alaska views and adventures with the five day trips above, then relax and recharge with mouthwatering local cuisine and cozy accommodations. In Anchorage, you can enjoy it all.
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