hikes in Alaska
Hiking In Alaska
With epic mountains, creaking glaciers, wild coastline, and untouched forests, hiking in Alaska is a dream come true for adventure travelers. This vast, sparsely populated state is a rare oasis of wilderness in an increasingly over-developed world, and an ideal destination for those hoping to get away from it all. Adventure travelers – prepare to be seduced.
Alaska covers a vast territory, stretching from the border with British Columbia in Canada, all the way to the Bering Strait. It is home to many national, state and local parks, all equipped with wonderful hiking trails, to suit all levels and abilities! From the fjords and glaciers of the southeast, to the grassy, expansive parks of the interior and the southwest, there’s something to suit all tastes. You’ll find high-altitude trails with epic views over snow-capped mountains, expansive meadows littered with spectacular wildflowers, rushing streams and serene lakes.
Although there are relatively few people in Alaska, this natural paradise is home to many animals and birds. Expect to see moose, brown and black bears, beavers, whales, seals, caribou and much more besides. A trip here usually means an encounter with some of these animals in their natural habitat, a rare opportunity that will provide you with some unforgettable memories.
So what are you waiting for? Start exploring this vast, beautiful wilderness today. We’ve done the hard work and put together our tips and recommendations for hiking in Alaska. Happy traveling!
Types Of Hiking In Alaska
Alaska’s plentiful national parks and vast wild spaces provide ample opportunity for hiking, with plenty of variety out on the trails. There’s something here to please everyone, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a complete beginner, a solo traveler or a big family group. Many of the national parks contain low-level, easy trails that are accessible for families, meaning that you can experience some of the region’s fabulous scenery without expending too much effort. On the other hand, the national parks offer many challenging hikes, sometimes over rough terrain, which allow visitors to really get out into the wild and experience some of Alaska’s most remote spaces. These hikes provide a good challenge for fit, experienced hikers, and the rewards are certainly impressive: epic views and rare natural sights.
Easy Hikes In Alaska
Exit Glacier Hike: The Exit Glacier lies in the Kenai Fjords National Park, close to Anchorage, and this trail is one of the best easy hikes in Alaska. The easy, accessible route is perfect for families, and leads you to a spectacular viewing point for the glacier itself, which pours from the Harding Icefield. This magical spot provides a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn about the geology and wildlife of the region, with informative panels along the path.
Family Hikes In Alaska
Byron Glacier Hike: This short hike is one of the best family hikes in Alaska, providing fabulous views of Byron Glacier along the Byron Creek. The trail is easy and accessible, passing through lush forests until you come to the glacier itself. Older children may enjoy the scramble up to the natural ice caves and the permanent snowfield, but this is optional. This hike offers a fun afternoon out for the whole family!
Day Hikes In Alaska
Flattop Mountain Hike: If you’re looking for a challenging day hike close to Anchorage, try this wonderful route to Flattop Mountain. The trail is fairly short, but the climb is steep and tricky in places – you’ll need to use your hands. However, the rewards are incomparable. It’s easy to see why the Flattop Mountain Hike is a favorite among the Anchorage locals!
Challenging Hikes In Alaska
Hope Point Hike: The challenging route to the top of Hope Point is one of the most rewarding hikes in the region, and a great way to experience some of Alaska’s finest scenery. The trail is somewhat exposed, so you’ll need to pick a day with fine weather, but the breathtaking views from the summit will make all the effort worthwhile. You’ll have a stunning vista over Resurrection Creek Valley, Turnagain Arm, Fire Island and the Cook Inlet, and make sure to keep your eyes open, as you may even catch a glimpse of a Beluga whale!
Best Hikes In Alaska
Portage Pass and Lake Hike: If you’re looking for stunning views, a high mountain pass and a glimpse of a glacier, look no further than the Portage Pass and Lake hike! This moderate trail is a pleasure to hike along, and you’ll pass through lush greenery before coming to a craggy pass with a fabulous panorama over Portage Lake and the neighboring mountains. The nearby Whitter village is also an excellent place to pick up some wild Alaskan salmon!
Harding Icefield Hike: This spectacular hike is one of our favorite challenging hikes in Alaska, and takes you through some of the most incredible landscapes in the region. The trail is an extension of the Exit Glacier hike, passing through alpine meadows and craggy, bushy terrain before reaching the Harding Icefield. This is a dramatic sight, providing an endless vista of sparkling ice, pouring inch by inch into over 30 separate glaciers. A truly breathtaking hike, which showcases Alaska at its best.
Crow Pass Hike: One of the best hikes in the Chugach mountain range, this Crow Pass hike is just a stone’s throw from Anchorage and offers wonderful views over Crystal Lake and the Raven Glacier. The trail rises above the treeline, meaning you’ll enjoy spectacular mountain views, and the path is well worn and easy to follow. A wonderful day out in some of Alaska’s best scenery!
Carter and Crescent Lake Hike: This family-friendly, moderate hike offers a magical day out near Anchorage. The tranquil waters of Crescent Lake are the destination, and you’ll pass Carter Lake along the way, making this a varied and interesting trail with plenty to see as you hike. The highlight of the route is the beautiful, expansive view over the flower-strewn meadows, all set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks.
Lost Lake Hike: This hike will take you through wildflower meadows and dense forests before finally reaching the secluded Lost Lake. You’ll feel as though you’ve traveled out of time – this atmospheric lake is a wonderful place to sit and contemplate nature. The region is noted for its wildlife, and if you’re lucky you may see ptarmigan, gray-crowned rosy finches, moose, or even bears.
Ptarmigan Creek and Lake Hike: Ptarmigan Lake is a long, thin body of water squeezed between dramatic craggy peaks, and this trail is a wonderful way to experience the lake and the creek that feeds it. The route passes through atmospheric forests, past brushy meadows and beautiful wildflowers, before opening up onto the lake itself. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some of the beavers that make their homes next to the water!
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Alaska?
Alaska’s northerly latitude means that the hiking season is typically concentrated in the summer months, ranging from mid-June to mid-September. However, although the season is short, the days are very long, meaning that you can pack in some long trails and plenty of fun backpacking adventures! This is also an excellent time for wildlife spotting, particularly in June and July, when you can expect to see bears, whales, and plenty of sea otters around the coast. Even in the summer months, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s best to seek local advice and always check weather forecasts if you head out for a hike.
Some of the lower-level trails across the region are open year-round, although in the winter you’ll have to contend with restricted daylight hours, so you’ll be limited to shorter hikes. However, the winter months also open up the possibility of winter sports, and many visitors flock to the region for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
Best Regions For Hiking in Alaska
Alaska’s colossal size means that there are many wonderful regions for hiking, although the most popular trails are concentrated in the South Central region, where you’ll find Anchorage and many of the most popular national parks. This beautiful region is rich in wildlife, and the Kenai Peninsula, with its glaciers, forests and mountains, is the perfect destination for hikers. The Southeast region is known for its fjords and islands, and offers fabulous opportunities for whale watching and off-the-beaten-track hiking.
Wildlife fans may want to head to the Southwest region, where you’ll find abundant fishing. Indeed, one of the best things to do here is to watch the bears themselves fishing for salmon in the Lake Clark or Katmai national parks. Hiking in this part of Alaska is a great way to learn about local wildlife, cultures and heritage. The Interior region is also full of gorgeous national parks with plenty of trails, and offers some of the best places for viewing the northern lights, perhaps even from the comfort of some hot springs! Finally, for real adventure junkies, the Far North stretches into the Arctic Circle, and covers some of the wildest, unspoiled and most remote territory in the world.
Other Outdoor Activities in Alaska
This vast state is a paradise for active travellers, and in addition to hiking, you’ll find plenty of other outdoor activities in Alaska. In the summer months, visitors flock here for extended backpacking trips, mountain biking, climbing, canyoning, kayaking, paragliding and even dogsledding! In winter, the region opens up to winter sports, with ample opportunity for skiing (including backcountry skiing and cross-country skiing), snowboarding, ice climbing, snowshoeing and ice fishing.Read More