An excellent way to experience the Alaskan wilderness, forests, and wildlife is by hiking its many trails. Known for its natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and open spaces, Alaska is home to some of the best hikes in the world for hikers of all levels and abilities.
In Alaska, you will find 57 million acres of wilderness, unique panoramas, and a multitude of wildlife viewing opportunities. Many Alaskan hikes are short and easy to access, while others are long and in isolated and remote locations. On a typical hike in Alaska, you will begin in the forest and finish above the tree line.
When planning to hike in Alaska, you can choose to go with a guided tour group or on your own. With a guide, you will benefit from his or her knowledge of the trails, trees, tundra, wildlife, and history.
In either case, you should be prepared for anything when hiking in Alaska. Mosquitoes, in the early summer, unexpected encounters with bears or other wildlife, and contact with Devils Club, Cow parsnip, and other poisonous plants found in Alaska’s back country can be dangerous, so it is important to know what to do in these circumstances. It is a good idea to dress in layers, as the weather can change quickly and unexpectedly, and to bring plenty of drinking water, food, and any other hiking gear you might need.
If you are looking for day hikes in Alaska, you will not be disappointed. With amazing trails in the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage, on the Kenai peninsula, and around Juneau, just to name a few possibilities, you will be able to find a day hike no matter where you are. Here are just a few of the many possibilities.
In the Kenai Fjords National Park, not far from Seward, the Harding Icefield Trail and the Exit Glacier Trail can be found. The Harding Icefield trail is 8 miles round trip at 3000 feet elevation. It climbs to the top of Exit Glacier, where you will have access to unobstructed, spectacular views of the Harding Icefield.
The Exit Glacier Trail, a shorter hike, is one the best maintained trails in the state with information about the glacier’s history provided along the way. At the end, you will you arrive at the foot of the massive glacier.
Just up the road from Exit Glacier is Lost Lake, at Chugach National Forest, Seward. This 14 mile hike, which is accessible at each end, can be a one day hike or an overnighter. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights at certain times of the year.
Savage River Loop trail, a 1.7 mile trail at Denali National Park, is great for first-time hikers. Following along the river, this straight and flat trail takes about 1 hour to hike round trip. The trail crosses the river with a bridge and returns to the same parking area.
Portage Pass Trail begins at the far end of the Whittier tunnel about 90 minutes outside of Anchorage. The 2-mile long trail makes a great half-day hike, ending at Portage Lake. It is also on the migratory route for some of Alaska’s native birds. Hiking this trail is the only way to see the Portage Glacier by foot. Be sure to bring rain gear and warm clothing as you will be hiking in one of Alaska’s wettest areas.
Multiple camp nights
If you are ambitious and looking for for multiple camp nights, you might want to try the Russian Lakes trail at Kenai Peninsula. On the 21-mile route, which accesses the Russian River Falls, the Lower and Upper Russian Lakes, and Cooper Lake, you will find 3 federally managed cabins and numerous campsites.
If 21-miles isn’t enough, this trail links to the 38-mile Resurrection Pass Trail, which takes you from the town of Cooper Landing to the town of Hope. Here, you will find 8 public cabins and 19 campsites to choose from. The trail is also open for mountain biking, show-shoeing, and cross-country skiing.
The Chikoot Pass Trail, from Skagway, Alaska to Lake Bennet, Canada is another option for a multi-day trek. This 33-mile trail, following the route of gold seekers, will take at least 3 days to finish. It begins in the coastal rain forest of Skagway and ends at Canada’s Lake Bennet, winding through Canada’s Yukon Territory along the way.
These are just a few of the many great places to hike in Alaska. When planning your trip, keep in mind that the main season for hiking in Alaska is in the summer. Whenever you go, be prepared for rain and know what to do if you have an unexpected encounter with wildlife. As long as you plan and prepare well, you will be sure to have an unforgettable and amazing experience hiking in Alaska.