The beauty of Alaska is that its wilderness isn’t only found in far flung national parks, but also just a few minutes’ drive away. Even Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city, is wreathed in a spectacular state park that boasts a half-million acres littered with alpine lakes, towering peaks, and deep valleys. That equates to scads of trails of all lengths and caliber practically in your backyard. Here are just a few of our favorites.
We’ll start with Flattop Mountain, because if you’re new to Alaska, you likely will, too. Climbed more than any other mountain in Alaska, it’s practically a prerequisite before going further. Flattop, like most trails, has its pros and cons, mostly because of its popularity. On the one hand, the moderate trail is incredibly well-maintained, easy to reach, and there’s little chance of getting lost. On the other hand, it’ll likely be the most crowded trail you’ll do in Anchorage. Either way, the view of town from the summit (which, yes, is flat) is gorgeous whether it’s your first time or your 50th.
A string of nine stunning alpine lakes are the draw of this beefy hike. Roughly 10 miles one way, this trail is often done as an overnight backpacking trip, though with enough water and will, you could do it as a full-day hike. The scenery is unmatched and there’s a good chance of seeing moose, sheep, fox, and other Alaskan animals en route to the pools.
Long, but easy, this 4.4-mile each way hike hugs the base Frontrange, passing by the popular Flattop Mountain, Peak 2, and Peak 3 trailheads. You, however, will have negligible elevation gain, so enjoy the relaxing walk through the Chugach State Park. At the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a deep blue lake and views of Suicide Peak and McHugh Peak.
While the trailhead technically starts in Eagle River, the Eagle and Symphony Lakes are still in the Chugach State Park, which borders Anchorage. Super accessible and mostly flat, this six-mile each way hike has one of the most rewarding terminus’. After navigating a boulder field at the end of the dirt path, you’ll come up on Eagle and Symphony lakes. The former is milky green in color and the latter is a deep aquamarine. Mere feet separate the two, so the contrast is jaw-dropping.
Though only minutes from the airport, you’ll feel fairly secluded on the trail system in Kincaid (granted, that may be because you won’t get cellphone reception here). With more than 80 miles of trails here, you’re sure to find some quiet spaces. Most of the trails are hilly, but you can also walk along the beach if you’re looking for a more relaxing walk.
If you’re looking at the peaks visible from town, this is the biggest one. Towering at 5,184 feet, this four-mile each way trail is no joke. But the hike passes by gorgeous lakes, interesting mosses and shrubs, and offers unparalleled views of Anchorage, Chugach State Park, and even Denali on a clear day. For something a little easier, try little O’Malley. It’s roughly the same difficulty as Flattop, but less traversed.
If you’re looking for a hike that can be done at any skill level or age, this is the one. Starting at Resort Alyeska and going into a heavily spruce-filled part of Chugach State Park, this four-mile each way trail is almost completely flat. While the views aren’t the best you’ll see in the area (the tree coverage is thick), what makes this trail interesting is a hand-powered tram that ferries riders over the rushing waters in Winner Creek Gorge.