The Best Places To Go Hiking in Alaska

Connect with the great outdoors on these Alaskan hiking trails
Connect with the great outdoors on these Alaskan hiking trails | © Jacob W Frank / Getty Images
Josephine Platt

Commissioning Editor

One of the best ways to discover the remote terrain and stunning vistas of Alaska is by taking to its hiking trails. Here, we chart 11 routes that cover some serious ground.

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Kenai River Trail

The Kenai River is fabled for its turquoise hue

Following the zigzag shape of the Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing, the Kenai River Trail is your opportunity to revel in close-up views of the majestic lake, known for its turquoise hue. Moderately difficult in terms of its length and terrain, this is a trail you’ll need to get kitted out for: a camera is essential to capture the lake from up above, as is bear spray; along with some of Alaska’s most beautiful birds, bears are no strangers to these paths. Distance: 10.1 miles (16.25 kilometers).

Exit Glacier

Here, you can stand within arm’s length of Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier is one of the few glaciers in Alaska that you can practically get within arm’s length of. To get here, you will walk across Kenai Fjords National Park, which is predominantly flat and runs through a forested area; when at the glacier, the Lower Trail, also known as the Edge of the Glacier Trail, makes for a prime photo opportunity. From the base of the glacier, keen hikers can take the Upper Trail (Harding Icefield Trial) to a 3,500-foot (1,066-meter) summit to get a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the Exit Glacier and the surrounding mountains. Hiking sticks and boots won’t go amiss here. Distance: Exit Glacier 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers) out and back; Harding Icefield Trail nine miles (14 kilometers) out and back.

Winner Creek

Winner Creek Trail is ideal for hiking and cycling

A 45-minute drive from Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, the Winner Creek Trail is much like Exit Glacier in that it offers lower and upper trails that cater to different levels of ability. With the lower trail mainly flat and running at around eight miles (13 kilometers) out and back, it’s a great hike to get you out in nature without the fear of struggling with a climb. Plus, with a bridge that crosses the Winner Creek Gorge and a hand tram that you take across Winner Creek, it’s ideal for biking as you can load your bike on the tram and take it across the creek. From there, the upper trail turns right at the gorge and begins its ascent. It’s roughly 18 miles (29 kilometers) out and back, meaning it’s a full-day hike that poses some challenges, including the occasional water crossing, so come prepared. Distance: Lower Trail eight miles (13 kilometers) out and back; Upper Trail 18 miles (29 kilometers) out and back.

Resurrection Pass

Hiking the Resurrection Pass is the best way to see the Kenai Mountains

This is a route loved by locals, backpackers and mountain bikers alike, and is considered the best way to experience the Kenai Mountains, which reach all the way from the Kenai Peninusla to the Chugach Mountains. A trail that features small waterfalls, fishing lakes and wildlife in droves, the Resurrection Pass takes on average five days to complete, but it is in fact a moderate-level trail broken into bite-size routes that are designed to be ticked off daily. At these pit stops there are eight free-to-use idyllic cabins (first come, first served) along with 19 campsites that you can pitch up in. Distance: 38 miles (61 kilometers) one way.

Mount Baldy

Look out over Eagle River from the top of Mount Baldy

A loop that can be hiked from either end as an out-and-back trail, Mount Baldy will yield panoramic views of Eagle River like no other, along with a picture-perfect glimpse of Anchorage and Knik Arm from atop the mountain. Traditionally the route is traced from the left first, meaning it has less of an incline than taking it from the right, which is slightly steeper and more heavily forested. From the summit, serious hikers can also extend their route up to Vista Peak via Blacktail Rocks. Distance: a loop of 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers).

Lost Lake Trail

Take a moment to be present on the Lost Lake Trail

One of Chugach National Forest’s 33 trails, Lost Lake Trail will take you through multiple terrains: it begins in the rainforest and carries you through to lakes in the meadows. In the summertime, the route welcomes cyclists and hikers to climb 2,600 feet (792 meters), while it becomes a haven for cross-country skiing and snow machining come winter. Distance: 13.8 miles (22.2 kilometers) out and back.

Flattop Mountain

Flattop Mountain is Alaska’s most-visited peak

Beginning at Bear Lake Trailhead, the hike to Flattop Mountain is well trodden (it’s Alaska’s most-visited peak), thanks to its location within Chugach State Park. At just shy of 1,000 meters (3,281 feet), Flattop Mountain is fabled for its views of Anchorage, Chugach Range, Cook Inlet and Alaska Range. It isn’t an overly steep climb – midway up is a set of wooden steps designed to offer solid footing – until you reach the summit, which requires some light scrambling. Consider it all part of the fun.

Crow Pass

Get up close to the Chugach Mountains

Following part of the Historic Iditarod Trail, Crow Pass Trail runs from Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Centre, offering some of the best scenery around the Chugach Mountains and usually taking a couple of days to hike. There is an option to hike for just four miles (6 kilometers) before turning back, but if you do commit to the full journey you can expect to pass old mine ruins, Crystal Lake, Raven Gorge and Raven Glacier with its huge cascades. As with the Kenai River Trail, bears frequent the area, so be prepared to make some noise as you journey with spray at hand. Distance: 21 miles (34 kilometers) one way.

Skyline Trail, Sterling Hwy

A moderate climb which can be completed in about an hour, the Skyline Trail on the Sterling Highway rises 1,600 feet (487 meters) from beginning to the end. Best tackled between April and September when the weather is in your favour, in these months you can expect to see wild flowers and, on a clear day, a glimpse of Anchorage from the summit. Distance: 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) out and back.

Falls Creek Trail

The Falls Creek Trail leads you to Turnagain Arm

An uphill battle, but a great workout in the process, Falls Creek Trail offers some of the best views of its namesake, alongside views of several waterfalls and, ultimately, Turnagain Arm. Beginning in Chugach State Park’s canopied forested area, you’ll travel through rough climbs – where you’ll likely pass roaming animals like Dall sheep and Arctic ground squirrels – before finishing up in a rocky tundra with an alpine lake and glacier-carved bowl. Distance: 5.4 miles (8.6 kilometers) out and back.

This is an updated version of a story created by Alyssa Ament.

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