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7 Most Popular Outdoor Activities near Anchorage

Planning a vacation to Alaska? If you find yourself in Anchorage looking for an outdoor activity, here are seven great options. From wildlife viewing to hiking to kayaking around glaciers, these popular outdoor activities will help you experience the magic of Anchorage on your next Alaska vacation. 

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  1. Hike Flattop

Flattop Mountain is one of the most popular hiking spots near Anchorage and is the most-climbed mountain in the country. Once you climb the rocky trail and see the vistas from the top, you’ll understand why.

It’s a short hike, just three miles, but it’s harder work than you might think. You’ll gain 1,500 feet of elevation as you climb a mixture of hardpack and rocky trails. While still relatively accessible to the average hiker, don’t underestimate it.

The start is at Glen Alps Trailhead, which is 30 minutes from downtown Anchorage. The trail has benches but not many other amenities.

Why you should try it: The views from the top of the mountain.

  1. Spencer Glacier kayaking

Spencer Glacier is one of the most popular places to kayak around Anchorage. You can access the glacier from Portage Valley, which you can get to by train from Anchorage or Girdwood.

It’s well worth the trip to take in the scenic views and the lovely lake. You also get to kayak among glaciers, which you cannot do in many places in Alaska, let alone in the world.

To experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, book a kayaking tour. The tour company supplies the equipment and provides a guide, as well as lunch. You’ll also get GPS and safety gear to protect from bears.

Why you should try it: Glaciers. Enough said.

Spencer Glacier Kayaking
Credit Paxson Woelber
  1. Whitewater rafting at Chugach Outdoor Center

Chugach Outdoor Center is a short drive southeast of Anchorage on Hope Highway. Once you’re there, you can take a float, sea kayak, or jet ski, but also consider whitewater rafting. The center has two class IV and three class V runs, which is everything you need. Keep in mind if you’re vacationing as a family that this activity is only suitable for ages 12 and up. 

The water is crystal clear and cold, the scenery is amazing, and you could lose 300 feet in altitude along the rapids while going at speed. Once everyone gets into the swing of things and can paddle in time, you’ll quickly gather speed and maneuver down the rapids.

Why you should try it: It’s amazing and will get your adrenaline pumping. 

  1. Cycle the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail goes from downtown Anchorage up to Kincaid Park over 11 miles. The terrain is a mix of paved and tarmacked with hardpack and is accessible to walkers and cyclists of all abilities.

You’ll see marshland, forests, hills, Cook Inlet, Sleeping Lady, and even Mount Foraker on clear days. Bike hire is cheap and available at the beginning of the trail, giving you all you need for a great day out.

There are parks and other places along the trail to stop, relax, and enjoy the scenery. It’s a shared-use trail, but there’s enough space for everyone. It’s a solid option for your Anchorage trip, even if it’s just to see Earthquake Park.

Why you should try it: It’s a relaxing cycle on a traffic-free path.

  1. Visit Eagle River Nature Center

You don’t visit somewhere as amazing as Alaska without trying to see some wildlife. If you’re not getting lucky seeing anything in the wild, or you’re there at the wrong time of year, the Eagle River Nature Center is the next best thing.

It’s full of walking trails that you can take on your own or experience with a guide as part of a tour. The guides are volunteers and very knowledgeable and are happy to share all they know. The guides can point out wildlife you would otherwise miss, and they seem to know exactly where to look. 

Why you should try it: You’ll get to see more wildlife than you would otherwise.

  1. Fishing at Ship Creek

Ship Creek, which is close to downtown Anchorage, is one of the best places in Alaska for king salmon. There are also plenty of rainbow trout, as well as pinks and silvers.

If you’re in Alaska at the right time of year, spending a couple of hours fishing is a good way to spend time. You’ll need a permit, but you’ll be able to fish well-stocked areas and rent all the kit, including waders.

There are lots of fishing spots around Anchorage, but Ship Creek is one of the best. If you’re there between May and July, you’ll be in prime king salmon season.

Why you should try it: It’s one of the best fishing areas in Alaska.

  1. Skiing at Mount Alyeska

Mount Alyeska is a 40-minute drive south of Anchorage in Girdwood and is purpose-built for snow sports. It’s a fantastic spot for skiing or snowboarding and is open for a large part of the year.

The Mount Alyeska resort covers 1,610 acres of accessible slopes and has 76 named trails. The mountain is steep, so it’s best if you have some experience, but there are instructors and courses available onsite. You can rent gear too, if you need it.

The resort has ski passes that give you access to lifts and slopes, and you can even use the pass for paying for coffee and snacks. It’s a well-run resort designed to deliver on the specific needs of snow-sports enthusiasts.

Why you should try it: It’s some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Alaska.

Alyeska Resort
Credit Jon Konrath

Outdoor Activities near Anchorage

There’s more to Alaska than just snow and ice, and this list proves it. Being outdoors is all about enjoying the countryside and the natural majesty of the area. Get the weather right and you’ll see for miles and be surrounded by some truly awe-inspiring landscapes, no matter which activity you choose. 

Are you tempted to try one or more of these popular outdoor activities near Anchorage? Or have you already tried any of them?

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