Let’s give this state its due: The culture, the activities available in the summertime and the welcoming people are the big reasons why people stay in this state once they come, but there’s the best reason people come in the first place: Nature. Alaska has accessible, pristine nature in more abundance than nearly anywhere else in the world. Where in America can you still find untouched old growth forests, or climb up to 20,000 feet? So, come for the silent days spent wandering through the backcountry, and stay for the people. Here are our 15 favorite hiking trails in Alaska.
Don’t leave Anchorage without getting an evening hike of this classic mountain under your belt. Feel like a local as you trudge up almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain from the trail head onto a near-moonscape of a summit, where you get the best sunset views available in the area. Must do.
A perfect day/overnight for strong, fast hikers, or a two-three night stay with Forest Service cabins that come furnished with wood, available for rent in three places along the trail, it’s not a surprise that this trail is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the entire state. And the views are absolutely stunning, not unlike the rest of this great state.
The big brother of the Johnson Pass trail, this leaves from (or ends at) the small town of Hope, Alaska. Personally, we recommend leaving a car in Hope and starting from the highway for a great 3-4-day adventure on mountain bikes or on foot, then enjoy a beer and burger at the Seaview Cafe and Bar in “downtown” Hope.
A perfect trailhead for all hikers, with the option for a 15-mile loop for backpackers or strong day hikers, or a two-mile scenic loop for families or those with only a few hours to spend in this backcountry playground. For those completing the 15-mile loop, you will be rewarded with 2,500 feet of elevation gain and the chance to feel small under freestanding granite towers for which the trail is named.
The Wickersham Dome summit sits up in the White Mountains north of Fairbanks, giving the most accessible views of Interior Alaska available. In seven miles, you gain a massive panorama of green hills and rolling mountains, all within an hour of the city of Fairbanks.
In Fairbanks downtown, the paved and gravel trail winding along the banks of the braided Chena River provides a great walking experience to check out the local cafes and, with a bit of luck, lots of local wildlife ranging from moose to a multitude of birds and even bears! This is perfect for amateur photographers or a family stroll before or after a great meal.
This coastal trail links downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park, the world-renowned park with activities ranging from disc gold to wildlife photography, with connections to a city-wide network of trails that link greenbelts across the city. Don’t miss this as a morning walk, or a lunch-time stroll in the sun, or the perfect way to end the day with a sunset across the Cook Inlet.
This mellow hike is a must-do for those cruise-ship tourists looking for an incredible day hike adventure that leaves from Kennecott. This four-mile round-trip hike winds through low brush under the huge faces of Mt. Blackburn, Regal Mountain and Donaho Peak. Very soon the glacier comes into view, and camping opportunities are available at the toe of Root Glacier. Be careful around the glacier—what might look like a tiny crack can lead down through 1,000 feet of solid ice!
Show up, hop on the bus, and ride it all the way down to this beautiful lake located under the shadow of the largest mountains in North America, including Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley). There are trails for all ability levels! Many trails lead out from this point, and if you want to make a larger trip out of it, the buses allow for bikes and many will bike back out of the 85-mile-long gravel road.
An absolute mega-classic trail in the state. Kesugi Ridge winds above the mountainous terrain between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Once you gain the initial elevation, there are no significant gains, and every peak of the world-renowned Alaska Range. The views are world class, the hiking is beautiful, and the trail head is incredibly accessible. Not to be missed on your next trip to Alaska.
With everything from two-mile strolls to long ridge walks and river crossings, the Eagle River Nature Center is the perfect center for hikes leaving form the Anchorage area. Anyone who shows up to check the interactive exhibits in the nature center and talk to the park rangers will be able to find the perfect outing for their needs.
From glacier crossings to high mountain passes, this traverse is everything its name might imply. The views are incredible, and huts are available for sleeping in every night of the trip (must be a member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. No reservations required). Crampons are recommended, and packing it in for a three-night, four-day trip is highly recommended. And, as with all Alaska trips, the weather is sure to make things interesting.
Take the winter ski tram up to the top chair lift, and spend as much time as you want above the tree line in beautiful alpine terrain with unbeatable views of the Cook Inlet. While you’re visiting, make sure not to miss the opportunity for a meal in one of four 5-Diamond Rated restaurants in the state: The Seven Glaciers Restaurant. Choose your own adventure.
This trail leads directly from the Exit Glacier Road just outside of Seward. With the easiest access and best glacier views on the Kenai Peninsula, Exit Glacier is a duly popular destination. And be sure to catch it on a cloudy day (which isn’t hard to do in Seward!) for the best blue colors radiating through the ice cracks and crevasses.
Get amazing, up-close views of the Grewingk Glacier, across from Homer, Alaska. The Kachemak Bay State Park is accessible by inexpensive water taxi, and is perfect for all visitors from backpackers to families. Icebergs often wash up on the shores of the lake, and all your view is taken up by a massive, active glacier. Be sure to make the pilgrimage to Homer if you find yourself on the Kenai Peninsula.