Whittier, Alaska Quick Guide


Kayaking in Whittier Alaska

Whittier is a small community about an hour outside of Anchorage to the south.  The only way you can access this town, other than by boat, is through a one lane tunnel that runs through Maynard mountain.  This quaint town, with only about 200 residents year-round, is the gateway to the beautiful portage canal and has a picturesque harbor.  We recommend spending one to two days here, more if you want to do a multi-day kayaking trip or fishing trip.  Here is our quick guide on Whittier, Alaska.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to do in Whittier


Sea Kayaking

Alaska Sea Kayakers Day Trip

We absolutely loved our day trip kayaking on the Passage Canal!  The water was so clear and the views throughout the trip were stunning.  The company we used for our tour, Alaska Sea Kayakers, was wonderful.  Our guide was fantastic–knowledgeable, friendly and flexible–and we had a small group of only six people. The tour we did–The Passage Canal Tour–was an all day tour and included a delicious lunch we ate along a remote beach we stopped at while kayaking. If you do one thing in Whittier, do this! 

Alaska Sea Kayakers

Alaska Sea Kayakers

Tip: We would highly recommend doing the tour we did but if you have more time, you may consider one of their multi-day tours where you do some remote camping as well.    


Hike Portage Pass  (4 miles round trip, 1,578 feet of elevation gain)

Portage Pass

This trail is a great hike–relatively short and affords you pristine glacier views. The trailhead is right after you go through the Whittier tunnel before you enter the town.  Please see Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes post for more details 

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 6+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Where to Eat in Whittier


Inn At Whittier Restaurant

View from our table at Inn At Whittier

This restaurant is located at the main hotel in Whittier, Inn At Whittier.  The dining room has excellent views of the harbor and passage canal.  The seafood here was delicious. This place was the most expensive restaurant in Whittier we ate at but a main dish was only about $5 more per plate than most of the other restaurants in town and we thought the food was worth this small extra cost.  

Inn at Whittier


Varly’s Ice Cream Parlor

 Quaint Ice Cream Parlor in-town.  Perfect after a long day of kayaking or hiking.


China Sea

The menu here was your typical Chinese restaurant menu in addition to some fresh seafood.  Natalie actually got some surprisingly good Salmon with some Chinese prepared vegetables.  Chinese with an Alaskan twist?  If you only eat at one place in Whittier, eat at the Inn but this is a good option for another meal. 


Tip: Food in Alaska, especially in remote Whittier, costs more than everywhere else in the US so do not be surprised that most meals are about $20-$30/plate even if it is very simple. 


Where to Stay in Whittier


June’s Whittier Condo Suites at Begich Towers 

We stayed in one of the budget first floor rooms.  This place is quirky, the decor is very random and everything is just as nice as it needs to be.  Some of the other accommodations in this building are more luxurious, with passage canal views, but also more costly.  We were happy with our decision to stay in one of the budget rooms with how little time we spent there.  

June’s Whittier Condo Suites

Tip: Since this town is so small, there are very limited accommodation options. Make sure you book early if you want to stay in Whittier.  Otherwise, you will have to drive into the town each day through the Whittier tunnel. 


Whittier, Alaska Harbor

We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Whittier, Alaska.  Anything else you’d add to our guide?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment! For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

Anchorage, Alaska Quick Guide


Flattop Mountain Views in Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage is the most populated city in Alaska.  Because of this, there are plenty of activities to do in and around the Anchorage area.  We mainly took advantage of the extensive amount of hiking trails around the city and would encourage you to do the same.  Never have we visited somewhere where there are so many hikes close to the city that all have rewarding views.  Also, Sam lived in Anchorage for 6 weeks while in graduate school, giving us a bit more local perspective of the area.  We recommend spending at least 2 days here but you could easily spend upwards of a week here with all the different hiking and activities in the city.  Here is our quick guide on Anchorage, Alaska. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to do in Anchorage


Hike one of the Many Trails

There are so many wonderful hiking trails in the greater Anchorage area and most have stunning mountain and water views.  Here are some of our favorites that are within 1 hour of Anchorage.

Please see Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes post for more details about each of these hikes.

  1. Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park (3.3 mile hike round trip, 1,430 feet of elevation gain) 
  2. Alyeska North Face Trail in Girdwood (2.2 miles one-way, take tram down, 1,998 feet of elevation gain)
  3. Twin Peaks Trail at Eklutna Lake (5 miles roundtrip. 1,879 feet of elevation gain)
  4. April Bowl Pass in Hatcher Pass  (2.2 miles round trip, 856 feet of elevation gain

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 6+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Bird Ridge Trail in Chugach State Park

Bird Ridge Trail in Chugach State Park

This hike is not featured in our top 5 hiking blog post because it is very difficult; however, if you are up for the challenge, the views are worth it.   This 5 mile out and back (2.5 miles one-way) trail is very steep with approximately 3,400 feet of elevation gain in less than 2.5 miles.  The panoramic views of the Chugach State Park and part of the Turnagain Arm at the summit are unparalleled. Approximately, the first ⅓ of the hike is wooded but the views are quite amazing once you emerge from the wooded area on the trail. You get these views even before reaching the summit. 

Bird Ridge Trail in Chugach State Park

Bird Ridge Trail Guide


Visit Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center 

Moose at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center specializes in wildlife conservation through caring for native Alaskan animals that were either injured or abandoned at a young age in the wild.  These animals would not survive in the wild on their own and have a safe home at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  Here, you can get up close to the native Alaskan wildlife safely, including Moose, Grizzly Bears and Black Bears.  It was cool to get within 5 feet of these animals to look at the size of their hooves, paws, jaws, etc.  We also liked seeing these animals in the wild but this gave us the unique opportunity to see them up close, something not done safely elsewhere. The center is also located at a beautiful spot off the Turnagain Arm and has some great water and mountain views. 

Views of the Turnagin Arm at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation


What/Where to Eat in Anchorage


Glacier Brewing Company

We loved the fun woods-y atmosphere and delicious food here.  The menu has a wide variety and there are plenty of fresh brews to choose from.  We actually stopped here for a meal twice because we had a couple hours to spare before our flight home.  You know it’s good when you eat there more than once on a short trip.  

Glacier Brewing


Wild Scoops

This cute small batch ice cream shop has delicious homemade ice cream.  We split an order of the ‘Frozen Nachos’ and were not disappointed. It is also within walking distance from Glacier Brewing Company.  

Wild Scoops


Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ 

This restaurant is located right off the Turnagain Arm with a nice view of the water. It is the perfect spot to stop for a meal after hiking Bird Ridge.  We enjoyed some fresh BBQ here, and it was nice to have some variety from the abundant, yet delicious, Alaskan seafood.

Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ 


Where to Stay in Anchorage


Mountain Views Airbnb  

Chugach State Park Views from the Bedroom

This cute, exposed basement apartment abuts the Chugach State Park.  The windows in the apartment make you feel like you are sleeping right in the woods.  We loved the location of this Airbnb too as it was within 5 minutes of the Flattop Mountain Trailhead. 

Book your first Airbnb using this link for up to $65 off your first stay

Mountain View Airbnb


We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Anchorage.  Anything else you’d add to our guide?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment. For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, Alaska Quick Guide


Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

Seward, Alaska, located about 2 hours southwest of Anchorage, is the entry to Kenai Fjords National Park.  This national park is well-known for it’s hiking, most notably the Harding Icefield trail, and vast wildlife.  We recommend spending 2-3 days in Seward to allow enough time to explore the park.  Here is our quick guide on Seward, Alaska and Kenai Fjords National Park. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to do in Seward


Hike Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park

Harding Icefield View in Kenai Fjords National Park

This is truly the hike of a lifetime.  If you only do one hike in Alaska, do this one.  Not only is it unforgettable for us because of the pristine and diverse scenery along the trail but also because it is the trail where we got charged by a bear.  See Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes and What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear in Alaska posts for more details. 

This hike is 8.2 miles round trip with 3,812 feet of elevation gain. Add a mile if you hike to the base of glacier before or after.

Views hiking up to the Harding Icefield

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 6+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Visit the base of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

As an alternative or in addition to hiking the Harding Icefield trail, you can hike a shorter, less than 1 mile, trail to the base of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park.  As you hike on this trail, it is very interesting, yet sad,  to see the Glacier recession points over time.  

Base of Exit Glacier

Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

Active Glacier onboard our Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

Other than hiking the Harding Icefield trail and visiting Exit Glacier, take a boat trip is the best way to access Kenai Fjords National Park.  On our 6 hour day tour, we saw an active glacier as well as a lot of wildlife including orca whales, humpback whales, puffins, sea lions, seagulls and sea otters.  No wildlife sightings are guaranteed but the tour companies–through knowing the areas well, using binoculars and communicating with other ships in the park–make their best effort to find as many sightings as possible.  There are several different companies you can use for a tour but Major Marine tours has some of the best online reviews and is the only one with a National Park Ranger aboard. 

Wild Sealions in Kenai Fjords National Park

Major Marine Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

Tip: We recommend doing a full day tour that goes further out into the national park, past the protected Resurrection Bay waters.  You get to go to an active glacier and are more likely to see wildlife on these longer tours.  However, if you easily get motion sick, like Natalie, you may consider doing a half day tour that stays within the protected waters.  Natalie did feel queasy at times on the full day tour, but she felt the motion sickness was worth the extra wildlife and glacier views. 


Hike to Vagt Lake

Vagt Lake outside of Seward, Alaska

This trail was so serene and felt untouched by human activity.  The trail takes you through a beautiful forest before bringing you to the secluded Vagt lake.  While hiking on this trail, we saw no other people but certainly thought we were going to see a bear with how much bear scat we saw along the trail and the heavy foliage around the trail. Make sure you are very “bear aware” here.  (See What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear post.)  This out and back hike is about 3.2 miles and there is an option to loop around the lake that totals a little over 4 miles.

View from where you park to hike the Vagt Lake trail

Tip: This trail was exceedingly hard to find.  It is not marked on google maps, not in the All Trails App and there are no signs on the Seward Highway to indicate where to exit to get to it.  If you google Vagt Lake, the trailhead slightly south of the lake and just off the Seward hiking, south of Lower Trail Lake.  It may take a bit of searching to find the trailhead but we think it is worth it.

Vagt Lake Hike


What/Where to Eat in Seward


Fresh Salmon

We got some fresh, locally caught salmon from the grocery store in Seward which we prepared at our Air B n B cabin.  This salmon was so fresh and delicious, we highly recommend buying locally caught fish. Since our Air B n B had a full kitchen, we did not eat any meals out in Seward so we do not have any restaurant recommendations here. 

Tip: We really enjoyed having a full kitchen and being able to make our own food, especially after some long days of hiking. We recommend accommodations where you can do your own cooking.  


Where to Stay in Seward


Cabin Mile Marker 23

Cabin outside of Kenai Fjords National Park

This Airbnb was one of our favorites.  This cabin felt remote but was located right off of the main Seward highway, about 20 minutes from Seward to the north.  We found this to be the perfect place to unwind and cook after some long days of hiking and exploring Kenai Fjords National Park.

Book your first Airbnb using this link for up to $65 off your first stay

Airbnb Cabin Mile Marker 23


We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park.  Anything else you’d add to our guide?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment! For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

Talketeena, Alaska and Denali National Park Quick Guide


Denali National Park Savage River Loop on a Rainy Day

Talketeena, Alaska is a cozy town, about 2 hours north of Anchorage, that serves as the ‘Gateway to Denali’.  Most people stop here before continuing onto Denali National Park which is about 2.5 hours north of Talkeetna.  This small hippy-ish town has a Sedona-like vibe (see Sedona, Arizona Quick Guide).  The community here is kind, open and accepting of visitors as well as connected to nature.  We recommend spending 1-2 days in this fun little town and at least 1 full day in Denali National Park.  Here is our quick guide on Talkeetna, Alaska and Denali National Park. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to do in Talkeetna


Day trip or overnight trip to Denali National Park

Horseshoe Lake Trail near the Entrance of Denali National Park

Denali National Park is about 2.5 hours north of Talketeena and houses North America’s tallest peak, Denali (previously named Mount McKinley) as well as a vast amount of Alaskan wildlife.  We took a day trip to Denali National Park from Talkeetna where we visited the sled dog kennels, hiked several trails, got some astounding clear views of the Denali peak and explored the visitor center.  

Sled Dog Kennels at Denali
Some of the sled dogs at Denali National Park

Natalie’s favorite part of our visit to Denali National Park was visiting the sled dogs kennel.  If you are a dog person, you will love this experience, especially if you are missing your own pup from home.  Here, you can meet several sled dogs and learn about the history of their use in Alaska and the park.  

Hiking in Denali
Horseshoe Lake Trail

We hiked the Savage River Loop (2 miles round trip) and the Horseshoe Lake trail (3 miles round trip from Visitor Center).  If we had more time, we would have liked to hike the Triple Lakes Trail (9.5 miles one-way) near the entrance of the park or some of the trails further into the park.  Before researching Denali, we did not realize how few marked hiking trails exist within the park (relative to the park’s large size) and that most of the hiking in Denali is backcountry and unmarked.  

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 6+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots

Denali Bus Tours and Driving in the Park
Views Driving in Denali National Park

Other than hiking or backpacking, the best way to see the park is through taking a partial or full day bus tour.  You can only drive the first 15 miles of the road that traverses Denali National Park.  After this point, you have to ride one of the park buses to anywhere else in the park you want to visit.  The road in the park continues to mile 89 but it takes 12 hours to drive to the end of this road and back (road is very narrow and winding, making it so the buses have to drive relatively slowly). 

We only drove the first 15 miles of the park to allow us more flexibility but if you really want to explore more of the park or increase your chance of seeing wildlife, you need to take one of these buses.  Also, be mindful that the parking lot at Savage River (Mile 15) is very small (less than 10 vehicles) and you may not be able to park here.  The parking lot at the entrance is very large and there are free buses to take you the first 15 miles. If you are camping or backpacking, you will need to park at the entrance. 

Why we didn’t do a bus tour

At the point in our trip when we visited Denali National Park, we did not feel the need to see more wildlife. We had already visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (outside of Anchorage, see Anchorage, Alaska Quick Guide post), where we saw all of these animals up-close, and had been charged by a bear while hiking earlier in our trip (see post on What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear). 

Consequently, we opted not to do one of these bus tours as it would have involved a long day of riding on a bus (shortest bus tour offered is 4.5 hours and this one is not ideal for wildlife sighting but more for getting park history).  However, had we not already seen all of these animals up close or been charged by the bear, we would have wanted to do one of the half or full day bus tours in order to see some wildlife.  

Seeing the Denali Peak
Views of Mount Denali, south of Denali National Park gate

We were lucky that we were able to see the Denali peak on both our drives to and from the park as the peak is only visible on ⅓ of the days (due to cloud coverage a majority of the days). You can also see this peak from Talketeena on a clear day but you get better views as you approach the park.  

Tip: Make Denali National Park an overnight trip or several day trip if possible. If we would have had a day or two more, we would have camped in the park or stayed right outside of the park.  The park is large and mainly only accessed by bus or backpacking, making it difficult to experience the vastness of the park to with only a day trip.  We hope to go back to the park in the future to do a backpacking trip.  

Plan your visit Denali National Park


Explore downtown Talkeetna shops 

The vibe of this town–fun, eccentric and earthy–is well reflected in the shops.  We enjoyed visiting all the different little shops in town full of local art and unique items.  This was a relaxing way to spend several hours. 


Hike at Talkeetna Lakes Park

Talkeetna Lakes Park

This park is right outside of Talkeetna and has serene trails that make for an easy, relatively flat, hike.  We hiked the lake trail (3.2 mile loop) and had it completely to ourselves, making it very peaceful.


What/Where to Eat in Talkeetna

From Left to Right: Denali Brewing Company, Nagley’s General Store and Payo’s Kitchen

Denali Brewing Company

This restaurant has a stellar menu, full of fresh food options as well as a variety of different beers.  We enjoyed trying a flight of beers here and liked the food so much, we ate here twice.  

Denali Brewing


Payo’s Kitchen

This Thai restaurant was excellent.  The restaurant is run out of a trailer but do not let that fool you. The food is great.  The dining area attached to the trailer is simple but nice.  If you are lucky enough, you will have a chance to talk to the very kind, local owner.  This restaurant is several miles outside of town but was the perfect place to stop for dinner on the way back from Denali.  There are also some simple Cabins on the same property here that you could rent if you want to stay somewhere a little bit outside of Talkeetna (would be less expensive than staying right in-town).  

Payo’s Kitchen


Nagley’s General Store

This cute general store is the best (and most economical) place to get ice cream in-town.  We highly recommend the Caribou Caramel flavor! 


Talkeetna RoadHouse Bakery & Restaurant 

See below Talkeetna Roadhouse information 


Where to Stay in Talkeetna

Talkeetna RoadHouse

Talkeetna Roadhouse Dining Room

This eclectic hotel/hostel has a homey feel and is located right on main street in downtown Talkeetna. We stayed in a private room here but there are options for hostel style rooms all the way up to private cabins.  Breakfast is not included with your stay but there is a cute restaurant and bakery at the front of the roadhouse that you can easily get a very delicious, and filling, homestyle breakfast or pick up some baked goods.  There is also pid laundry on site if needed on your trip. We really enjoyed our stay here and would highly recommend it.

Talkeetna Roadhouse  


We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Talketeena and Denali National Park.  Anything else you’d add to our guide?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment! For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes


As “The Last Frontier”, there is no shortage of excellent hikes in Alaska. Here is a list of our top 5 most picturesque hikes within 2 hours of Anchorage.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


1. Harding Icefield Trail at Kenai Fjords National Park

8.2 miles round trip, add a mile if you hike to the base of Exit glacier before or after, 3,812 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Harding Icefield Trail

This hike is one of our favorite trails and the most memorable hike we have ever completed.  The trail is most notably unforgettable because we got charged by a mama black bear (protecting her 3 cubs) while hiking on it (see post on What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear).  However, this hike is also very memorable because of the beautiful and breathtaking scenery along the trail. 

The base of this trail is wooded and then after about 1.5 miles, the trail opens up to meadows filled with beautiful fireweed flowers (typically start blooming in August).  Through this stretch of the hike, you are rewarded with glorious views of the mountains and valley below.   Eventually, the trail opens up to the Icefield that stretches as far as you can see.  This view is truly incredible and pictures do not do it justice. 

If you do only one hike in Alaska, this is the one to do.  The various landscapes changing throughout the hike (forest->meadow->mountainous->glacier) make each section unique. It’s the hike of a lifetime. Be aware, though, that this is a steep trail as you gain about 1,000 feet of elevation every mile.  Be sure you have enough water and food with you. (See Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, Alaska Quick Guide for more tips on this area).

Various landscapes seen on the Harding Icefield Trail

Tip: If possible, start hiking this trail early, before 10am.  On our midweek hike, we started around 9am and had minimal traffic hiking out (likely contributed to our bear encounter) but hiking back, there was a lot of more traffic.  

Harding Icefield Trail

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 6+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


2. Portage Pass Trail at Portage Glacier

4 miles round trip, 1,578 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Portage Pass Glacier

We found this hike to be very serene and rewarding.  It takes you to the base of Portage Glacier outside of Whittier.  For approximately the first mile on this trail, you climb to the top of a pass that affords you views of Portage Glacier.  The next mile, you descend until you are at the base of the Glacier. 

Tip:  If you can stay overnight in Whittier and start this hike early, we would recommend it. The trailhead is located very close to the tunnel entrance on the Whittier side. When we started our hike, we were the only car at the trailhead/the only ones on the trail.  Most other people were not on the trail at that time because, if coming from outside of Whittier, they had to wait for the tunnel to open at approximately 9:30am to let them through to Whittier. We really enjoyed having this trail to ourselves and being at the base of the glacier alone was so serene.  Make sure to go Kayaking in Whittier if you have time for it. (See Whittier, Alaska Quick Guide

Portage Pass Trail


3. North Face Trail at Alyeska Resort

2.2 miles one-way, take tram down, 1,998 feet of elevation gain

Alyeska North Face Trail

This is a challenging hike but the views of the mountain range are awesome and at the end, you have the option to take the tram down (for free) instead of hiking back down.  This ride down is an awesome reward after a challenging and steep hike. The trail is located north of Girdwood, which is a fun, small town to explore before or after your hike as well.

North Face Trail at Alyeska


4. Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park

3.3 mile hike round trip, 1,430 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Flattop Mountain Trail

This trail is another challenging yet rewarding and relatively short hike located within 15 minutes of Anchorage. To reach the top, you have to do quite a bit of scrambling but as long as you feel comfortable doing this, you will be rewarded with stunning views and learn why they call it “Flattop Mountain.”  The views are worth the scramble and if lucky, you may get to witness a local daredevil parachute from the top.  This hike is a very popular, and sometimes crowded, trail but do not let that discourage you. 

Flattop Mountain Trail


5. Twin Peaks Trail at Eklutna Lake

5 miles roundtrip. 1,879 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Eklunta Lake View (Left) and Twin Peaks View (Right)

This trail is another one of our favorite Alaska hikes with 2 different great views–the Ekluntna lake view and Twin Peaks. Eklutna lake is so beautiful and such a unique shade of blue. The Twin Peaks view is also stunning and you might see mountain sheep along the peaks like we did.  On our mid-week hike, we saw less than 10 people total on this hike and found it to be very peaceful.   

Tip: Hike to the 1st bench (Ekluntna lake view) and then to the 2nd bench (Twin Peaks view). You can continue further on the trail but this was where we turned around to make a 5 mile round trip hike. 

Twin Peaks Trail


Bonus Hike: April Bowl in Hatcher Pass

2.2 miles round trip, 856 feet of elevation gain

Hatcher Pass Trail

This hike is in the very scenic Hatcher Pass. On this hike, you climb to the turquoise tarn called April Bowl, before continuing up the ridge to Hatch Peak (4.811 feet above sea level). This hike rewards you with amazing views of the mountain range in the area.  You’ll feel like you are on top of the world. 

Tip: Be aware that it takes longer to drive to this area than you would expect as the road that leads to it has a lot of winding roads/steep areas. 

April Bowl Pass


We hope this blog post helps you plan your next hike in Alaska. Any other hikes you would add to our list?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment!  For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide


The Perfect Alaska Road Trip

Alaska is the perfect place to take a road trip as it is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. The views you will be afforded while driving through Alaska will not disappoint you. Literally everywhere you look, there is a picturesque mountain and/or lake view.

Alaska is also one of the most remote places we have ever visited. During our time in Alaska, we learned many things we take for granted in the lower 48 states are hard to come by in some of the more remote areas of the state. With the remote nature of some of these towns, many of them are very eclectic and truly one-of-a-kind. The best way to describe it, as one local told us is “everything is just as nice as it needs to be.” 

On our Alaskan adventure, we gained over 17,000 feet of elevation hiking, survived a bear charging us and nearly got stuck there due to a wildfire blocking the only paved road back to Anchorage.  We had a true Alaskan experience on our road trip and hope to help you plan your own trip. Below is what we consider, the perfect Alaska road trip itinerary, starting in Anchorage.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


Day 1 Alaska Road Trip: Arrive in Anchorage, Drive towards Whittier and Explore South of Anchorage Along the Way

On day one of our Alaska road trip, we arrived in Anchorage early, around 5am on a red-eye flight. This early arrival gave us a full first day to start exploring Alaska.  After picking up our rental car (see How to Save on a Rental Car), we started our journey south on the Seward Highway towards Whittier, Alaska (about 90 minutes from Anchorage) and drove along the scenic Turnagain Arm.


Potter Marsh Boardwalk
Potter Marsh Boardwalk Alaska Road Trip Stop
Potter Marsh Boardwalk Views

Our first stop on the Turnagain Arm was the Potter Marsh Boardwalk which is right off the Seward Highway.  This boardwalk stretches 1,500 feet, giving you amazing Turnagain Arm views and many wildlife, especially bird, viewing opportunities. Plan to spend about 30-60 minutes here. 


Beluga Point Lookout
Beluga Point Lookout Alaska Road Trip Stop
Beluga Point Lookout

Next, we drove a few minutes south to the very picturesque Beluga Point Lookout.  Here you get classic Turnagain Arm views and great photography opportunities (one of our best Alaska pictures from here).   Plan to spend about 15 minutes admiring the views and taking pictures. 


Bird Ridge Trail
Bird Ridge Trail Alaska Road Trip Stop
Bird Ridge Trail Views

After stopping at Beluga point, we drove to the Bird Ridge Trailhead.  This hike affords you panoramic views of the Turnagain Arm as well as Chugach State Park.  This hike is no joke though, it is a serious climb.  You gain 3,400 feet of Elevation in less than 2.5 miles on the climb out.  The views are worth the effort but be prepared with plenty of water and snacks and a bit of scrambling to end the hike.  See Anchorage, Alaska Quick Guide for more details on this hike. We did not bring enough snacks but enjoyed a delicious lunch after at the Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ. 

Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ Alaska Road Trip Stop
Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ

Girdwood

Natalie rolled her ankle pretty seriously at the end of the Bird Ridge trail (after misstepping on a rock) so we had to take a detour to Girdwood to buy an ankle brace.  This detour gave us an appreciation for the lack of major infrastructure outside of Anchorage as it was difficult to locate an ankle brace in the area.  Thankfully, we found one (literally only one) at a small local pharmacy that had just opened in Girdwood, Alaska. For being the only option, this brace worked very well and we were able to continue on with our hiking trip. 

We planned to stop in Girdwood anyways to hike the short (and thankfully very flat) Lower Winner Trail due to its very unique feature, a hand tram. However, when we arrived in the town, we found the hand tram was closed due to 4 people recently dying on it.  We opted to hike part of the trail which allowed us to still see the hand tram (but not use it).  Once we saw the hand tram in person, it was exceedingly clear to us why it was so dangerous. The tram is hand operated and goes over a rapidly flowing stream full of large sharp rocks.  Regardless, this route was a pretty and easy trail. 


Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Alaska Road Trip Stop
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

After stopping in Girdwood, we headed to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is home to many native Alaskan animals that were injured or abandoned at a young age in the wild.  Here, these animals have a safe home and you can safely get up close to many of the animals. 

Seeing all the native Alaskan animals in very close proximity was certainly a highlight of our trip.  It was especially very cool to see Moose and Grizzly Bears up close.  The size of their hooves and paws was astounding.  Please see Anchorage, Alaska Quick Guide for more information on visiting here. 


Whittier
Whittier, Alaska Harbor Alaska Road Trip Stop
Whittier, Alaska

After getting in our Alaskan wildlife viewing fix, we headed to Whittier for our first overnight stop.  Getting to this small town, home to about 200 year-round residents, was an adventure in itself.  To get to this quaint and remote town by car, you have to drive through a one-way tunnel that runs through Maynard mountain.  We waited for a little less than 30 minutes to go through this tunnel into town.  During this time, we watched cars, and even a train, come through the one-way tunnel from the other way.  After checking into our eclectic accommodations, we ate dinner at the local Chinese restaurant in town. 

For more information on our accommodations and visiting Whittier, Alaska, please see Whittier, Alaska Quick Guide.   


Day 2: Day Sea Kayaking Trip from Whittier, Alaska

Kayaking in Whittier
Kayaking in Whittier
Sea Kayaking

Day two of our Alaska road trip was one of the most memorable as we went sea kayaking on the extremely scenic Passage Canal.  This kayak trip we took was about 6 hours and the views we were afforded while kayaking were truly unbelievable.  We also saw wild salmon and sea otters on our outing.  Further, we did a short hike along the shore after eating an excellent picnic lunch (prepared by Alaska Sea Kayakers). For more information on our kayaking trip, please see Whittier, Alaska Quick Guide

Alaska Sea Kayakers Trip
Alaska Sea Kayakers Trip

After a full day of kayaking and some most picturesque views we have ever seen, we headed to the Inn at Whittier for a very delicious dinner.  This restaurant was recommended to us by our kayaking guide as the best place to eat in Whittier and we would have to agree.  The food and the views overlooking the harbor were excellent.  After our dinner, we headed back to our accommodations in Whittier to rest up before heading out for some hiking the next day.  

Kayaking in Whittier,
Kayaking in Whittier

Day 3: Hike Portage Pass in Whittier, Drive to Seward, Alaska

Hiking Portage Pass, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Portage Pass
Hike Portage Pass

The first adventure on the agenda for this day of our Alaska road trip was to hike Portage Pass in Whittier.  This trail is a scenic, and relatively short hike (4 miles round trip, 1,578 feet of elevation gain).  This trail allows you to access the Portage Glacier by foot and affords you close views of it as well.  Staying in Whittier allowed us to be the first ones on the trail, around 9am, before the one-way tunnel to Whittier opened at 9:30am.  You could alternatively stay in the Anchorage area and drive down to Whittier in the morning but we would highly recommend the quaint experience of staying in the small town of Whittier.  For more information on this hike, please see Whittier, Alaska Quick Guide and Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes

Hiking Portage Pass Trail, Portage Glacier, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Portage Pass Trail

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 6+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


After we completed this hike, we started our drive south towards our next stop on our Alaska road trip, Seward, Alaska. Seward is located on the scenic Seward highway, about 75 minutes south from Whittier, Alaska.  Along the way, we stopped in several small towns including Moosepass. In Moosepass, the convenience store is also the local deli, clothing store, souvenir shop, post office and just about anything else you can imagine.  It was fun to stop at this local “everything” shop and it gave us an even better appreciation of small town Alaska. 


Drive to Seward

Once we arrived in Seward, we went downtown to book our Kenai Fjords National Park Boat tour for the next day and stocked up on groceries at the local supermarket.  We rented a simple and cozy cabin, tucked away in the woods, about 20 minutes north of Seward.  We highly recommend renting a larger place because it made our time in Seward more relaxing and we were able to cook our own delicious, and less pricey, seafood. 

Seward, Alaska, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Seward Airbnb

Use this link to get up to $65 off your first Airbnb

Link to our Cabin outside of Seward

 


Day 4: Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour in Seward, Alaska

Hike Vagt Lake
Vagt Lake, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Vagt Lake Hiking View

This morning of our Alaska road trip, before our mid-morning boat tour, we headed out for a brief hike at Vagt Lake.  This lake was located less than 5 minutes north of our cabin and was very secluded as well as serene. On this trail, we saw no one else while hiking, most likely because no one else could find it. Please see Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, Alaska Quick Guide for tips on how to find this trailhead. 

On this trail, you hike for about 1.5 miles before coming to Vagt Lake that is hidden in the trees.  If you have some extra time in the morning, make sure to do this relatively short (3.2 miles round-trip) and flat hike as it is exceedingly serene. 


Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour
Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

After hiking to Vagt lake, we headed into town to get on our 11am boat tour.  The companies that put on these tours offer all different lengths and times of the tours.  We are glad we went on one of the longer, full, day tours because this tour took us beyond the protected Resurrection Bay waters and further into the park, allowing us the opportunity to see more wildlife and active glaciers. 

On our tour, we saw orca whales, humpback whales, puffins, sea lions, seagulls and sea otters.  This tour was a nice afternoon excursion and definitely an experience we will remember for a lifetime.  After we finished our tour, we headed back to our cabin for dinner and to rest up before our longest, and most exhilarating hike (for numerous reasons) of our trip on Day 6, the Harding Icefield Trail.

Kenai Fjords Boat Tours


Day 5: Hike Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park

Harding Icefield, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Harding Icefield view at the End of the Trail

This morning of our Alaska road trip, we headed out early to hike to the Harding Icefield and to the base of Exit Glacier.   This is the most memorable hike we have ever completed.  The trail is most notably momentous for us because we got charged by a bear (see post What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear). 

Hiking Harding Icefield, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Forest, Valley, Mountain and Icefield Views on the Harding Icefield Trail

However, this hike is also very unforgettable because of the beautiful and breathtaking scenery along the trail.   This hike affords you beautiful mountain, valley and icefield views. This hike took us about 6 hours to complete (8.2 miles round trip, add a mile if you hike to the base of glacier before or after, 3,812 feet of elevation gain) and was truly the highlight of our trip.  If you only do one hike in Alaska, do this one. 

Please see Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes and Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, Alaska Quick Guide for more information on this trail.


Day 6: Drive back to Anchorage, Hike Northface Trail in Girdwood and Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park, Dinner in Anchorage

Northface Trail at Alyeska
Northface Trail at Alyeska Ski Resort, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Northface Trail at Alyeska Ski Resort

The next morning, we started our journey back towards Anchorage, stopping in Girdwood to hike the Northface Trail.  This trail is located at the Alyeska ski resort and has amazing mountain views.  It is unique because, despite being a steep hike out, you can take the ski tram back down the mountain which is a great reward after a very strenuous up-hill (2.2 miles one-way, take tram down, 1,998 feet of elevation gain) hike. 


Flattop Mountain
Hiking Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Flattop Mountain Views in Chugach State Park

After hiking the Northface Trail, we headed to meet Sam’s friend, Bert.  Sam had met Bert while temporarily living in Anchorage during graduate school in 2013 and we hiked with him on the Flattop Mountain Trail on the southern end of Anchorage. 

This trail is one of the most popular in Anchorage for good reason.  This hike presents you with great mountain views.  It is another steep hike (3.3 mile hike round trip, 1,430 feet of elevation gain, out & back) but relatively fast-paced and has a bit of scrambling to reach the summit.  Once at the top, be sure to walk around the entire summit area to soak in all the different pretty views before heading back down. 

For more information on this trail, please see Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes 


Staying in Anchorage

Next, we headed to our Airbnb, that was less than 5 minutes from the Flattop Mountain Trailhead and abutted Chugach State Park.  We highly recommend this Airbnb because of the views seen right out the front door.  You literally feel like you are sleeping in the woods but with all the comforts of being inside. 

Chugach State Park
Views from the Bedroom at our AirBnB in Chugach State Park

Use this link to get up to $65 off your first Airbnb

Link to our Airbnb in Chugach State Park


Glacier Brewing Company

After freshening up from hiking, we met Bert out at Glacier Brewing Company for dinner.  We enjoyed the food, beer and atmosphere here.  Afterwards, we went to get ice cream (because life is too short to ever skip dessert) at Wild Scoops.  Here, we got some delicious small-batch homemade ‘Frozen Nachos.’  If you love ice cream like we do, definitely check this place out. 


Day 7: Hike Eklutna Lake, Drive to Talkeetna

Eluklanta Lake
Hiking Twin Peaks Trail at Eluklanta Lake, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Views on Twin Peaks Trail

After waking up to peaceful views of Chugach State Park, we started our journey north towards our next stop on our Alaska road trip, Talkeetna (about 2.5 hours north of Anchorage).  On our way, we stopped on the northern outskirts of Anchorage at Eluklanta Lake to hike the Twin Peaks trail (5 miles roundtrip. 1,879 feet of elevation gain, out & back).  This hike gives you two amazing views–the first of the idyllic bright blue Eklutna Lake and the second of the Twin Peaks. 

For more information on this trail, please see Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes


Talkeetena, Alaska
Talkeetna, Alaska, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Some shops and restaurants in Talkeetena

Next, we headed to the quaint earthy town of Talkeetna. The town atmosphere reminded us a bit of Sedona, Arizona (Coming soon, see Sedona, Arizona Quick Guide).  This eclectic town has a fun laid-back vibe.  There are a ton of cute shops here and many good restaurants. 

After arriving in Talkeetna, we headed to Denali Brewing Company for some food and flights of beer (per recommendations from a friend who lived in Alaska).  The food and beer were great, and it was very nice to enjoy the evening on the patio.   This restaurant is right on the main street in town and within walking distance of our accommodations.  We stayed at the lovely Talkeetna RoadHouse.  This Roadhouse is right in the heart of town and has a very homey feel.  If you are able, definitely stay here.  We headed to bed as we had an early day ahead of us the next day. 

Please see Talkeetna, Alaska and Denali National Park Quick Guide.


Day 8: Day Trip to Denali National Park

Denali National Park, Alaska Road Trip Stop
View of the Denali Peak, South of the Park

On day 8 of our Alaska road trip, we headed out early in the morning, around 6am, to start our day trip to Denali National Park (about 2.5 hours from Talkeetna).  On our way to the park, we saw three female moose on the side of the road and experienced stunning, clear views of Denali.  We were very lucky to be heading to the park on a day where you could see the mountain clearly as it is only visible one out of every three days due to cloud coverage. 


Vistor Center and Sled Dog Kennels
Sled Dog Kennels in Denali National Park, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Sled Dog Kennels in Denali National Park

Once arriving at the park, we went to the main visitors center and talked to a park ranger.  We then explored the visitors center, enjoying two video presentations and walking around the history/informative displays in the visitors center before driving to the sled dog kennel. 

If you are a dog person, definitely do this.  It was fun to meet some of the sled dogs and learn more about the history surrounding them.  They also put on some interactive dog sled presentations. We did not stick around for the presentation, but we think this experience would be fun for a family with young children. 


Hiking in Denali
Horseshoe Lake, Denali National Park, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Horseshoe Lake

After visiting the sled dog kennels, we headed further into the park, to Savage River, the furthest point you can drive into the park with your own car.  Here we hiked the Savage River Loop (2 miles Roundtrip).  The morning we hiked, it was raining.  We had proper rain jackets but really could have used some good rain pants (and since then we have invested in his and her versions of these). 

After finishing our Savage River Loop hike, we headed back to the entrance of the park. By this time, the rain had cleared up so we were able to hike Horseshoe Trail Loop (3 miles round trip from Visitor Center) without a downpour. 

On this short day trip, we only got a quick taste of Denali National Park and you may want to consider making this National Park a multi-day trip or visiting it as a trip all on its own.  Please see Talkeetna, Alaska and Denali National Park Quick Guide for more information and tips on this park.  


Tip: If you are limited on time and not keen on hiking, consider taking a helicopter tour around Denali National Park. 

Although very pricey, the views from these helicopters are astounding (from pictures we have seen) and you can take these from Talkeetna, saving you some time as well.  We opted not to do this, we prefer to get our views hiking, but highly considered it.  Here is a link to the highly rated Helicopter tour company in Talkeetna we considered taking.  

Fly Over Denali


Day 9 Alaska Road Trip: Breakfast in Talkeetna, Hike April Bowl in Hatcher Pass, Fly Home

April Bowl in Hatcher Pass, Alaska Road Trip Stop
Top of April Bowl in Hatcher Pass

On the last morning of our Alaska road trip, we headed out for an easy morning hike around Talkeetna Lakes Park, about 10 minutes (driving) from the Talkeetna Roadhouse.  This hike was peaceful and serene, as are nearly all Alaskan hikes. Unlike most Alaskan hikes though, this trail was very flat.  We then headed back to the Talkeetna Roadhouse Bakery to have a delicious homemade quiche before heading back towards Anchorage. 


Hiking Hatcher Pass
April Bowl, Hatcher Pass, Alaska Road Trip Stop
View of Hatcher Pass from April Bowl Path

On the way back to Anchorage, we stopped in Hatcher Pass to hike the April Bowl Pass.  The Hatcher Pass area is truly a hidden gem. Reaching this area will take you much longer than you would expect, due to very winding roads, but going out of your way to see it is worth the extra time. 

The area is stunning and the April Bowl hike is relatively short (2.2 miles round trip, 856 feet of elevation gain) but exceedingly scenic because you start it at a higher elevation and you get spectacular elevated mountain range views without as much effort.   You will feel like you are on top of the world when you reach the peak that is 4,811 feet above sea level.  This hike was the perfect end to an amazing trip. 

We hope to make it back one day to do even more exploring and reach some of the more remote National Parks in Alaska but for now we have great memories from this trip. 


Tip: Be Prepared for Plans to Quickly Change in Alaska

As Alaska is more remote and with less infrastructure than the lower 48 states, be prepared for plans to change quickly in Alaska.  On the second to last day of our trip, a massive wildfire broke out, after a lightning strike, about 10 miles south of Talkeetna.  This wildfire involved the Parks Highway, the only paved road leading back to Anchorage. The road was closed because of the fire. 

Wildfire Chaos

Due to this closure and no alternative road leading us South back to Anchorage, we were in a bit of a pickle on our Alaska road trip.  We talked to the staff at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, who were very helpful, and found out our three options in order not to miss our flight the next day. 

1. Charter a plane from Talkeetna to Anchorage (talk about pricey, definitely not happening).

2. Drive north, past Denali and then cross the state East (on over 120 miles of unpaved/unserviced road) to another main highway that parallels the Parks Hwy to then head south towards Anchorage (an over 12 hour endeavor). 

3. Wait to see if the road re-opens the next day. 

Since our flight was not until the evening of the next day, we tested our luck and waited to see if the road would open back up.  Thankfully, the fire was contained and the road opened, not completely but with a pilot car that led vehicles through the heavy smoke.  This wildfire thankfully turned out to be much less of an issue for our travels than we anticipated. However, this gave us a true appreciation for how everything is just a bit more complicated in Alaska. 


We hope this itinerary helps you plan your own Alaskan road trip.  For more information on our trip to Alaska, please see:

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

What You Can Learn From Being Charged By A Bear


First, let’s start with what happened before we go through the takeaways from our experience. 

While hiking in Alaska and going around a tight, wooded switchback, we stumbled upon a mama black bear with her three cubs. Keep in mind that these were Alaska sized bears, not your smaller sized lower 48 bears. These bears were only about 25 feet away from us initially.  Mama bear was on the trail and her three cubs were in the tree next to her.  When we startled each other on the trail, the mama bear snarled, stomped her feet and then started running towards us…

That’s right, A BEAR WAS RUNNING AT US!

This bear got within 10 feet of us or as we say ‘touching distance.’  As the bear was running towards us, Sam simultaneously made himself very big and started yelling. After what seemed like the scariest seconds of our lives, the bear thankfully backed down.  The bear then went back to the tree with her cubs, but continued to maintain eye contact with us. Then, we slowly backed down the trail, with our hands still in the air and yelling.  We were worried the bear might charge us again but thankfully she did not.  In retrospect, we find this “freeze, hands in the air!” moment a bit comical. However, in the moment, it was anything but comical.

Unlike Sam, Natalie froze in this life-threatening moment for several seconds before following Sam’s actions and also throwing her hands in the air/yelling. Natalie’s reaction prompted us to write this post so hopefully, if you ever have an encounter like ours, you do not also freeze. In addition to being aware and mindful of your surroundings…

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


1. Carry bear spray in your hand while hiking, NOT on the side of your backpack

If there was anytime to use bear spray on our trip, this would have been it.  However, we were carrying our bear spray on the side of Sam’s backpack and there was not enough time to grab it.   Prior to this encounter, we saw people hiking with bear spray in their hands and we thought it was excessive.  It was NOT excessive.  If you truly have a bear encounter where you need to use the bear spray and if it is anywhere other than your hand, you probably will not have time to grab.  We saw many people hiking with guns as well.  Interestingly enough, a study was done on using bear spray versus a gun in a bear encounter and the jist of this study is that 9/10 times, you are more accurate at hitting the bear with the bear spray than a gun, likely because bear spray is more broad and easier to use in a high-pressure situation.  Take this information as you please but please carry bear spray in your hand while hiking.  Also, make sure you know how to use the bear spray, otherwise, it’s useless! 

Buy your bear spray using this link: Bear Repellent Spray -EPA Certified, Maximum Strength & Distance


2. Make noise, A LOT of it

The park ranger we encountered in Kenai Fjords National Park advised us that carrying a conversation should be enough to scare a bear away. Clearly, it was not as Sam and I were talking AND intermittently clapping when this encounter happened. We also were wearing bear bells.  Admittedly, we were not being very loud while talking and definitely could have been making more noise with more frequent/louder clapping.  Typically, bears really want nothing to do with you and if they hear you coming, they’ll likely get out of there before you ever see them.  We recommend talking at a louder-than-normal level, especially if there are only two of you, as well as clapping loud frequently.  


3. Hike in a group of three or more

Did you know that there are rarely bear attacks in groups of 3 or more while hiking and there has never been a documented bear attack in a group of 6 or more while hiking?  This fact is likely because the more people you hike with, the more noise you make and the more likely a bear is to get scared away.  Moral of the story, hike with as many people as possible.  After our encounter, we went back up the trail with a group of 8 for several wooded miles and then did the rest of the hike with one other couple (4 people total).


4. Practice what to do if you do encounter a bear

If hiking in a group, making a lot of noise and being aware of your surroundings is not enough to prevent a bear encounter, it is important you know what to do.  Below is a link to the bear safety page on the National Parks website. We recommend reviewing this information and then drilling yourself on what you do in different bear encounter situations.  Remember, what you should do depends on the situation and type of bear you encounter. We always say, when we have kids, before we take them hiking, we will be doing bear drills with them to make sure they are prepared.  There is a reason people do fire drills so why not do bear drills?  There are signs at most of the trail heads about what to do in a bear encounter situation so take the time to review that information every time you see it. 

What to do in a Bear Encounter, Picture from Kenai Fjords National Park Alaska

 National Parks Service Bear Safety


Final Thoughts

We are VERY grateful for Sam and his clear thinking in a true fight or flight moment.  Also, we are very thankful for the friends we made on the trail (after turning back) who helped us find the courage, through safety in numbers, to go back up the trail (past the spot where we encountered the bears) and finish this once in a lifetime hike to the Harding IceField in Kenai Fjords National Park.  To this day, 1 year later when we are writing this post, the whole experience still feels surreal and unbelievable.  Sam literally saved our lives.  Anytime we have a disagreement, Sam always can always say “… but remember that time I saved us from getting attacked by a bear?” As to Natalie will reply “it was one time!”


We hope this post helps you prepare for any potential bear encounters you may have while hiking.  Do you have any other tips on how to prevent bear encounters? We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment!

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

For information on hikes where you may encounter bears, please see: