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.
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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
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).
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.
2. Portage Pass Trail at Portage Glacier
4 miles round trip, 1,578 feet of elevation gain, out & back
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)
3. North Face Trail at Alyeska Resort
2.2 miles one-way, take tram down, 1,998 feet of elevation gain
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.
4. Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park
3.3 mile hike round trip, 1,430 feet of elevation gain, out & back
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.
5. Twin Peaks Trail at Eklutna Lake
5 miles roundtrip. 1,879 feet of elevation gain, out & back
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.
Bonus Hike: April Bowl in Hatcher Pass
2.2 miles round trip, 856 feet of elevation gain
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.
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!