We couldn’t begin to make a master list of the best hikes in Alaska – there’s too much beautiful wilderness. But we can share some hikes that offer astounding mountain views. As the first of a series of blogs on hiking trails, here are a few of our favorites!
You can hardly leave Alaska without seeing the mother of all North American mountains: Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley. You can find this spectacular 20,308-foot mountain within the illustrious Denali National Park. There aren’t as many maintained trails as you’d expect at a national park – a testimony to its preserved state – but you can find one of the best trails for viewing Denali starting at the Eielson Visitors Center. The trail is just 33 miles from the mountain’s summit and at an elevation of 3,300 feet, so if it’s a clear day you’ll get some incredible views. Watch for Dall sheep, one of the park’s big five animals to spot, along the trail. If you’d like to learn about the park’s natural history as you go, ranger-guided hikes are available too.
This 7.3mile trail, found on the Kenai Peninsula in the Chugach National Forest, is accessible at Mile 5 along the Seward Highway. You will traverse numerous habitats including subalpine tundra, forests and meadows, giving you vistas of nearby and faraway mountains such as Mt. Ascension. Lost Lake is an alpine habitat that will give you a chance to see Alaska wildlife, including black and brown bears. If you want a longer day out, the trail connects with the Primrose Trail for a 15-mile hike.
For a short yet spectacular trail, visit Portage Pass. The 2-mile (one way) trail follows the route of early settlers, Russian fur traders and Alaska natives. It’s the only trail that provides views of the famous Portage Glacier, which once extended over the entire 14 miles of the Portage Valley. You’ll also have beautiful views of the Chugach Mountains. The trail goes to Portage Lake, created by the glacier, where you can still see pieces of ice breaking off. The pass is also a migratory route for birds, so if you’re into bird watching, grab your binoculars.
One of Alaska’s favorite hikes, the 21-mile Crow Pass starts in Girdwood and ends at the Eagle River Nature Center. It traverses the Chugach Mountains and follows a portion of the original Iditarod dog-sledding trail. But you don’t have to hike the entire trail to get some of the best mountain views – the first four miles give you plenty. Bears, mountain goats and moose are frequently spotted on the trail. You can also see waterfalls and glaciers along Crow Pass. We recommend taking two days to finish the trail so you have time to enjoy all the scenery. If you’re in your tent catching your breath, remember that each year marathoners complete the trail in a few hours. Phew!
The Bird Ridge Trail is a 5-mile trek along the spine of a mountain in Chugach State Park. The effort pays off with views of the gorgeous Turnagain Arm, the Chugach Mountains and nearby valleys and creeks. Find it about 25 miles south of Anchorage.