Hey there! You might remember that I traveled to Alaska last year on a family vacation (check out my 10-day itinerary here!). Well this cold and snowy weather has got me thinking about that beautiful state and daydreaming of when I can return to do some more hiking.
We got to do a little hiking last year in Denali National Park and Seward, but I’d love to go back and explore some areas I didn’t get to check out on foot, like the Kenai Peninsula or the Chugach Mountains.
Alaska is stunning—there is so much to explore in this wild and wonderful state! I’m just starting to plan my next trip, but I’m thinking I’ll try and tackle some of the best hikes in Alaska when I make it out there.
What To Know Before Hiking in Alaska
If you’re anything like me, the challenge of hiking the Alaskan backcountry in the winter sounds both thrilling and terrifying! I’m sure you’re up to the challenge, but I’d recommend exploring the Alaskan tundra in the summer for a few reasons.
First, there’s much more daylight in the summer months, and hiking trails will be less dangerous if they’re not slick with ice or snow. If you’re really set on seeing snow, check out some of the higher elevation trails—they’ll probably still have it, even in the summer!
If you’re planning on backpacking or camping, it’s a good idea to make campsite reservations in advance (if possible). Alaska is a popular summer destination, and campsites fill up with hikers quickly. You’ll also want to plan ahead for which trails you’d like to hike and obtain any permits that might be required, since some trails only allow a few people per day.
One of the things that makes hiking in Alaska so exciting is the wildlife. I mean, where else in the country do you have the opportunity to stumble upon a moose or a bear? But Alaskan wildlife is dangerous as well as beautiful, so make sure you know what to do if you encounter dangerous wildlife, and carry bear spray with you when you’re out hiking.
Best Alaskan Hiking Trails for Every Kind of Hiker
I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle in terms of my hiking abilities—I love it, but I’m not equipped with all the gear to do the most intense hikes. The hikes I’ve handpicked range in difficulty but all promise amazing views. By flying in and out of Anchorage, you’ll be pretty centrally located to explore all that Alaska has to offer.
Best Glacier Hike: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
I’ve always wanted to hike on a glacier, so hiking Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park is at the top of my list.
Exit Glacier is close to the town of Seward, Alaska. There are several different hiking trails to access Exit Glacier, including Glacier View Loop Trail. This trail is a fully-paved loop that’s accessible to hikers of all skill levels. The trailhead even starts at the parking lot, so it’s easy to find for novice hikers.
If you’d like a guided hike with a ranger, they’re available at Exit Glacier’s nature center. However you choose to take in the sights of this gorgeous glacier, you’re sure to be amazed by the one-of-a-kind glacial landscape. And before you go, make sure you read my other post on how to take the most beautiful pictures ever while you’re there!
Pro tip: This hike shares a trailhead with the Harding Icefield Trail, so if you’re feeling ambitious, try out both of these gorgeous glacier hikes! The Harding Icefield Trail is more intense—it’s about 8-miles round trip and has over 4,000 feet of elevation gain, but the glacier views from the peak are spectacular!
Best Day Hike: Flattop Mountain, Anchorage
The Flattop Mountain Trail is located just outside of Anchorage, so it’s a great hike to take if you’re visiting Alaska but not planning on doing much hiking. Between day trips checking out Girdwood (one of the most beautiful towns in Alaska!) and Eagle River (a suburb of Anchorage), hike Flattop Mountain in the Chugach State Park.
The Flattop Mountain Trail truly has it all: gently sloping paths, steep stretches, snow (yes, even in the summer!), and views of not one but three mountain peaks as well as the Eagle River. It’s variety and proximity to Anchorage make it a popular destination for hikers, so don’t expect to take in the views all by yourself.
Flattop Mountain Trail isn’t the best option for handicapped hikers, but if you’re able to handle hikes of moderate difficulty, then Flattop Mountain is a fun and beautiful option.
Easiest Alaskan Hike: Two Lakes Trail, Seward
If you’re looking to stretch your legs on an easy Alaskan trail with great lake views, then check out the Two Lakes Trail outside of Seward. It’s a simple, meandering trail that winds its way between two beautiful lakes. Along the way, you’ll find yourself wandering through groves of spruce and hemlock trees with leaves bigger than your head (for real!).
Two Lakes Trail is great for people who like to be outside but don’t consider themselves “hikers.” After all, everyone needs some fresh air now and again, and there’s no place better to find it than Alaska!
Best Hike with a Mountain View: Eielson Alpine Trail, Denali National Park
I got to explore Denali National Park last time I was in Alaska, but I didn’t see enough to quench my thirst for this stunning park. It’s no exaggeration to say Denali National Park boasts some of the best hikes in Alaska.
If you’re looking for a short hike that guarantees views of Denali, then the Eielson Alpine Trail is the one for you. Even on a cloudy day, the view of Denali across the open vista is absolutely amazing!
This hike really gives you some bang for your buck—it’s short (only 1.75 miles round trip from the trailhead), but pretty steep, so plan to spend a couple of hours on this trail. If you’re feeling up to it, you can continue along the trail to Thoro Peak for even more impressive views. Check out the visitor center for information on all the best hikes in this beautiful park.
Get Ready for the Best Trip of Your Life
From waterfalls to glaciers and snowy mountains to stunning lakes, Alaska has something to offer for every kind of traveler, including some of the best hikes in the world. I can’t wait to get out there again! Stay tuned in the next few weeks for my Alaska bucket list and the rest of my Alaskan summer plans. Until then, get outside and start adventuring!