At the end of the month, Elizabeth and I are getting married! If this post is how you found out about our wedding then I’m sorry you weren’t invited. Rather than dwelling on this awkward moment, we thought we’d put together a little guide with some of our favorite day trips from Anchorage.
- Things to do in Anchorage
- Day Trips South of Anchorage – Chugach National Forest & Chugach National Forest
- Glaciers and more in Chugach National Forest
- Hiking suggestions near Girdwood
- Day Trips North of Anchorage – Eklutna Lake & Chugach State Park
- Day Trips North of Anchorage – Hatcher Pass
- Weekend Trips from Anchorage
- Anchorage Breweries
- Recommended Reading for more Alaskan Adventures
Things to do in Anchorage
From Anchorage, there are really only two directions you can go: south towards Seward or north towards Denali but the simple fact is that either of those popular destinations will take more than a day trip from Anchorage. The good news is that you have plenty of authentic Alaskan adventures within an hour’s drive from Anchorage and many of the drives are picture-worthy in of themselves.
Road Trips From Anchorage
Day Trips South of Anchorage – Chugach National Forest & Chugach National Forest
Hiking in Alaska comes with its own unique challenges and risks. Please carry bear spray or other protection! Hike in groups, make noise, and try not to surprise any bears. There are two plants to look out for that can give you a rash or fill your hand with thorns; cow’s parsnip and devil’s club. They both have HUGE leaves!
Glaciers and more in Chugach National Forest
If you’re driving south from Anchorage you’ll see the Anchorage Wildlife Conservation Center with many rehabilitated animals like bears, wolves, lynx, and bison. The turn towards Portage offers a close glimpse at glaciers and has a number of trails too. Byron Glacier is a short hike but please be careful near the ice caves!
Portage Glacier can be accessed by boat from Begich Boggs Visitor Center or hikers can enjoy Portage Pass by going through the Whittier Tunnel. The trail is a pretty straightforward out and back with about 700 feet of elevation gain over 2 miles. You can hike along the lake and cross a stream if you want to get up close and personal with Portage Glacier. Bird Ridge is another great hike along this drive but is much closer to Anchorage in Chugach State Park. This is a tough one with a steep trail but offers stunning views of the Turnagain Arm and nearby mountains.
Girdwood is the first big destination along the Seward highway and home to Chugach National Forest’s glacier ranger district. On a clear day, you will see plenty of glaciers near the mountain peaks above this beautiful town. Alyeska Resort offers year-round activities on their ski slope and you can find great hikes and restaurants in Girdwood.
Hiking suggestions near Girdwood
Winner Creek is an easy hike in a lush rainforest. Crow Pass is an iconic Alaskan marathon. Hikers who are ready for some elevation can make it up Crow Pass to see Raven Glacier and back in a day. Our favorite restaurant in Girdwood is Jack Sprat, be sure to try their bibimbap!
In my opinion, the most scenic drive in Alaska is along the Seward Highway south from Anchorage through the Turnagain Arm, into Chugach National Forest, and all the way to Seward’s Kenai Fjords National Park. While you could do the whole thing in a day, we prefer to plan a stop at one of the above destinations and enjoy a day hike.
Day Trips North of Anchorage – Eklutna Lake & Chugach State Park
Driving north from Anchorage gives you a chance to see some of the most popular trails among locals. Chugach State Park is home to many miles of trails with options for all skill levels and trailheads both in Anchorage proper and further north.
Things to do in Anchorage with Kids
Eklutna Lake is our top pick for a day trip in Chugach State Park and offers something for outdoor lovers of all skill levels! Walking and biking along the Eklutna Lakeside Trail are family-friendly options for hikers with kids or who just want a relaxed stroll. The Twin Peaks trail towards Pepper Peak is a great way to catch a view of this radiant glacier lake but covers a lot of elevation.
Day Trips North of Anchorage – Hatcher Pass
Hatcher Pass is a personal favorite recreation area because it’s where I first flew my drone. Adventure lovers come here in all seasons for backcountry hiking and skiing. You can easily enjoy a walk around the Independence Mine State Historical Park, learn about the gold mining history of the area and even rent your own equipment and pan for gold!
Enjoy a moderate hike up to Gold Cord Lake for a scenic view or head up and over the pass towards Willow for a scenic drive. A hike up April Bowl offers a well-established trail to nearby Hatch Peak. The scenic drive over Hatcher Pass is a great way to turn the drive north to Talkeetna or Denali into an even more stunning one! It’ll add some time to your journey but is well worth it rather than driving through Palmer, Wasilla, and Houston.
This list is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty of other day trips in Anchorage. Anchorage folk often enjoy an after-work hike up Flat Top’s sunnyside trail from the Rabbit Lake Trailhead or the steeper climb from Glen Alps Trailhead. Glen Alps opens up to the Powerline Pass, Little O’Malley, and much more. Comment below if you have any questions or want clarification on any of these suggestions!
Weekend Trips from Anchorage
Seward and Denali are our top suggestions for visitors who can spend a night or two away from town. Seward’s Kenai Fjords National Park has excellent hikes along Exit Glacier (easy trail) and the Harding Ice Fields (moderate but worth it!). Book a wildlife or glacier cruise ahead of time on Major Marine Tours and you are sure to have a blast.
Denali National Park, a 5-6 hour drive from Anchorage, is one of the main reasons that people visit Alaska. Bus tours are the best way to see this park unless you’re able to embark on a multi-day backpacking adventure. Denali itself is more visible from Denali State Park (check out the Curry Ridge Trail for an awesome day hike!) You’re more likely to see Denali from the drive along the Parks Highway than the first 30+ miles of the national park road, but you’re just about guaranteed to see moose, bear, eagles, and caribou if you visit Denali National Park.
Fun Things to do in Anchorage – Anchorage Hiking Trails
There are MILES and miles of trails around Anchorage. Most of them are great for walking, biking, or skiing in the winter. You can rent a bike or other outdoor gear from Alaska Outdoor Gear.
Kincaid Park, Campbell Creek, Chester Creek, and the Coastal Trail are some of the best things to do in Anchorage. Moose, bear and bald eagles frequent all of these trails plus you’ll get views of the mountains and ocean.
Our favorite Restaurants in Anchorage
- Bear’s Tooth & Moose’s Tooth are favorites among locals and tourists. They sport the best pizza in town along with great burritos and just about anything else you can imagine. Oh, and they brew their own Broken Tooth beer (and root beer)! Expect a long line, but it’s worth the wait.
- Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill is a great place for seafood and steak. They are a bit fancier than most Anchorage restaurants and well worth it.
- Namaste Shangrila is our favorite Nepali/Indian restaurant in town. Try their chicken or paneer tikka masala.
- Spenard Roadhouse, South Restaurant & Snow City Cafe are all under the same owners/chefs and offer a variety of dining options.
- There are a number of great bakeries in town but our favorite place is Fire Island bakery! Head there for breakfast or lunch and try the focaccia, scones, or just about anything they have.
- Middle Way Cafe is our favorite sandwich spot and they have excellent vegan, gluten-free and healthy options.
- Coffee lovers need to try Steamdot and Kaladi Brothers. Both have multiple locations in town and are locally owned.
Anchorage is home to many craft breweries and a few cideries. You really can’t go wrong with any of the Alaskan craft beers you try but here are some of our favorites. On a nice day, you’ll find locals biking between breweries and these three are great for a bike tour.
Recommended Reading for more Alaskan Adventures
- Day Trip in Prince William Sound
- Hiking Pepper Peak – Summers at Eklutna Lake
- Amazing Denali Views while Hiking the Curry Ridge Trail
- Winning the Denali Park Road Lottery
- Backpack through Denali National Park
- Camp at Grewingk Glacier
- Cross a frozen lake to Portage Glacier
- Ski to Skookum Glacier
- All Season Adventures -Hike Rabbit Lake Trail
- All Season Adventures -Explore Eklutna Lake Trail
- Aurora Hunting in Fairbanks for New Years Eve
- Biking to Knik Glacier
- Crust Skiing Broad Pass – Denali National Park