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How to Visit Hope, Alaska: My Favorite Small Town

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I have a soft spot for small towns. Maybe it developed during my four years of college at a small Iowa town. Maybe it is just part of my nature, to love exploring smaller and lesser-visited cities and town. It’s part of the reason I fell so in love with Long Beach, Washington while living in the Pacific Northwest. And Gig Harbor. …And Anacortes.

As a kid growing up in Alaska, I remember trips to Hope. The small town of Hope is a 90-minute drive from Anchorage, and one of the great spots for salmon fishing each summer. The city goes from a quiet, sleepy 192 population to 5-10x that, depending on the strength of the salmon run. The campgrounds overflow with RVs, tents, and crumpled beer cans. The unpaved streets are clogged with pickup trucks, ATVs, and pedestrians in fishing waders with poles slung over their shoulders.

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Hope is small-town Alaska at its finest, an admittedly romanticized sentiment. I know that life in small towns across Alaska is hard, often a matter of subsistence and survival. Hope has the luxury of being close to Anchorage, and drawing ‘tourist’ crowds (usually fellow Alaskans) and benefiting seasonally from that influx of visitors and money. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorite destinations and a fun detour for visitors looking to get a sense for what life in Alaska is like.

The History of Hope

Hope, Alaska was founded in 1896 under the name “Hope City.” As you might infer from the year, the town was established as a mining camp due to Resurrection Creek, which runs along the edge of town.

The Post Office opened in 1897, and the schoolhouse opened in 1938. Life, I imagine, moved pretty slowly, and the geography of the region didn’t lend much growth to the town. In the years after the gold rush, Hope residents fell back on other Alaska industries such as timber and fishing, as well as some commercial mining. Nothing changed until early in 1964.

Those familiar with Alaskan history will be unsurprised to learn that Hope was dramatically affected by the Good Friday Earthquake in 1964. Major portions of Hope were destroyed, and the most coastal parts of the city sank several feet closer to sea level. The mouth of Resurrection Creek widened and flattened; it became an ideal breeding ground for Pink Salmon. Whereas people had once come to hope to see a flash of gold, they now seek a flash of sunlight on the scales of ‘Humpy’ salmon.

What to Do in Hope

A Fish Gutting Table in Hope, Alaska

Admittedly, Hope is a small town even compared to others covered on this blog. Nevertheless, there are some fun – and distinctly Alaskan – options:

  1. Fishing– When salmon are in season, the #1 thing to do in Hope is to grab a fishing pole and head to the water. You can’t miss the hoards of fishermen and women in waders flocking toward the Resurrection Creek in the hopes of catching a pink salmon (or five!).
  2. Go for a Walk – I always enjoy wandering along the dirt roads to spot fallen down timber houses from before the earthquake. You get a sense for how rugged life in Alaska can be, even this close to Anchorage. Do not go in or near fallen buildings!
  3. Gold Panning – Since gold is what brought people to hope, why not try your hand at it? Gold panning outfitters have access along Resurrection Creek near town.
  4. Visit the Mining History Museum – The Hope-Sunrise Mining History Museum gives you a good sense of how important gold was to bringing settlers to Hope and Alaska as a whole.
  5. Visit the Library – The small community library is one of my favorite places to visit in Hope. The one-room library stocks interesting books and always makes me want to sign up for a library card.
  6. White Water Rafting – In nearby Six-Mile Creek, you can get an adrenaline rush from class IV and V rapids. There are rafting outfitters in Hope that provide guides. (I haven’t ever done this, so I suggest Googling providers and reading reviews.)

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    Food and Drink Options in Hope

    To be honest, there aren’t a ton of choices for food and drink in Hope, Alaska. There are a few choices, but if you have dietary restrictions or strong preferences, you may want to plan your meals around these options:

    • Seaview Bar & Cafe – Seaview is the primary place to eat in Hope, right along the main street near Resurrection Creek. It’s also home to amazing pie, worth splurging on if you have a sweet tooth. (View on Google Maps)
    • Grounds for Hope Espresso – No small town should exist without one good coffee shop, and Grounds for Hope Espresso solves this need. (View on Google Maps)
    • Bowman’s Bear Creek Lodge-Cafe – The primary option for fine dining in Hope, Bowman’s Bear Creek Lodge & Cafe has a ‘Dinner House’ that serves good American-style food like steaks and seafood. (View on Google Maps)
    • Tito’s Discovery Cafe – A few miles outside of Hope, Tito’s has been in business for over 30 years. They now offer delicious baked goods, homemade soups, and sandwiches. (View on Google Maps)
    • Turnagain Kayak & Coffeehouse – In addition to offering kayak tours and rentals, Turnagain Kayak & Coffeehouse has a small coffeehouse perfect for fueling up before adventures – or warming up after them. (View on Google Maps)

    Where to Stay in Hope

    When I used to visit Hope regularly, I always stayed in a tent or camper owned by my family. For full disclosure, I haven’t stayed at any of these accommodations. This is an extensive list of all the places you can stay, distance from downtown, and the rates.

    Have questions about Hope? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!

    This post was originally published in September 2014, and was updated extensively in July 2017.

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    I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


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