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The 15 Best Hikes near Anchorage for an Alaskan Adventure

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For many people, visiting Alaska is an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. Maybe that’s seeing incredible wildlife up and close, or feeling the chill of a glacial wind on their face while standing on a mountainside. A lot of people use their Alaska trip as an opportunity to get out and explore the Great Outdoors more than they do at home – and hiking is a fantastic way to do this, especially as there are so many great hikes across the state.

If you’ve reviewed any of my Alaska itineraries, you know that I recommend flying and/or out of Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city. It might not seem like it, but there are some fantastic hikes near Anchorage, and I know this as I’ve hiked many of them during my years growing up in the Anchorage area. As you’ll see, I’ve got my own photos from many of these hikes, and am always working to tick more off my list.

Hikes Near Anchorage Hero

Part of what makes Anchorage a great base for hiking adventures is its proximity to Chugach State Park. This sprawling giant park is easily accessible at many points from Anchorage, and almost all of the hikes listed below are in the park.

If you like the idea of getting some fresh air in among the trees, mountains, waterfalls, and possible wildlife, read on for 15 of the best hikes near Anchorage ranging from short and easy to full-day (or overnight) and strenuous.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Ełnena people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

1. Anchorage Overlook Trail

  • Mileage: 0.3mi
  • Elevation: 29ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Loop

Not everyone fancies long, strenuous hikes when visiting Alaska. If you’re one of those, Anchorage Overlook Trail is one of the easiest hikes near Anchorage. The very definition of short and sweet, this 0.3-mile loop trail feels more like a stroll than a proper hike, taking less than 10 minutes for most folks to complete.

Don’t confuse its short length with a lack of scenery. You’ll enjoy breathtaking landscapes, from beginning to end. The summit offers gorgeous views of Anchorage and the mountains. The Anchorage Overlook Trail is also popular with native wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled to see the moose grazing off in the distance.

2. Flattop Trail

  • Mileage: 3.3 miles (5.3km)
  • Elevation: 1,430 feet (436m)
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
  • Route Type: Loop

If you’ve ever asked any Alaskan (including me!) where to hike in the Anchorage area, you’ve probably heard one specific recommendation: Flattop.

Flattop is one of the most popular Anchorage hikes; this makes travelers think that it’s also an easy one. Actually, Flattop Trail is a strenuous 3.3-mile loop trail that has almost 1,500 feet of elevation change on terrain that can challenge even the most experienced hikers despite its short distance.

The trail sets out from the Glen Alps parking area near the Anchorage Overlook Trail, and increases in difficulty after the second saddle; the hardest stretch is in the last half hour of the ascent. The good news is that you’ll enjoy stunning views regardless of whether you summit as the views are great the whole way up.

3. Powerline Pass

Anchorage Hikes - Powerline Pass
Photo credit: Paxson Woelber via Flickr
  • Mileage: 11mi
  • Elevation: 1,935ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Point-to-Point 

Powerline Pass is one of only a few point-to-point trails on my list; these are obviously a bit more logistically challenging if you want to hike the entire trail from one end in Glen Alps to the other end in the town of Indian south of Anchorage.

However, you don’t need to do all 11 miles of this trail; a lot of people hike out and back from the Glen Alps trailhead instead of doing the whole thing. Most of the elevation on this hike is at the halfway point and afterward, so if you want a relatively flat hike, the first four miles (one-way from Glen Alps) are pretty flat and enjoyable for most hikers.

Along the way, you’ll have nice views of the Chugach Mountains and the potential to spot moose – these Anchorage residents love using the Pass and trails to move in and out of the mountains.

4. Eklutna Lakeside Trail

Anchorage Hikes - Eklutna Lakeside Trail
Photo credit: Tyler M. Yates via Flickr
  • Mileage: 25.4mi
  • Elevation: 1,354ft 
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Out-and-Back

Looking for a hike that’s part scenic day trip, part hike? Head out to Eklutna, a native community north of Anchorage with a glacially-fed lake and plenty of mileage to hike. Despite its distance, Eklutna Lakeside Trail is an easy, 25.4-mile trail. The trail follows Eklutna Lake for seven miles and then continues along the river to the moraines of Eklutna Glacier.

You can do all or part of it depending on how much time you have and how much effort you want to put in; the majority of the elevation happens after you leave the Lake and start climbing up onto the moraines of the glacier.

This trail is popular with hikers, but even more with bikers – bicycles are available to rent on the way up to the lake. Like all hikes near Anchorage, Eklutna Lakeside Trail boasts stunning scenery in every direction.

5. Thunderbird Falls Trail

  • Mileage: 1.8mi
  • Elevation: 301ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Out and Back

If you want to avoid dodging bikes, explore the Thunderbird Falls Trail instead; this hike is on the way to/from Eklutna, plus much easier and shorter.

Thunderbird Falls is a 1.8-km out-and-back trail near the communities of Eklutna and Chugiak. More of a leisurely walk than a hike, the trail follows the Eklutna River to Thunderbird Falls. It is conditioned for inexperienced hikers, so you’ll find boardwalks, handrails, and viewpoints along the way.

Depending on the season, the trail can get a bit muddy, so bringing hiking shoes/boots will make your experience not more comfortable. Also, don’t forget to put on bug spray. Otherwise, the mosquitoes can be unpleasant company. 

6. Mount Baldy Loop

  • Mileage: 2.7mi
  • Elevation: 1,128ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Route Type: Loop

When I was growing up, there was one mountain I always wanted to conquer – and which always kicked my butt: Mount Baldy. Today, Mount Baldy Loop is still popular among locals as a quick day hike to get their daily dose of cardio.

Strictly speaking, this is a 2.7-mile loop trail, but you can shorten or lengthen it, depending on how you decide to do it. If you forego the switchbacks and just haul straight up the slope, you can get up and down in about an hour. If you don’t, you can easily spend two hours on this hike.

If you’re looking for a quick hike with a serious elevation challenge, this is a good one.

7. Eagle River Albert Loop

  • Mileage: 3.3mi
  • Elevation: 426ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Loop

If you’re coming to Anchorage with your family, the Albert Loop out at Eagle River Nature Center is one of the best hikes for kids to blow off some steam. This 5.3-km loop trail is an easy and flat hike; the last time I did it, I went with a coffee in hand (pictured above). Along the way, you’ll have the potential to see wildlife and epic mountain and river views (also pictured above).

As a heads up, the trail is not well marked in some areas, and a portion of it might be flooded out by the river. Also, there are some hungry mosquitoes in here. Unless you want to be eaten alive, bring mosquito repellent.

8. Rendezvous Peak Trail

Anchorage Hikes - Rendezvous Peak
Photo credit: Frank Kovalchek via Flickr
  • Mileage: 3.1mi
  • Elevation: 1,397ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Loop

Looking for a morning hike? Rendezvous Peak is the perfect trail to start your day right. A moderate 3-mile hike, Rendezvous Peak is very popular with families, runners, and fellow hikers.

This loop trail sets out from Arctic Valley, which necessitates a beautiful drive up to reach the trailhead. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path hike in the Anchorage area, this is it; Arctic Valley is definitely overlooked by the vast majority of visitors. Once out on the hike, you’ll enjoy views of the valley, spot the sprawl of Anchorage, and can even see distant Denali on a clear day.

Note that this hike is above the treeline, so you’ll be pretty exposed and should plan ahead with sunscreen and water as appropriate given the weather and how long you plan to hike.

9. Near Point via Stuckagain Heights

Best Anchorage Hikes - Bold Peak
Photo credit: Paxson Woelber via Flickr
  • Mileage: 3.3mi
  • Elevation: 1,899ft
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Route Type: Out-and-back

Near Point is a 3.3-mile out-and-back trail near Anchorage. It’s a popular trail among runners and mountain bikers, so hikers, keep that in mind if you’re planning to hike on a nice summer day.

While it is marketed as a moderate hike, it’s worth noticing that it will depend on your fitness level and experience. The trail is fairly steep, and, during the rainy season, the rainfall creates a ton of mud on the way down, making it harder to descend. Nonetheless, the views are stunning and worth the work.

10. McHugh Creek Trail

Photo credits: Tyler M. Yates (L) and Paxson Woelber (R) via Flickr

  • Mileage: 7.8mi
  • Elevation: 2,411ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Out-and-back

The McHugh Creek Trail is a great hike to get pretty views of Turnagain Arm. The full trail is 7.8 miles out and back, but most people don’t do the entire thing; instead, they park at the designated area and head up the trail until they get a few great views, then turn back.

The hike is not overly difficult, but it can be very muddy in some sections, especially after a lot of rain. Note well that you will very likely come across moose (know the warning signs of an angry moose, particularly laid-back ears). Also, McHugh Creek is heavy bear county! Always carry bear spray and an air horn.

It’s worth it though, for the scenery: this trail has stunning views of Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Mountain range; you can also spot parts of the Aleutian Mountain Range like Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna, and enjoy the watermelon berries and wild raspberries in July.

11. Bird Creek Falls

  • Mileage: 3.6mi
  • Elevation: 374ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Out and back

Located between Anchorage and Girdwood, Bird Creek Falls is a 4-mile trail inside Chugach State Park – access to this sprawling park is what makes Anchorage a hiker’s paradise! The trail is pretty flat most of the way, except for the last half-mile which has two steep declines to reach the falls. Still, nothing that you can’t tackle with decent hiking boots.

Also, this trail is popular for snowmachiners in the winter and ATVs in the summer, so be prepared if hiking this trail – at least you can hear them coming. Last but not least, Bird Creek Falls is a heavy bear country just like McHugh Creek. So bear spray at hand is a good idea. 

12. Virgin Creek Falls

Best Anchorage Hikes - Virgin Creek Falls
Photo credit: Paxson Woelber via Flickr
  • Mileage: 0.5mi
  • Elevation: 180ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Out and back.

Virgin Creek Falls are small waterfalls situated near a Girdwood residential area.

This mini-hike is perfect to start your day or to break up your trip from Anchorage to Seward or to Homer. It’s about a ten-minute drive off the Seward highway at the Girdwood turnoff. Bear in mind the trail entrance has limited parking out front as it is on a residential gravel road.

It’s about a quarter mile to the falls, so it’s a very easy hike; less than 15 minutes round trip. While it’s short, the terrain is pretty muddy and has many exposed roots, slick rocks and mud, fallen trees, and low-hanging branches.

13. Lower Iditarod Trail

  • Mileage: 3.0mi
  • Elevation: Flat
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Out and Back

Part of the historic Iditarod sled dog trail that connected Seward with communities north of Anchorage by way of Crow Pass, Lower Iditarod Trail is a great easy hike that takes you through a nice forested part of the Girdwood Valley.

This is a multi-use trail, so you might encounter mountain bikers during the summer (or cross-country skiers in the winter); if you have it to yourself, it’s a lovely quiet hike for those of all abilities.

14. Crow Pass Trail

Photo credits: Aaron Levy (C) and Thomas (R) via Flickr

  • Mileage: 26mi
  • Elevation: 3,290ft
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Route Type: Point-to-Point

If you’re in Girdwood and want a great challenge, you’ve gotta do Crow Pass Trail. This 26-mile point-to-point trail, it’s probably one of the more accessible high-mountain Anchorage-area hikes. The trail is well-maintained, and, while the ascent is significant (2000+ feet), it is also gradual.

The spectacular views throughout most of the hike also make it more bearable. Nonetheless, this hike is best suited for experienced hikers who are looking for their next challenge. Most people who do the point-to-point hike arrange for someone to pick them up on the Eagle River side and do it in two days; if you’re doing this as a day hike, you can instead climb the ~3.5mi up to the top of the pass, then back down.

15. Portage Pass Trail

  • Mileage: 4.2mi
  • Elevation: 1,433ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Out and back

Portage Pass Trail is a 4.2-mile round-trip hike that takes you up out of Passage Canal (where Whittier is located) to Portage Lake.

The first mile or so is a solid uphill climb that’s more than half of the elevation but not too steep – have your camera ready for you’ll have good views of Passage Canal and Whittier. The next mile is downhill to Portage Lake with good views of the glacier and waterfalls on the mountainsides. Then you’ll need to undo it all to get back to the parking area.

It takes about 2.5 hours to complete this hike, including some rest stops along the way. However, You will want to plan on a couple more hours to enjoy the beauty that awaits you at the top.

Is that enough variety for you? As you can see, there are plenty of different and great Anchorage hikes to choose from if that’s one of your goals during your Alaska itinerary! Have any questions about these hikes near Anchorage or which one(s) to choose? Let me know in the comments below!

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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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