Outdoors

5 of the Wildest Reasons Anchorage is an Out-of-Doors Kind of Town

Few cities can compete with the outdoors access that Anchorage offers. The adventure starts before you even set foot on the ground in the city.

Peer out the airplane window on the descent into Anchorage and you’ll get an eyeful of wonder. The mountains? They are stunning. Whether you’re up for a daytrip or just have a few hours for a quick hike, Anchorage has the outdoor to-do perfect for you.

One Foot at a Time

You’ll probably hear the word “Flattop” a lot when you hit town. That’s the name of an incredibly popular — and often crowded — mountain that, because of its location and view, has long been the go-to first trail for newcomers to Anchorage. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But wouldn’t you like a quieter experience that’s just as rewarding?

If your answer is yes, some options:

  • The Rabbit Lakes Trail climbs steadily for bit before leveling out and eventually letting you out at some of the bluest lakes your eyes could hope to see.
  • Arctic Valley offers hikes ranging from steepish to much, much steeper. Even if you just go to the first saddle, you’ll have some great rewards. The view over Eagle River is a beaut. (In town during the winter months? Arctic Valley is a local favorite spot for downhill skiing.)
  • For more of a stroll than a hike, head to Campbell Airstrip, a mostly flat wander that is still rewarding because of all of the pretty south-central Alaska you’ll see along the way — Trees! Moose! And, yes, bears!

Paddle On

what to do in anchorage
Grab a paddle and your favorite peeps and head to Eklutna Lake. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eklutna Lake offers fine paddling for first timers while still being loads of fun for experienced lake kayakers. Lifetime Adventures provides all the gear you’ll need and, bonus, can even set you up for a paddle out on the lake and a bike back on the trail.

(Beware: Eklutna’s winds kick up in the afternoons. You’ll be a happier paddler if you get on the lake in the morning.)

Pedal On

Anchorage is one heck of a connected town — but it’s not internet in this case (ok, it’s that, too). The city has bike trails linking pretty much every part of town. Rent a bike (or during winter months, a fat bike) and head out to explore.

Beer lovers take note. A favorite route to bike: Cycle from Anchorage Brewing Company to Cynosure Brewing to Midnight Sun Brewing (and yes, many of them have outdoor spaces so, technically, this won’t be a cheat on your plan to stay outdoors the whole day through).

Downhill from Here

what to do in anchorage
Bring the skis and day trip to Girdwood. (Photo: Getty Images)

In town for some winter fun and want to conquer a mountain or two along the way? The state’s biggest ski resort is in Girdwood, a beautiful day trip from Anchorage. Or if you want to go really big, sign on for a heli-skiing adventure with Chugach Powder Guides. (Not for beginners, y’hear?) You’ll get dropped off on a mountaintop and wend your way down with the help of the company’s expert guides.

A Charlie Brown Kind of Adventure

Anchorageites have gone increasingly crazy for ice skating. With snow not quite as reliable as it was in years past, people started searching for things they could do when the freeze was on but the cross-country skiing wasn’t good. The answer: all kinds of ice skating. Westchester Lagoon is a favorite place to spin, twirl or play a bit of ice hockey.