It can be argued that residents of
Anchorage, living in a city mostly shrouded in mostly darkness for
half the year, know how to take advantage of the spring and summer
months better than anyone else.
city is often viewed as little more than a point of entry to the
rest of the state. But Anchorage offers a plethora of outdoor
activities, especially for the active traveler.
Anchorage is home
to Chugach State Park, the third-largest state park in the U.S.
with a half-million acres of wilderness, or about two acres for
every Anchorage resident. The park offers ample hiking, biking,
camping and rafting opportunities among its glaciers, lakes and
Since the summer
sun doesn't set until about 11 p.m. in Anchorage, locals are known
to venture out for late-evening walks in the hills. Check out the
book "50 Hikes in Alaska's Chugach State Park," written by Shane
Shepherd and Owen Wozniak, for two-hour strolls or multiday trips
for all levels of walkers.
Another way to
explore the park is via horseback, and Turnagain Trails (www.turnagaintrails.com) offers guided rides through
Chugach in groups no larger than five. An experienced guide leads
rides through brambly trails that offer amazing views of the
surrounding peaks, and possible bear and moose sightings. The tour
starts at $45 per person for one hour.
The guides, who
wear cowboy hats and chaps, have Texas roots. Turnagain's owner, Patrick
Wheeler, talks to riders about breaking horses and why he moved
from Texas to Anchorage.
offers multiday trips deeper into the park, providing all of the
camping equipment and food.
staying in downtown Anchorage, the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal
Trail starts on Second Avenue, runs along the coastline of the Knik
Arm of Cook Inlet and ends at Kincaid Park.
The paved trail
is an easy route on which to walk or bike. Part of the trail runs
along the Alaska Railroad. Moose sightings are common, and on a
very clear day, Mount McKinley can be seen to the north.
Rental (www.alaska-bike-rentals.com) rents bikes for $32 for
24 hours or $16 for three hours. A lock, helmet and trail map are
included in the price.
For those who
have an extra day and don't mind taking a short drive, Girdwood, a
town about 40 miles from Anchorage, is an excellent starting point
for summer hikes on glaciers, in a rain forest and up rock and ice
In Girdwood, it's
worth taking the Alyeska Resort Aerial Tramway (www.alyeskaresort.com), which operates as a ski lift
during the winter. The tramway rises more than 2,000 feet to a
lookout area that offers magnificent, panoramic views of the
Chugach Mountains and the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet. It is also a
starting point for hikes along Mount Alyeska.
After a day of
hiking, biking or riding, dinner at the Bridge restaurant (www.thebridgealaska.com) in Anchorage is a must. As
its name suggests, the restaurant was built on a former bridge
spanning Ship Creek. During the summer, meals are accompanied by
views of dozens of anglers fishing for king or silver salmon in the
creek below. The restaurant features an East-West fusion menu and
is decorated with old photos and souvenirs from Anchorage's infancy
in the early 1900s.
For about $14 at
lunch, and $24 at dinner, patrons can dine on wild Alaskan salmon
To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].