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.

Alaska's largest 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 hills.

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.

Turnagain also offers multiday trips deeper into the park, providing all of the camping equipment and food.

For anyone 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.

Downtown Bicycle 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 walls.

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 or halibut.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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