16 Best Day Hikes near Anchorage, Alaska
Updated November 2020, 16 Best Day Hikes near Anchorage, Alaska was originally written in June 2018
Visiting, new to, or just looking for something different to do in Anchorage? Here are 16 Anchorage day hikes to get you up and outside. These Anchorage day hikes range from short and easy to all day and strenuous. I’ve selected hikes that are within about a one hour drive of the city.
Looking for more ideas for your time in Anchorage? Check out The Anchorage Travel Guide
Symphony & Eagle Lakes
The hike to Symphony & Eagle Lakes can be done as a long day hike to the lakes and back, or you can always opt to camp at one of the lake shores. The hike to the lakes is 12 miles round trip, requires you to cross a large boulder field as you approach the lakes, and not much in way of elevation gain (14 miles if you would like to climb the hill on the far side for views of both lakes. Totally worth it, trust me).
There is the option to hike into the Hanging Valley as an alternative on this hike. Note that this hike takes place in Chugach State Park and open fires are banned.
Read up more: The Eagle & Symphony Lake Hike
Getting to Byron Glacier and doesn’t require much in way of fitness level. From the parking lot there is a roughly one mile groomed trail to a nice viewpoint with a bench and views of the glacier and the narrow valley. For those more adventurous there is an ice cave but it will require you to walk up the glacier to it and it could become dangerous, so go at your own risk!
Plan your trip: A Quick Guide To Visiting Byron Glacier
The trek to Rabbit Lake can be done as one long through-hike, or can be done from one side and back. One trailhead leaves from South Anchorage off Upper Canyon Road (accessed from DeArmoun Road) and is a fairly straight forward and flat approach with only 1200 feet elevation gain and about 4 miles in distance one way to Rabbit Lake.
The other trailhead is accessed from McHugh Creek, just south of Anchorage. This involves a much more strenuous uphill hike (2,500 feet gain) of nearly 6 miles to reach the lake. This hike takes place in Chugach State Park and open fires are banned, for those opting to take on the trek as an overnight trip.
Check out the Rabbit Lake Hike
Bird Ridge Trail is an intense hike going pretty straight uphill the entire 2.5 mile trek to the top. The parking lot is found at mile 25 of the Seward Highway and can also be accessed from the humongous Bird Creek parking lot nearby. From the top, you’ll have sweeping views of Cook Inlet and the Turnagain Arm.
Note that in summer 2017 a teenage boy was mauled and killed by a bear during a race on the trail, so do be careful.
Reed Lakes can be done as a long day hike (including the trek to Bomber Glacier beyond the Upper Lake for those inclined) but is very enjoyable as an overnight trip. To reach the trailhead turn onto Archangel Road once you are in Hatcher’s Pass Recreational Area (the gate may be locked in spring, meaning you’ll have to start your hike from the main road).
The trek is roughly 4 miles to Lower Reed Lake, including about 1900 feet in elevation gain. Less than a mile beyond and past a waterfall you’ll find the Upper Reed Lake.
From Upper Reed Lake it’s possible to continue onto Bomber Glacier and beyond. The best camping spots are around Lower Reed Lake.
Read up more on my guide to Reed Lakes
This easy 4 mile round trip hike will take you along Portage Lake for views of the rapidly receded Portage Glacier. To access this hike you must go through the Whittier Tunnel ($22 return), once through the tunnel follow the signs to the trailhead.
There are steep sections, but overall this is a short, easy hike for most. This is an isolated hill that from the top gives views or Pioneer’s Peak, Knik River and Knik Arm. There are two routes (or can be done as a through hike).
The approach from the north is well maintained with stairs & railing in steep sections and is much greener. The southern approach is dusty and not maintained. This hike is roughly 3 miles round trip from either trailhead.
Eagle River Nature Center
There are several hikes from the Eagle River Nature Center ranging from very short under a mile treks to ones of several miles in length. Of course for those looking for a real challenge this is the head of the historic Crow Creek Pass Hike that takes you to Girdwood over 26 miles. The Eagle River Nature Center is located at the end of Eagle River Road, parking is $5.
Williwaw Lakes & Little O’Malley Peak
This is a steep 8 mile round trip hike (4 miles will see you summit the peak) that can be connected to continue onto the Williwaw Lakes Hike and Powerline Pass.
The elevation gain from bottom to top is just under 3300 feet. You will need to climb some steep areas of scree. To get to the trailhead, drive to the Glen Alps parking lot. Read up on the Williwaw Lakes Hike.
Plan your hike with my Williwaw Lakes Hike Guide
This hike winds from the Eklutna Lake parking lot that gives you aerial views of the stunning glacially turquoise Eklutna Lake below. Once you’ve trekked up to a second bench at the 2.5 mile mark you can either continue north to climb Twin Peaks, or you can veer to the east and make your way up to a ridgeline and onto summit Pepper Peak. There is a $5 day parking fee.
Learn more: The Eklutna Lake & Twin Peaks Hike
Baldy is the most popular hike in Eagle River (the smaller community just a short drive north of Anchorage). On a nice summer day, I recommend getting up here early as it can get quite crowded.
Continue on the ridgeline away from the ocean to continue on the Blacktail trail which leads into some really cool jagged rock formations. To get here turn onto Skyline drive from Eagle River Loop Road and follow it all the way to the end of the road.
A hike to Baldy is roughly 4.5 miles return. The hike to Blacktail rocks is 8 miles return to the parking lot.
Lower Winner Creek
This is a mellow and well-maintained trek through the beautiful rainforest (actually the northernmost rainforest in all of North America) that takes you to cross a narrow and beautiful gorge and eventually to cross by hand tram across a wide canyon and river below.
Park at the Hotel Alyeska and walk over to the aerial tram, walk a little beyond it toward the mountain and you’ll see the trailhead to your left. It’s a 3 mile hike to the hand tram that connects you to Crow Creek Mine Road. Note that the hand tram isn’t open until Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May.
Alternatively, there is the Upper Winner Creek Trail that is much more strenuous that takes you up into the stunning Berry Pass from where you’ll descend down to Twenty Mile River and packraft back out.
This is an easy 1.5 mile (3 mile round trip) hike in Arctic Valley on the very north fringe of Anchorage. It’s a gentle hike that begins from the end of Arctic Valley Road. Note that there is a military silo up here and you could get arrested for going in (even though tons of people do it and there are obvious spots where people have broken through the fence). I have several friends that have been arrested do trespassing here, so you’ve been warned. The trail is in military lands so they can close it sometimes.
For those looking for a challenge, you can hike up here from the Southfork Trail in Eagle River (same trailhead you begin Eagle & Symphony Lakes Hike from).
An easy hike located just north of Eagle River, right off the Glenn Highway. The trek will take you downhill to a large waterfall.
The whole hike is 2 miles roundtrip with a well-maintained trail. Do be careful on the rocks as you get up to the falls as they’re usually wet and slippery. There is a $5 parking fee.
Lazy Mountain isn’t so lazy. This hike is located near Palmer. It’s 5 miles roundtrip, with the first section being quite steep.
The trailhead is located off of East Huntly Road, which is reached by taking the Old Glenn Highway and turning off at Clark-Wolverine Road. Lazy Mountain can be connected with Matanuska Peak as well.
This is the #1 most popular hike in Anchorage. If you plan to go up on a nice sunny afternoon, or on the weekend expect it to be very crowded.
The hike does offer great views of the Anchorage Bowl. It can be easily connected with several other hikes in the Glen Alps area. There is a $5 parking fee.
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