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Free Things to do in Anchorage

Updated March 2020Free Things to do in Anchorage was originally written in 2015

I’ve lived in, around, or near Anchorage my entire life. Although I grew up not thinking it was too exciting of a place, after years of international travel I’ve come to realize how unique a city Anchorage really is.

You can hike a mountain and still be within the bounds of the city. Not 10 minutes away you can grab a beer and a meal. We also have an extensive network of bike trails.

Anchorage really has a lot on offer, especially for outdoors lovers. And guess what makes it all the better? There a number of free things to do in Anchorage!

Including neighboring Eagle River and Girdwood

How Much Does It Really Cost To Travel In Alaska?
Make An AK Visit Happen On Any Budget

*Several parks and hikes mentioned here fall within Chugach State Park. Most Alaska State Parks are free to enter, however, the many state parks parking lots charge a $5 parking fee per day (additional for camping). If you are an avid state park user it is worth picking up a $50 annual Alaska State Park parking pass.

Plan your visit to Anchorage here: The Anchorage Travel Guide

1. Hiking, Walking Or Biking To Fit Just About Anyone

*Most trailhead parking lots do charge a $5 per car parking fee, or you can purchase a $50 annual pass.

Start shopping Alaska Hiking Books here!

The Coastal Trail

11 miles of trail that winds along the coastline from Downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park. Good for walking, biking, rollerblading, and running. You can also cross-country ski the trail as well in the winter.

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Eagle River Nature Center

Eagle River Nature Center

About 20 minutes north of Anchorage in Eagle River valley. The nature center has 20 miles of trails maintained by volunteers. It also leads into the 21 mile Crow Creek Pass trail through Chugach State Park to Girdwood.

Flattop

Take the Glen Alps trailhead and follow it 1.5 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain. This is a very popular hike for tourists and locals alike, because of the panoramic views of Anchorage from the top. Flattop can easily be connected with several other hikes in east Anchorage.

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Williwaw Lakes

Williwaw Lakes

Williwaw Lakes can be accessed from the Flattop Trailhead and from Prospect Heights. The Flattop side is shorter at about 12 miles roundtrip to the first lake, though you can hike a little further to reach the others. This trek can be done as a long all day hike, or you can pack tents and camp overnight at one of the lakes.

Campbell Creek Greenbelt Trail

This paved bike trail runs 7.5 miles from University Lake to Dimond Blvd. Hugs alongside Campbell creek and goes through neighborhoods. Good for walking, running, biking and rollerblading.

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Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake

*Camping is also possible here too for $15/night. Very popular in the summer.

Eklutna Lake offers a lot, especially if you want to spend a couple of nights camping out here. Located about 45 minutes north of Anchorage on the fringe of the municipality, popular activities out here include kayaking, bicycling the Lakeside trail, hiking Twin Peaks Trail or Bold Peak Trail, or just enjoying a sunny afternoon on the lakeshore.

There are 3 recreational cabins that you can rent around and near the lake through the state park. Click here for a map and information on trails. Kayaks and bicycles are available for rent near the parking lot from Lifetime Adventures.

Read more on the Eklutna Lake hike up Twin Peaks and Pepper Peak.

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Eagle & Symphony Lakes

Eagle & Symphony Lakes/South Fork Eagle River

Eagle & Symphony Lakes is one of my absolute favorite hikes near to my house. You’ll need to head to the Southfork Eagle River trailhead parking lot back Hiland Road out in Eagle River.

If you plan to only hike to the nearside of the lakes the trek is about 12 miles roundtrip, but if you hike up the hill (best views) on the opposite side it’ll add a couple of miles to the total. This trailhead also can take you to Rendezvous Peak, Hunter Pass, Hanging Valley, and more.

Like to Hike? Check Out My Post: 16 Best Day Hikes Near Anchorage, Alaska

Thunderbird Falls

This is a short and easy walk on a maintained gravel trail down to a waterfall. This is a great option for families with small kids who don’t want a long all-day adventure. Located just off the Glenn Highway about 30 minutes from Anchorage.

Baldy/Skyline

Head to Eagle River and take Skyline Drive to the top where the trailhead up Mt. Baldy takes off. If you’re not feeling active you have great views from the end of the road up top with sweeping views of Eagle River and the Inlet. This hike can be continued beyond Baldy along Blacktail for a longer trip.

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Rabbit Lake

Rabbit Lake

Rabbit Lake can be accessed two ways: From the Rabbit Lake Trailhead in south Anchorage, or from the McHugh Creek Trailhead along the Seward Highway. The easier option is from the Rabit Lake Trailhead, it’s an 8.5 mile out and back hike with only a little elevation gain (1,000 feet).

The more difficult access is from McHugh Creek being 11 miles out and back and with 3,000 feet elevation gain. Of course, you can visit Rabbit Lakes as a through hike too.

North Fork Eagle River

About 20 minutes north of Anchorage, on the way back to the Eagle River Nature Center mentioned earlier in the post. At only 1 mile roundtrip this is a good option for families with young kids who wanna get outside with out an all-day commitment.

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Views from the top of Bird Ridge

Bird Ridge

This is a 5 mile roundtrip strenuous hike straight up the side of a mountain with great views of Cook Inlet the entire way. The Trailhead parking lot is off the Seward Highway, south of Anchorage on your way to Girdwood. If that lot is completely full you can access the trail from the massive Bird Creek parking lot.

Winner Creek Trail

Located 40 minutes or so south of Anchorage down in Girdwood, and easily accessed from the Hotel Alyeska. The well-maintained trail meanders through the rainforest and eventually arrives at a hand tram where you can cross Winner Creek Gorge.

Crow Pass

A 21-mile trek through Chugach State Park between Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood and Eagle River (the nature center). Some people take on the journey in a single day while others will split it into an overnight trip.

Virgin Creek

This is a short 5 minute walk through the lovely greens of Girdwood to this picturesque little waterfall. Click here to read more about the short trek to Virgin Creek.

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Virgin Creek

2. Enjoy The City’s Parks

Kincaid Park

A 1,500 acre park in southwest Anchorage. Plenty of places to hike, bike and even cross-country ski in the winter. Kincaid links to the Coastal Trai land has access to beaches.

Earthquake Park

A park between Hood Creek and Point Woronzof in west Anchorage. The park commemorates the 9.2 earthquake that rocked Anchorage in 1964.

The Park Strip

In the heart of downtown Anchorage, this is the oldest park in the city. In the summer a lot of local events are held here, especially on weekends.

Point Woronzof Park

This park sits along the shores in west Anchorage. Running and biking can be done here all summer and is a great place to cross-country ski and snowshoe in the winter.

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3. Shop (Or Just Look) At The Outdoor Markets

Not the adventurous outdoorsy type? Anchorage offers a few markets to peruse and they fall into the category of free things to do in Anchorage. Although if you want to purchase you’ll have to pay, but looking is always free!

The Anchorage Market

Saturdays and Sundays off 3rd Avenue in downtown Anchorage in the summer. This is Alaska’s largest open-air market. Eat food from local vendors, buy locally grown vegetables and buy locally made artwork and gifts.

The Spenard Market

A farmer’s market under the windmill in Spenard every Saturday in the summer May-September. Here you can buy locally grown vegetables, and goods.

Anchorage Farmers Market

Every Saturday in the summer, located off 15th Avenue and Cordova. Come by to purchase local produce.

4. Learn About Alaska History, Heritage & Science

Want to head indoors? Don’t worry! Out of the array of free things to do in Anchorage there are a number of indoor options.

Alyeska Roundhouse Museum

*Accessible only by ski lift or tram in winter… lift tickets are an arm and a leg, tram only tickets are $25. Accessible by hiking in summer and fall.

Museum sitting 2,280 feet above sea level.

Alaska Heritage Library and Museum

A small museum of Alaska cultural history and heritage.

Alaska State Trooper and Law Enforcement Museum

Exhibits, photographs and memorabilia on Alaska Law enforcement in downtown Anchorage.

Alaska Public Lands Building

Info and displays on Alaska’s state and national parks.

Campbell Creek Science Center

Outdoor science education center. Learn about the creeks, forests, wildlife and plants around Anchorage.

Eklutna Village

North of Anchorage, Eklutna is a native Alaskan village on the northern outskirts of the Municipality of Anchorage. Visit the historic park to see St Nicholas Orthodox Church, the spirit houses and learn about the culture, history, and traditions of the Dena’ina Athabascan people.

5. Arts

Love the arts? And do you love free things to do in Anchorage? You have options.

First Friday Art Walk

Held on the first Friday of every month. Make your rounds to the local galleries checking out the artwork of the local talents.

Music in the Park

Every Wednesday and Friday from noon to 1 pm at Peratrovich Park from June to August.

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A moose at Eagle River Nature Center

6. Wildlife Viewing

Potter’s Marsh Bird Sanctuary

Just south of Anchorage, park at the Potter’s Marsh Parking Lot. A half-mile of boardwalks over the marsh provides access to view local and migratory bird species. You’re likely to see Arctic Terns, Seagulls, Yellow Legs and more birds. Moose frequent the area too.

Ship Creek Salmon Viewing Deck

Watch salmon run through the creek while fisherman try to catch them. Located on Whitney road in the downtown Anchorage area.

Where To Stay In Anchorage

Budget
Qupqugiak Inn
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Midrange
Copper Whale Inn
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Splurge
The Hotel Captain Cook
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Have Any Questions About Any Of The Free Things To Do In Anchorage?

Ask about free things to do in Anchorage in the comments section below.

Don’t want to do the planning? Check out these tours!

Need Travel Insurance For Alaska?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

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25 thoughts on “Free Things To Do In Anchorage”

  1. Thanks for this list! We’re a new family of 6 up here, so we’re always looking for budget-friendly activities.

  2. Thank you for all the ideas. Will be moving to Anchorage from Tennessee next spring and want to explore a bit before we get totally settled in.

  3. I’m still exploring your website after I found you Alaska travel guide. Thank you for all these ideas for what we can do for free in Anchorage before we dart the city. Helps us keep to our retirement old fart budget.

    Thanks again,
    Janet

    1. Hey again Janet,
      No problem. I hope you guys have a good time before you leave Anchorage and move onto more wild parts of AK!

  4. Thanks again for yet another good post to help my plan my Alaska trip. I’m excited to read more about Alaska on your blog in preparation for my trip!

    Best,
    Christian

    1. Hi Christian,
      I hope you have a great time here in Alaska! I’m hoping to get more out on here on Alaska. I’ve also started a second website focused solely on Alaska (although I do need to get content rolling out on it). You can check out alaskaonabootstring.com and I plan to have some new posts there to help you out!

  5. Thank you for this list! We just moved to Anchorage and have two young kids and had been looking at things to get out and do and places to explore without spending much or any money. Good suggestions! I look forward to reading more of your Alaska pieces.

    1. Hi Anne,
      Glad to hear you found this helpful! I hope you and your family are enjoying spring in AK. I’m trying to get some more AK content out soon

  6. Thanks for the recommendations for us with tighter budgets. I notice most the list is outdoorsy (hikes). Anchorage sounds like a cool city to live in because of that.

    1. No problem! Of course Anchorage has it’s problems and all but it’s a cool place to live because there’s so much outdoor activities and nature a short distance, and even some without even having to leave the city.

  7. I’m headed to Anchorage on my first trip to Alaska in June, thanks for giving a good list of things to do for those of us on a smaller budget. Are there any decent budget hostels/hotels around Anchorage you recommend? I’ve not decided how many days to spend in Anchorage either, any recommendations on how many days?
    Thanks again
    ~Matt

    1. Hi Matt,
      I hope you have a great time in Alaska! I’ve not personally stayed at any of the hostels in Anchorage, but I have seen on booking.com that Arctic Adventure Hostel and the Bent Prop Hostel in downtown Anchorage, as well as the Bent Prop Hostel in midtown Anchorage all have pretty good reviews. There are only a small handful of hostels in Anchorage, so it’s fairly limited in regards to cheap accommodation. As far the length of time, it really depends on what you want to do around here. Personally, I don’t think Anchorage is an exciting city that would warrant more than a couple days at most. But with that said there are a lot of wonderful day hikes, fishing trips and other day trip length activities that can be done on the outskirts and just outside Anchorage if you want to base yourself here longer.

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