Hiking in Alaska is definitely a trip that you should do even just once in your lifetime. It has a vast array of majestic glaciers, peninsulas, and crevasses. Local wildlife in the state has been preserved properly. From whales, bears up to the Alaskan ravens, this place presents itself as a must-visit destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
It’s not a surprise that Forbes ranked Alaska as the best state to hike throughout the entire country. And that’s not even out of sheer luck. After all, there’s no part in the United States where you can embrace yourself with thick woods, crystal-clear rivers, and well-storied peaks except in this alluring state.
Below are some of the best places to hike in Alaska. Whether you are an expert or beginner, there’s something for you here.
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Best Places To Hike In Alaska
Denali National Park & Preserve
Denali National Park & Preserves is one of the most popular hiking destinations in America. The park covers over six million acres of land, which makes it one of the largest national parks in the U.S. This sprawling expanse of wilderness offers visitors a wide range of activities from camping to fishing to mountain climbing. There are also plenty of trails within the park, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost while exploring its many nooks and crannies.
Once you are here, you’ll witness its beautiful taiga forest, which, in turn, will lead to snowy mountains and tundra sitting atop tall alpines. Of course, it is here where you’ll see the towering peak of Denali, which is considered the tallest peak throughout America. Wildlife is also sprawling here so that you can feel you are one with nature.
Kenai River Trail
The Kenai River Trail is a backtrail within the proximity of Cooper Landing, Alaska. It is a 16.4-kilometer trail that stretches along the banks of a turquoise river. You can enjoy the scenic beauty of the trail by taking a walk through the lush green forests and meadows. If you want to get closer to nature, then take a kayak ride down the river.
Meanwhile, those that want to see the Kenai River canyon should traverse the first half-mile of the trail. It will lead you to the trail’s upper section. While you can still get good views of the river on the trail’s lower section, they aren’t that majestic. You are also allowed to camp along the Kenai River–and that’s where the lower section comes in. Backpacking stoves are essential here to reduce environmental impacts.
Resurrection Pass is a 72.3-kilometer trail within Hope, Alaska. It passes through the Kenai Mountains and is considered to be among the most famous multi-day route for backcountry trips throughout Southern Alaska. Interestingly, this trail is ideal also for mountain bikers and skiers, especially if the snowy season engulfs the entire state.
This hiking trail has historical connections with various gold mining spots in Hope. A trailhead can also be found close to the Cooper Landing and Kenai River. Resurrection is a beloved route for locals and tourists alike. It has a dynamic wilderness that provides complete camping amenities for backpackers. It doesn’t even require bushwacking. Resurrection Pass is also a good choice for starters because it features an easy-to-follow path. You’ll encounter various ecological areas here before you witness a great, vast tundra.
Winner Creek is an easy day trip if you’re looking to escape the crowds of Seward or Anchorage. This 7.9-kilometer trail offers excellent views of the bay and plenty of wildlife within Girdwood. You can start your hike at the base of Alyeska Resort and tread the trails and boardwalks until you hear the sound of flowing water. Continue hiking, and you’ll eventually find yourself across a picturesque gorge. You can rest here and snap some share-worthy photos. However, this isn’t the most iconic part of the trail; it is the hand-pulled tram that has been suspended on a mountain creek!
Hiking along the trail will let you explore the historical and natural wonders of Chugach, which is a temperate rainforest located in the uppermost portion of the United States. This wooded forest is brimming with wildlife and also offers some traces of gold mining spectacles. Mountain bikers can also enjoy the trails and routes within Winner Creek.
It’s not easy to explore glaciers, as you can’t really stroll on most of them. Hence, if you are given the opportunity to explore one, you have to grab it. In Alaska, the Exit Glacier is among the few glaciers where you can stroll and hike. And you don’t even need to go that far to reach this place. Its distance from Seward is just a 15-minute drive.
Specifically, Exit Glacier is situated in Kenai Fjords National Park, and it has been considered one of the most visited glaciers in the entire world. It got its name from the backcountry explorers who first ventured into this place. This hiking route is 3,000 feet below the Harding Icefield. Simply descend to the Harding Icefield, and a grand, scenic ramp will greet you. It gives off an ancient feel; you’ll find old snowy forests and rushing streams here.
From being a former trade route, the Klondike Gold Rush was transformed to become a highway for hiking enthusiasts. Today, it is known as the Chilkoot Trail–a 33-mile outdoor trail famous for its spectacular scenery and winter-driven wildlife. It’s one of the most popular hikes in Alaska; every year, it gathers more than 10,000 people to backpack, camp, or hike this corridor. As you pass through its routes, you will see numerous artifacts from the previous gold rush in the area.
The trail starts in Dyea, a campground and a formerly bustling town. From its trailhead, the route will take you to a green rainforest alongside the Taiya River. Campers can stay in Finnegan’s Point, as it is the first campsite you’ll find in the area. It’s a beginner-friendly trail as the terrain is primarily flat and grounded. After Finnegan’s Point, you’ll experience a sudden drop in the temperature, thanks to the snowy mountains and ice fields within the trail. You’ll find a number of streams cascading the mountainsides. On your first night, set your camp at Canyon City. Here, you’ll find a lot of various artifacts from the gold-rush era.
Reed Lakes Trail
The Reed Lakes Trail offers visitors a chance to experience one of the most beautiful hikes in Alaska. The trail takes you through lush forests, past waterfalls, and the eyes of its local wildlife. It is a popular hiking trail in Alaska since it isn’t that technical as compared to other hiking trails in the state. It is just a 4-mile hike located in the Hatcher Pass area–approximately two hours from Anchorage.
As you pass through the waterfalls, you will encounter a lake where all the water from the falls is being drained. Continue your journey until you reach a tarn where you can rest and take photos of the scenic wonders around you. The trail itself will also let you witness the towering peaks of Alaska.
Iditarod National Historic Trail
One of the best places to hike in Alaska is the Iditarod National Historic Trail. After all, it’s the only National Historic Trail in the entire state. The latter includes a network of winter trails–fully extending up to 2,300 miles. It connects to various native villages in Alaska and supply routes back when the Alaskan Gold Rush was still at its height.
However, keep in mind some parts of the trail aren’t that accessible without wearing a snow cover. You may also need webbed footgear and ample defense against mosquitoes. But you can shrug off these things if you head to its sections on the Nome and Kenai Peninsula. Here, year-round hikes and trail runs are all possible.