Go wild: 10 great ways to get unanchored in Anchorage
This far-north city promises an array of unique outdoor adventures, including fat tire biking, dog sledding, and ice climbing on the towering Matanuska Glacier. With so many activities to explore, you’ll feel far from anchored down in Anchorage. Read on for more ways to roam free in our 49th state.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and the gateway to the mountains, including the Chugach, Kenai, and Talkeetna. Not surprisingly, the area’s stunning landscape acts as a beacon for modern explorers. After all, where else can you dog sled across a glacier (there are 60 of them within 50 miles of the city), take a cruise to go whale watching, or watch as bears fish for salmon or dig for shellfish? After you’re done heeding the call of the wild, you’ll be as hungry as a wolf. Luckily, Anchorage's emerging dining scene is ready to satiate and civilize you. Our recommendation: Chow down on some local grub, such as bison sliders or cod tacos, at Rustic Goat Restaurant.
1. Bicycle through the snow
Travel through the snow on a fat tire bike, which you can rent at Arctic Cycles in south Anchorage. Thanks to their rotational weight, these bikes make it easy to maneuver through the snow. Slip on your poagies—those are warm bike mitts, for non-Alaskans—grab a quick how-to from the staff, and pedal out on your own. Or, sign up for a three- to five-hour bike tour and tool around town with a local guide.
2. Capture bears and bison on film
Grab some photography tips from some of Alaska's best photographers, who offer small group tours throughout the city. Sign up for the two-hour Anchorage PhotoWalk with Alaska Photo Treks, and explore the city by foot, learn about its history, and snap some pro-quality photos along the way. Try out a wide-angle or zoom lens as you capture images of the Alaska Railroad, the Coastal Trail, and Ship Creek, a favorite local fishing and shorebird viewing spot. Get out of the city on a one-day brown bear flight-seeing tour or a multi-day excursion to Denali, also available through Alaska PhotoTreks. Your guides will lead you to spots with optimal light and plenty of wildlife, including bears and bison, leaving you with frame-worthy pictures from your adventure.
3. Get your mush on
If you're visiting Anchorage in early March, the world-renowned Iditarod races are a must-see. Sledders from across the globe, including Great Britain, Norway, Italy, and even Jamaica, converge to tackle this grueling 1,049-mile dogsled race through harsh terrain. For an experience of a lifetime, place a bid to ride in a sled for the first 11 miles of the race. Any time of year, try dog sledding with Dallas Seavey's Dog Sled Tours. You'll sled through 5 miles of Chugach State Park aboard a custom-built tour sled. Snap a selfie and get a paw-tograph with the champion sled dogs you'll meet at the end of your excursion.
4. Watch whales breach
Explore Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay by boat to see whales, puffins, sea otters, and Dall's porpoises in their natural habitat. A two-hour drive south of Anchorage, these half- or full-day cruises get you within a quarter-mile of the area's stunning glaciers. Enjoy an onboard meal while you keep an eye out for whales passing by. Don't worry—the boat will stop if you spot one. On the full-day tour, hop off the boat and hike around one of the park’s islands or become the captain of your own vessel, or at least your own kayak, and paddle around the fjords before getting back on board.
5. From a boat deck, listen to glaciers move
Sail through more than 140 miles of Prince William Sound on a five-hour outing with Philips Cruise. From the deck of the state's fastest catamaran, the 137-foot Klondike Express, view 26 glaciers, including the majestic alpine and tidewater glaciers in College and Harriman Fjord. Listen carefully because you'll be close enough to the towering, blue-specked glaciers to hear them move. Insider tip: When you book your Anchorage visit, make reservations for a cruise ASAP because the ships fill up quickly.
6. Fish at Ship Creek Viewing Platform
Hooked on fishing? Throw a line in at the Ship Creek Viewing Platform. Located less than 2 miles from downtown, it’s one of the greatest fisheries in the U.S. Anglers gather here every summer to catch king, coho, and pink salmon. Visitors can rent a rod and waders from the Bait Shack and cast their lot with the pros. Fish aren't the only creatures you'll spot here. Along the waters of Cook Inlet, keep an eye out for feasting birds, including the Hudsonian Godwit, turnstones, and surfbirds.
7. Forget skates. Go climb on some ice.
Head 100 miles up Glenn Highway from Anchorage for year-round ice climbing on 29,000 square miles of spectacular glacier ice. Visit the Matanuska Glacier, an accessible frozen monolith, perfect for beginners or expert climbers. If this is your first attempt, sign up with MICA Guides’ ice climbing tours for a guided hike across the 4-mile wide glacier. Their experts will arm you with the gear you need as well as tips to keep you from getting cold feet (literally and figuratively).
8. Picnic beneath approaching jets
Just south of the airport, take in some serious scenery at Kincaid Park. Featuring rolling forested hills, this municipal park delivers scenic views at every turn. Check out Mount Susitna across Cook Inlet, see Fire Island to the southwest, and Mount Denali and Mount Foraker to the north. Pack a picnic and watch the sunset—and the jets approach—from this prime viewing spot. For a sweat-inducing adventure, hit the trails and try the 6-mile Lekisch Loop, touted as the hilliest 10K in the U.S.
9. Summit a Flattop—the mountain, not the haircut
Hike one of the area's most popular trails, Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park, southeast of Anchorage. On this 3-mile round-trip route, you’ll navigate through a grove of mountain hemlock, timberline, and talus fields on your way to the 3,550-foot peak of Flattop Mountain. Once you hit the summit, be prepared for some rock scrambling, and check your footbed for loose rocks. For an added challenge, try biking to the trailhead and then hiking to the summit.
10. Hike or Bike Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Walk, bike, jog, or skate through the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which shifts from city skyline views to a grand view of Mount Denali at the path’s highest point. Be on the lookout for moose, which you can spot all along the trail here. In the summer, look for beluga whales offshore in Cook Inlet.