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Best short hikes from Alaska’s top towns

posted July 5, 2018


Best short hikes from Alaska’s top towns

From its amazing wildlife and eye-catching mountains to its majestic forests and stunning icebergs, Alaska is famed for its wilderness.

Along with Alaska cruises from Vancouver, hiking is one of the best ways to see these natural wonders and we’d highly recommend getting your walking boots on and exploring.

If you’re going on a cruise in Alaska there are plenty of fantastic short hikes on offer to you from Alaska’s major towns like Anchorage.

With the help of travellers who have hiked in Alaska before, we’ve shared some of the best hikes you can go on during your holiday, some things to consider packing and we’ve revealed why hiking in the state is so special.

What to pack for hiking in Alaska

What to pack for hiking in Alaska

While you will only be going on short hikes there are some things that you should consider packing.

– Hiking boots

– A light coat

– Mosquito repellent

– Layers

– Bear spray

– Sun cream

– Small first aid kit

– Binoculars (so you can spot the wildlife)

– And most importantly a camera!

Great Alaska hikes

Great Alaska hikes

Lower Dewey Lake

Distance: Around 3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The Lower Dewey Lake Trail is close to the popular town of Skagway and is a loop trail which is accessible all-year round. As well as featuring a lake, this great hike takes you through the forested hillside and offers some stunning views over the town and harbour.

Joy Sheehan, who runs the travel and outdoor lifestyle blog A Jaunt With Joy, recommends going on this hike if you’re staying in Skagway:

“Skagway, Alaska is a popular cruise port that offers plenty of short day hikes. You can access a handful of trails right from town! The most popular short hike is Lower Dewey Lake. The hike here is a bit strenuous at first since you need to go up various switchbacks, but once you reach the lake it gets pretty flat. Lower Dewey Lake is a gorgeous emerald green colour and offers picnic tables, bonfire pits, and a loop trail all the way around it. From town to the lake roundtrip is about 1-2 hours total.

“Both Upper and Lower Reid Falls, Yakutania Point, and Smugglers Cove are also excellent options for short hikes in Skagway.”

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Distance: 11 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Regarded as one of the most beautiful coastal trails in Canada, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail gently winds along the coast 11 miles from downtown to the chalet at Kincaid Park and is by far Anchorage’s most popular trail. Leave the bustling city behind and take in the sweeping vistas and potentially get glimpses of the moose and other wildlife residing in the area.

According to Visit Anchorage, the trail is seen as the crown-jewel of the 135-mile paved trail system around Anchorage:

“This trail has great views of Cook Inlet and the prospect of sighting wildlife like moose, eagles and cranes. Bike rentals are widely available and inexpensive.”

Hatcher’s Pass

Distance: Around 9 miles

Difficulty: Hard

Steven Diaz, an Orlando-based photographer who shares his work on Steven Diaz Photo, has been to Alaska before and recommends walking along Hatcher’s Pass:

“When I visited Anchorage for a short stay, I knew that at the top of my list was going on a hike. As a guy from Florida, the Alaskan landscape may as well have been Narnia, and I was basically already blown away just looking out at the mountains from Anchorage. I had no idea where to start. Luckily, I ended up meeting a group of hikers on an online meet-up board, and they were planning on going on a day-hike through an area known as Hatcher’s Pass. I went with them, and to this day I’ve never had a more breath-taking hike in my life. I felt like a Hobbit travelling through Middle Earth! Most of my shots from Alaska were taken on that hike alone. The terrain will have you climbing up grassy knolls, to skipping across gigantic stones over a rushing river, and finally, the climactic end to the hike is certainly Upper Reed Lake. It’s a spectacular view of a lonely lake in the basin of surrounding mountain peaks.”

Flattop Mountain

Distance: Around 3.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Flattop Mountain

Arguably one of the most popular hikes in the city. The mountain can be seen from nearly every part of town and has a distinctive flat top, hence the name. Visit Anchorage says that hikers don’t have to walk all the way to the top, however, as there are other routes in the area.

“If hikers don’t want to make it to the top, the trail system offers several other options for visitors of all abilities. This area is one of the many access points to the Chugach State Park, which surrounds Anchorage on the east side of town and is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020.”

Exit Glacier

Distance: Around 4.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The hike to Exit Glacier in Seward is regarded as one of the best hikes you can do in Alaska as it offers great views of the glacier area inside Kenai Fjords National Park.

The Edge of the Glacier Trail (also known as Lower Trail) is the most popular, but there is a longer trail for those that want to test themselves further called the Harding Icefield Trail. This hike climbs 3,500 feet and is 8.4 miles long.

Lots of cruises embark and disembark at Exit Glacier and therefore it is one of the most popular road-accessible glaciers in the state.

Potter Marsh

Distance: Half-a-mile

Difficulty: Easy

Located at the southern end of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge is Potter Marsh and this short hike will allow you to stretch your legs. Visit Anchorage highly recommends walking along this trail: “Part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Potter Marsh is home to some of the best wildlife viewing in Anchorage – a walk along the half-mile boardwalks offers chances to see moose, spawning salmon and more than 130 different species of birds.”

Earthquake Park

Distance: Around 5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The trail is close-by to Anchorage and is a popular destination for hikers, nature trips and bird-watchers as there are a variety of bird species and wildflowers that can be seen along the route.

Visit Anchorage says: “This park gives visitors a chance to see the evidence of Alaska’s 1964 earthquake. The 9.2-magnitude quake was the largest ever recorded in North America and its geological impacts such as a sharp drop-off north of the park and rippling hills in the forest can still be seen today.”

Why is hiking in Alaska special?

Why is hiking in Alaska special?

As we’ve mentioned, hiking in Alaska is pretty special. You shouldn’t just take our word for it though so we asked travel bloggers who have visited the state before for their thoughts.

A Jaunt With Joy’s Joy Sheehan says that Alaska’s trails are some of the most picturesque in the world:

“I’ve been hiking in many other states and even other countries, but the trails in Alaska are some of the most picturesque I’ve ever experienced. You just can’t beat the abundant wildlife and stunning views. Most rivers and lakes are fed from glaciers, so the colours are teal blue or deep green. Snow-capped mountains often spring up fields of colourful wildflowers. And the air is so fresh and crisp. Now, the mosquitos, on the other hand, are a different story.”

Photographer Steven Diaz, adds: “It is incredibly serene. The landscape is so reminiscent of fantasy tales that I can’t fathom what else lies within that gigantic state. There are mountains as far as the eye can see, immense wild animals such as moose and bears that call the land home, and as long as you go in summer the temperate is simply beautiful. I visited in August and during the day temperatures remained in the high 60s while only dipping to the 40s at night. And speaking of night, you’ll have plenty of hours of sunlight if you plan to travel in summer! Sunset isn’t until somewhere around 2 or 3 in the morning! So take advantage of all that daylight to see some amazing sights.”

Visit Anchorage added: “With more than 300 miles of paved and backcountry trails, Anchorage is ripe for exploration. Whether hiking along the shores of the Cook Inlet on the Coastal Trail or headed up Flattop Mountain for a scenic overlook of the city, the views are always spectacular. And it’s common to see moose, bald eagles and other wildlife while hiking.”

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