30 Great Hikes

Hit the Trail

A good pair of boots can take you to some of the state’s best scenery

There are few parts of the planet that can rival the hiking Alaska has to offer. It's a world carved by ancient glaciers, teeming with sea life, bird life and bright blue, glacial lakes, looming mountains, lava flows frozen in time and empty miles of tundra. Whether you are an Alaskan eager to hit the trail again or a traveler planning the trip of a lifetime, this hiking guide will whet your appetite for the trail this summer.

There are many fantastic hikes not included in this list, but these are some of the best, as suggested by Alaska Magazine readers, contributors and staff members, or by experts and hiking enthusiasts across the state. Before you begin these or any hikes, research your route, buy a topographical map, and pack emergency supplies (See “What to Carry in Your Pack” below) to ensure your hike is fun and safe.



Southcentral

Southcentral trails offer the best of many worlds—easy access, a multitude of wildlife, a variety of scenic terrain and a moderate climate. Complete solitude on the trail may not be possible, but with glaciers, volcanic rock formations and stunning lakeside strolls, there are many hiking opportunities that are just too good to miss.


Easy Hikes

Eklutna Lake

This glacier-fed lake has knockout scenery, and the hike is mostly on an old road, very wide and level. The trail follows the shore of the lake, then continues along the river to the moraines of Eklutna Glacier. Public use cabins, campsites, glaciers, streams and beaches are available. But note that four-wheelers are allowed on the trail from Sunday to Wednesday, so plan around this.

Access: Take the Eklutna Lake exit at Mile 26 on the Glenn Highway and follow park signs 10 miles to Eklutna Lake.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: Minimal
Distance: 12.9 miles one way
Time: Three hours

Glacier Lake Trail

Thirty minutes from Homer by water taxi, this trail passes through spruce and cottonwood, then opens up to a glacial moraine and spectacular views of mountains and ice on Grewingk Glacier Lake. A short backtrack leads to the Saddle Trail and the pickup point in sheltered Halibut Cove.

Access: Marine access at Glacier Spit Trailhead (morning drop-off is best because of wind conditions) or Saddle Trailhead (best pickup for afternoon or evening.)
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: 50 feet
Distance: 3.7-mile loop
Time: Three hours


Moderate Hikes

Reed Lakes

This trail explores two glacial lakes nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains, and hikers can visit Bomber Glacier to see the wreckage of a B-29 bomber that crashed in 1957. The trail heads through a valley and then uphill past an abandoned mine. Switchbacks lead to a rocky pass requiring boulder hopping.

Access: About 14 miles along the Palmer Fishhook Road, look for a dirt road on the right marked for Archangel Valley. Past Archangel Creek look for a parking lot marked for Reed Lakes Trail.
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 1,800 feet
Distance: Nine miles round trip
Time: Eight hours or a great overnight trip

Skookum Volcano Trail

This fabulous trail with panoramic views is in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The trail starts in shaded spruce forest and follows a creek bed up to the high pass, shrouded with rock formations patterned in pink and tan from volcanic rocks and lava ejected from Skookum Creek volcano millions of years ago.

Access: Nabesna Road Mile at 36.8
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 2,800 feet
Distance: 2.5 miles each way
Time: Five hours


Challenging Hikes

Mount Marathon

Hundreds of Alaskans race to the top and back every Fourth of July, but there is also an easier—though still challenging—route called the Hikers Trail. It starts at the base of the mountain, switchbacks up and then turns sharply right to follow a ridgeline and the natural curve of the slope upward. The trail requires trekking poles and even some handholds on some of the slick, worn sections toward the end, but the steep trail rewards with views of Seward, Resurrection Bay, the Rocky Islands and the Kenai Mountains.

Access: First and Munroe streets in Seward.
Level: Difficult
Elevation changes: 1,800 feet
Distance: Two miles each way
Time: About seven hours

Harding Icefield Trail

The trail starts on the valley floor and winds through cottonwood and alder, climbing gradually over alpine wildflower meadows and rock and snow to an overlook of the icefield. The trail is strenuous, gaining about 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. The amazing view is well worth the effort.

Access: Take the Glacier Road exit just outside of Seward. Follow signs for 8.4 miles to Exit Glacier parking lot.
Level: Difficult
Elevation changes: 1,800 feet
Distance: Two miles each way
Time: About seven hours

Pioneer Ridge Trail

The trail starts from nearly sea level and rises abruptly, reaching the top of 5,300-foot Pioneer Ridge in 4.5 miles. The trail is well maintained, including improbably placed picnic tables where hikers can enjoy lunch or rest as they admire views of Knik Glacier and the Chugach Mountains.

Access: From Anchorage, take the Glenn Highway to the Old Glenn Highway exit before the Knik River. Drive about five miles to a parking area on the right, marked by a wooden sign.
Level: Difficult
Elevation changes: 6,400 feet
Distance: Six miles each way
Time: Eight to 12 hours



Interior

The Interior offers everything from high alpine hikes to vast expanses of tundra and forests teeming with birds and wildlife. Whatever your hiking ability or preference, the Interior is a veritable walking paradise that is lightly traveled.


Easy Hikes

Horseshoe Lake Trail

This popular trail in the Denali National Park and Preserve drops down through taiga forest to an overlook with a panoramic view of the Nenana River and the surrounding mountains. A guided hike is offered daily in the summer months from the visitors center.

Access: Mile 0.9 on the Denali Park Road near the railroad tracks, or from Mile 1.5 on the Park Road at the Denali Visitors Center.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: 250 feet
Distance: Three miles round trip
Time: One hour to 90 minutes, round trip

Hidden Lake Trail

This trail, 19 miles from the Canada border on the Alaska Highway, explores boreal forest and bog habitats along an elevated boardwalk leading to Hidden Lake, where there is a rowboat available for public use.

Access: Mile 1,240 on the Alaska Highway, pullout available for parking.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: Minimal
Distance: One mile each way
Time: One hour, round trip


Moderate Hikes

Tors Trail

This trail is a must-see for its access to alpine tundra, unusual rock formations and views of the Alaska Range and the Chena River Valley. The East Trail is a gradual ascent, while the West Trail is shorter and steeper. The tors are granite outcroppings that formed millions of years ago and dominate the tundra.

Access: Tors Trail Campground day-use area at Milepost 39.5 on Chena Hot Springs Road.
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 2,450 feet
Distance: 15-mile loop
Time: Six to eight hours

Summit Trail

This trail in the White Mountains National Recreation Area follows a ridgeline through alpine tundra and descends past the Wickersham Dome, drops into spruce forest, climbs onto tundra and then drops to Beaver Creek.

Access: Elliott Highway at Milepost 28
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 1,775 feet
Distance: 20 miles one way
Time: Two days, with an overnight at Le Fevere Cabin.


Challenging Hikes

Kesugi Ridge

This is often considered one of the best hikes in the state. Located in Denali State Park, it boasts spectacular views of Denali and the Alaska Range. The trail varies from lowland birch, spruce and cottonwood to alpine tundra and has a steep climb onto the ridge as well as several ups and downs of hundreds of feet while on the ridge route.

Access: Four access points on the Parks Highway: Mile 137.6 at the Upper Troublesome Creek Trailhead; Mile 147.0 at Byers Lake Campground; Mile 156.5 at Ermine Hill Trailhead; and Mile 163.9 at Little Coal Creek Trailhead.
Level: Challenging
Elevation changes: 5,400 feet
Distance: 27 miles one way
Time: Two to four days

Pinnell Mountain Trail

A National Recreation Trail with sweeping mountain vistas and brilliant wildflower displays, this is the premier hike in the Fairbanks area. The primitive trail is marked with wooden mileposts and rock cairns, and switchbacks provide safer access across steep talus slopes.

Access: Milepost 107 on the Steese Highway.
Level: Challenging
Elevation changes: 6,000 feet
Distance: 27 miles
Time: Two to four days



Southwest

Few places on earth compare with Southwest Alaska. With brown bears ambling along the hills and plains, and more that 240 bird species, the region’s terrain also brings hikers tough challenges and rewarding views.


Easy Hikes

Brooks Falls Trail

This wheelchair-accessible trail in Katmai National Park and Preserve is popular with both bears and hikers. The trail travels through boreal forest to two raised platforms with a bird's-eye view of bears fishing in the Brooks River. Be aware that bears often sleep on the trail during the salmon runs, and are commonly encountered wandering along the trail.

Access: Katmai National Park and Preserve, Brooks Camp, across from the vault toilets.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: Minimal
Distance: 1.2 miles one-way
Time: One hour

Near Island, North End Park

Explore tide pools, watch shore and sea birds, and see fishing boats coming and going, all on an easy hike on Near Island across the harbor from the city of Kodiak.

Access: Cross Near Island Bridge from Kodiak, parking lot is immediately on the left.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: Minimal
Distance: 0.6 miles
Time: 30 minutes to one hour


Moderate Hikes

Dumpling Mountain

The trail starts at the Brooks Camp and climbs to an overlook of Naknek Lake and Brooks Camp. Naturalist-led hikes are available, and independent hikers can continue on to the summit of Dumpling Mountain.

Access: Katmai National Park, trailhead from Brooks Camp.
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 800 feet to overlook, 1,600 feet to summit
Distance: 1.5 miles each way for the overlook, additional 2.5 miles each way for the summit trail.
Time: Two-five hours

Anton Larsen Pass Loop and Peak

Access Kodiak’s dramatic, alpine country without a challenging hike. The trail starts in meadows, then climbs a generous alpine ridge above a glacial valley. The descent follows the opposite ridge.

Access: Anton Larsen Bay Road parking lot. Walk toward the bay for a short distance to a wide trail on the left.
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 2,000 feet
Distance: Five miles roundtrip
Time: Three to five hours


Challenging Hikes

Ballyhoo Mountain

Combine World War II history with endless views of the Bering Sea on this enjoyable mountain summit trail in Unalaska. At the summit, there are views of Makushin Volcano, the Bering Sea and the city of Unalaska. Also see the highest coastal battery ever constructed in the United States, with gun mounts, tunnels and bunkers that are some of the best-preserved monuments in the country. Obtain a land-use permit from the Ounalashka Corp. before setting off.

Access: Behind the ferry dock in Dutch Harbor, or take the access road half way up, by the airport.
Level: Challenging
Elevation changes: 1,000 feet
Distance: Three miles round trip
Time: Two to five hours

Barometer Mountain

The highest peak on the Kodiak road system, this steep trail is one for sure-footed hikers, and rewards them with 360-degree views of Kodiak and Chiniak Bay.

Access: Turn off Chiniak Highway onto Burma Road. At the end of the airport runway find a broad trail leading up the road bank into the brush.
Level: Challenging
Elevation changes: 2,500 feet
Distance: Four miles, round trip
Time: Two to four hours



Southeast

Southeast has been shaped by the staggering force of glaciers over millions of years. The lush forest, deep fjords and one of the richest wildlife habitats on the planet will ensure unforgettable adventures on the trail.


Easy Hikes

Kah Sheets Trail

Kah Sheets is at the southeastern end of Kupreanof Island, near the entrance to Duncan Canal. Forest Service cabins at either end of the trail can turn this into a pleasurable overnight trip.

Access: By boat or floatplane from Wrangell or Petersburg.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: 776 feet
Distance: 2.75 miles each way
Time: Five hours or overnight

Sitka National Historical Park Trail

A short trail in a small national historical park featuring Native and Russian history. Shiskeenue, a Tlinglit fort, is on the West Loop, which winds between totem poles. The trail circles back along the Indian River with views of Sitka Sound.

Access: A mile east of downtown Sitka, adjacent to Sheldon Jackson College, starts at the visitors center.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: Minimal
Distance: 1.75 total miles
Time: One to two hours


Moderate Hikes

Deer Mountain Trail

A great trail for travelers and locals alike because of its proximity to downtown Ketchikan, this trail travels up a series of switchbacks under a dense canopy of lush forest. At the summit, expect an exceptional view of Ketchikan, islands, ocean, mountain peaks and the cool forests below. From Deer Mountain the hike can be extended to Blue Lake for a long hike or a two- to three-day backpack traverse of alpine ridges across Revillagigedo Island.

Access: South on Tongass Highway. Turn left onto Deermount Street. Follow Deermount until it dead ends at a T intersection. Turn right and follow hiker signs.
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 2,600 feet
Distance: 9 miles round trip
Time: Five hours

Perseverance Trail

Perhaps one of the most well-used trails in Juneau, it intermingles Alaska’s rich gold history with impressive scenery. The trail runs along the old wagon road to Perseverance Mine. The wide, firm path travels to a high basin with ruins and artifacts of the old mining operations.

Access: From downtown, take Gold Street to Basin Road. Follow it to the end, the trailhead is marked.
Level: Moderate
Elevation changes: 700 feet
Distance: 3 miles one way
Time: Three to four hours



Challenging Hikes

Chilkoot Trail

This trail is steeped in history, scenery and wildlife. The trail is amazingly diverse, traveling through coastal rainforest to a steep alpine pass, and on into British Columbia. Used by Chilkoot Indians as a trading route, then by thousands during the Klondike Gold Rush, it is now accessed by a global community of hikers each summer. Most hikers take the White Pass and Yukon Railway flag-stop service back to sea level. Don’t forget your passport!

Access: From Skagway, follow the Klondike Highway two miles to Dyea Road, turn left and follow the road seven miles to the trailhead.
Level: Difficult
Elevation changes: 3,700 feet
Distance: 33 miles one way
Time: Three to five days

Petersburg Mountain

Across the narrows from Petersburg, this challenging trail travels to the summit of Petersburg Mountain and spectacular views of Petersburg, the Wrangell Narrows, Duncan Canal, Frederic Sound and the coastal mountains and glaciers. An anchored cable near the summit assists hikers at the trail’s steepest section.

Access: Trail begins at Kupreanof state dock. The trail leads east (right) from the dock
Level: Difficult
Elevation changes: 2,592 feet
Distance: 3.5 miles one way
Time: Five to seven hours



Artic/Northwest

While there are few actual trails in this region, it is a prize for those who have the skill, endurance and determination to tackle it.


Easy Hikes

Shore Avenue, Kotzebue

A walk along the shoreline in this Inupiat Eskimo village is an education in subsistence living. Watch locals fishing and mending nets, and see salmon drying on racks under the midnight sun. Keep going for miles along the shore when the road ends, or take Ted Stevens Way in a longer loop on the tundra around the village. And don’t miss the new cultural center.

Access: Short walk from airstrip. 
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: Minimal
Distance: Two miles
Time: One hour or longer.

Anvil Rock

The hike up to the rock above Nome offers views of the Kigluaik Mountains and the Nome basin. From the summit it is possible to see part of a communications system used during the Korean War.

Access: From Nome, take Teller Road 3½ miles, look for turn to the right marked Glacier Creek Road. After the road veers left, look for a place to park.
Level: Easy
Elevation changes: 600 feet
Distance: One mile, round trip
Time: One hour


Moderate Hikes

Serpentine Hot Springs, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Hike an ancient landscape that puts you on the doorstep of the Bering Land Bridge and then soak in a tub of hot mineral water. Several trails travel through wet tundra up onto the ridges to granite tors. An unimproved trail leads from the southeastern end of the landing strip to the top of the ridge behind. Waders are a must.

Access: Flight from Nome
Level: Moderate in remote location
Elevation changes: 750 feet
Distance: One to 10 miles
Time: One hour to a full day

Kigluaik View

This well-kept secret follows a trail that is firm and dry, but with loose rock requiring sturdy shoes. The wide trail follows a broad ridge up with a 1,200-foot drop off on the north side. It can be windy, but the view at the top of Seward Peninsula’s highest point is worth the chill.

Access: Kougarok Road at Mile 27, where it turns east to Salmon Lake
Level: Moderate hike
Elevation changes: 2,000 feet
Distance: Four miles, round trip
Time: Four to six hours


Challenging Hikes

John River, Gates of the Artic National Park

One of six National Wild Scenic Rivers within the park, the upper portion of this river starts small and the surrounding Endicott Mountains are easily accessible for day hikes from a base camp. Numerous game trails help hikers pick routes that correspond with their map and compass readings. Several licensed adventure companies offer organized hikes or float and hike combinations in the area.

Access: Charter flight from Fairbanks, Bettles, Coldfoot or Kotzebue, or park at Wiseman Point on the Dalton Highway and hike in.
Elevation changes: Various
Distance: Various
Time: Various

Anaktuvuk Pass

This Nunamiat community of the same name offers a designated campsite for day hikers or a starting point for a six-day trip along the John River or east to Dietrich River on the Dalton Highway. Some adventurous souls also cross the Arctic Divide from here, traveling across Ernie Pass, through the Valley of Precipices and down Ernie Creek to the North Fork of the Koyukuk River for a rendezvous with an air taxi.

Access: Charter flight from Fairbanks
Elevation changes: Various
Distance: Various
Time: Various

Jane Teague is an Australian who married the Alaska man in the next tent on the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry. The couple lives and hikes near Tok with their baby and several dysfunctional huskies.



What to Carry in Your Pack

Day Hike

Conditions change quickly and dramatically in Alaska, so be prepared for the worst, even on a short jaunt.
- Map, guidebook or trail directions
- Compass
- Two quarts of drinking water per person
- Waterproof hiking boots or Xtra-Tufs
- Wicking T-shirt or shirt
- At least two pairs of synthetic socks
- Rain/wind jacket and pants
- Fleece or wool hat
- Waterproof gloves and synthetic cold-weather gloves
- Knife or multitool
- Watch
- Small first-aid kit
- Bug repellent
- Bear spray
- Sunglasses
- Sunscreen and limp balm with SPF
- LED headlamp
- Two lighters in waterproof container
- One lighter in pants pocket at all times
- Three 50-foot lengths of 80-pound test nylon string
- Several Ziploc bags, and one large garbage bag (rain covers, berry and wild food bags, water containers and so much more)
- Trail mix or high-energy snacks

Overnight Hikes

Add the following items:
- Synthetic fiber sleeping bag (rated to at least 0º F)
- Sleeping mat
- Lightweight, three-season tent
- Water purification tools (iodine, bleach or filter)
- Stove and fuel
- Pot/pan with lid, cup and spoon
- Small roll of duct tape
- 1 or 2 small signal flares
- Loud, plastic whistle
- Unbreakable mirror for signaling
- Snacks and dehydrated food for at least two days longer than you plan to be out
- Extra clothing, more socks, thermal underwear and a change of shirt and pants, sealed in a Ziploc bag (dry clothes may save your life)
- Toilet paper and small trowel to bury waste

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