If you’re planning a trip to Alaska, Anchorage is a great home base to fly into to begin your exploration of the Last Frontier. So naturally one of the first thoughts you might have “what are things to do near Anchorage?” Well don’t worry, I have you covered! Just keep reading to get inspired by 7 things to do near Anchorage, Alaska.
Denali National Park is probably the most well known thing to do in Alaska. It’s about a 4 hour, very scenic drive, from Anchorage. Denali home to Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in the U.S. at 20,310′ high. With over 6 million acres in the National Park and Preserve, there is no shortage of things to do! From hiking, rafting, and airplane/helicopter tours in the summer to dog sledding, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. The hardest part will be deciding what to choose!
Hatcher Pass is a scenic mountain pass in the Talkeetna Mountains, located near the cute towns of Palmer and Willow. It’s about an hour and half drive from Anchorage. Almost everywhere you drive in Alaska but this pass is especially beautiful! There is a portion that is paved but a majority of the pass is a 4×4 gravel road. Towards the end of the paved portion is Independence Mine State Historical Park. There are plenty of hiking trails in the area, as well as on the drive up! Two of my favorite hiking trails are Reed Lakes Trail and Gold Cord Lake Trail.
Sadly, when we visit it was pouring rain and the sky was filled with clouds. While it blocked a lot of the mountain views, it was still absolutely breathtaking!
If you plan to visit Seward, you’ll drive about an hour and a half on the scenic Seward Highway. You’ll see breathtaking mountain views as you drive along the water. There are plenty of pull outs and picturesque backdrops to take photos of along the way! The Seward Highway is also the route you’ll take to many of the other things on this list, like Chugach State Park and Kenai Fjords National Park!
Chugach State Park is actually very close to Anchorage. Depending on where you are going in the Park, it can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour drive. Chugach is known for its easy accessibility and outdoorsy activities for all skill levels. You will quickly find out this is a rarity in Alaska as many of the most beautiful locations are quite remote and require a lot of expertise. You can learn more about the different areas of Chugach here!
One of my favorite hikes in Chugach is Byron Glacier Trail! It’s a super accessible trail head that is an easy, 3.2 miles round trip. This is a great trail for a beginner hiker or something to do with the whole family! A majority of the trail is tree lined but at the end it opens up to the most beautiful 360 view.
Pro tip: You will drive around the southern border of Chugach State Park and the Bryon Glacier Trailhead on the Seward Highway. Byron Glacier Trail could be an easy, fun stop on your way to Seward!
The Alaskan Railroad provides year round transportation to many of the iconic spots in Alaska. If you are not wanting to rent a car, this is a great alternative. The main railroad route spans 470 miles from Fairbanks down to Seward, connecting many towns in between. You can take the train from Anchorage up to Fairbanks, stopping at Denali along the way or down to Seward. I would recommend booking your train tickets in advance, especially in the busy summer season! You can book your tickets and learn more about the routes on their website linked here.
Kenai Fjords National Park is located near Seward, about a 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage. It covers over 699,983 acres and is filled with unique fjords [valleys created by glaciers that are now below sea level]. Kenai Fjords is famous for its dramatic glaciers, sweeping mountain views, and active sea life. While most of the national park is a rugged wilderness and unaccessible, there are still plenty of things to do!
If you are looking to truly experience Kenai for all it has to offer, I would recommend seeing it by boat. Kenai Fjords Tours offers many different tours and experience options. During our trip, we booked the “Kenai Fjords National Park Tour”. When I tell you it’s the most wildlife I’ve ever seen in my life, I mean it! On our 6 hour tour, we saw orcas, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, puffins, and so much more!
If you plan on visiting Kenai Fjords National Park by car, check out my blog about Visiting Exit Glacier! The Exit Glacier area is the only area that’s accessible by car and maintained portion of the park. Within the entire National Park, there are only 2 official hiking trails that are both located in Exit Glacier.
Check out my Guide to Kenai Fjords National Park for lots more details to plan your visit!
Lake Clark National Park is about an hour on private charter plane from Anchorage. If you are looking for a remote and rugged place to experience “The Last Frontier” in all it’s glory, Lake Clark is for you!
We decided to book an all day bear viewing tour through Rust’s – the oldest and largest seaplane operator in Anchorage! After taking a 1.5 hour private charter seaplane into the National Park, we landed on Crescent Lake. From there we spent all day on a boat watching grizzly bears in their natural habit. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
If you are thinking about visiting, check out my Lake Clarke National Park Travel Guide for lots more details!