The Alaskan wilderness is really unique, there is no where else on the planet quite like it, and seeing it on foot is one of the very best ways to soak up the natural beauty of this part of the world.
Alaska is situated on the North West of the North America continent bordered by Washington state to the south and Canada to the West and because of its location in the Northern Hemisphere it has weather like we couldn’t even imagine – the sun is visible for up to 24 hours of the day for around 80 days of the year and then for around 67 days of the year there won’t be a glimpse of the sun and life is lived in darkness.
Residents here are clearly very used to these seasonal patterns and have their ways of going about everyday life despite their unique weather situation, but if you do come hiking in Alaska it may well baffle your body clock for days and take a lot of getting used to. Having said that it is an unbelievable experience.
The winter months for locals become more hibernation months but come the summer and the literally endless days of sunshine it is not uncommon to find people hiking through the night and making full use of the 24 hours of blissful sun.
Here are a couple of our top walking spots in this beautiful country, these are all locations that you can find guided walking tours in, as lone hiking in Alaska is not wise unless you are extremely familiar with the areas.
Anchorage is Alaska’s most populated city and contains more than 40% of the states people. However travel just miuntes out of the city and you’ll find some stunning guiding hiking routes.
There are short walks, long walks, easy and hard walks so just talk to local guides about what you’d like.
Some favourites include the Byron Glacier Trail which is only a short trail at 1.4 miles surrounded by mountains and as you walk at the edge of the glacier you’ll see this magnificent natural phenomenon up close and personal.
Another route takes in the O’Malley Peak, the tallest peak in the Chugach skyline. This climb is rewarded with unbeatable views of the Anchorage Bowl. If you are hiking in Alaska with little children then you could opt for the Little O’Malley route which is great for little ones and beginners.
Girdwood is North America’s northernmost temperate coastal rainforest and has a very different eco system from anything else you’ll find in Alaska.
Within this natural beauty you’ll find hummingbirds, lichens, ferns, fungi and mosses of all kinds.
There are a few different paths to take through the rainforest; Winner Creek is the easiest hike and the most well trodden and starts at ends at the Hotel Alyeska. The first mile can be a little crowded but the people disperse as you move on through the route.
If walking with other people isn’t really your thing then the Upper Winner Creek trail allows the same great sights as Winner Creek trail itself but is a lot less busy. From this trail you also get to take in some wonderful Chugach scenery.
If you fancy a little more adventure then jump on the Crow Pass Trail or North Face Trail which pass awe-inspiring glaciers and if you have days to walk you can head towards the Eagle River Valley with wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities.
Denali National Park
Walking in Denali National Park means you are allowed to relax the hiking in Alaska rule of never going it alone, but only if you are still careful.
Denali National Park was really first desinged as a place to explore without guidance, a trail-less wilderness. For that reason it is very normal for people to make their own ways around the park and not follow guided routes.
If you do still want to stick to a trail though there are a couple of short, signposted routes near the main entrance that you can choose.
The park does have rangers so there are people about that you can chat to if you need to along the way.
This is a big national park so you do need to plan your routes carefully or you could find yourself literally lost in the wilderness! With 9492 square miles of park and one road that is 92 miles long, you can gain an idea of just how big this park actually is.
The park is a haven for wildlife and if you are very lucky you may be able to spot grizzly and black bears, wolves, caribou, moose and Dall’s sheep. These are hard to spot animals though who will try their very best to hide from you so don’t be disappointed if you don’t spot any. Likely though you’ll see arctic ground squirrels, red squirrels, foxes and marmots alongside an abundance of bird life.
Fairbanks is a large city with lots going on, but the reason we suggest heading to this area is actually to see the very best of the 24 hour summer sun. This part of Alaska is bathed in sunshine for months on end, an incredible thing to experience. Locals seem to really enjoy this time of year and make the most of the daylight, with children playing outside late into the evenings and people walking and enjoying the sunshine through the night.
On the longest day of the year many locals will head to elevated viewpoints to see the best of the midnight sun and many a late-night celebration will be happening….in the brilliant sunshine.
The highlight though of seeing the midnight sun is watching it make its way for the horizon, just like most of us are used to and then as if by some freak miracle it appears to almost bounce back up off the horizon and rises for a new day. Just a spectacular experience that is hard to explain with words, if you do go hiking in Alaska try your very best to see this special moment.
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