Anchorage is the biggest city in the entire state of Alaska. It is located in the southcentral region of Alaska and has a population of approximately 300,000 people. This may seem like a large number, but Anchorage covers approximately 1900 square miles (compared to 300 square miles for NYC). The area in which Anchorage lays is basically gigantic, but since most of the land is uninhabited and mountainous, you will find most people around the downtown area.
In for a hike? Anchorage is surrounded by nature! You will want to go out and immerse yourself in Alaska’s natural environment. There are a few hikes you can do in the area, but these two are my personal recommendations:
1. Flattop Mountain
This hike will give you extraordinary views on the city of Anchorage as well as its surroundings. On your way to the top, you will come across various wild flowers, blueberries and crow berries. The hike itself can be done in two parts; the first part is the Blueberry Loop Trail, and although relatively easy, it is all uphill. On the way, you will cross paths with people picking blueberries on the hills. At the end of the trail, you will have reached the base of the mountain. From here on, the hike will be much steeper, and is therefore not meant for everyone. But once you pass the 1500 feet of elevation and reach the very flat top of this mountain, all your efforts will be rewarded with the incredible views that this place has to offer!
Length: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
2. McHugh Trail
If you’re feeling a little less adventurous or are looking for something a little less strenuous, opt for the McHugh trailhead. Situated south of Anchorage in the Chugach Mountains, this moderately challenging hike ends at Rabbit Lake. The trail is quite lengthy, 14 miles roundtrip and 2900 feet of elevation gain. This said, many only go for part of the route, hiking a comfortable 3-4 miles before going back. This trail offers a higher chance to observe wildlife, such as moose and Dall sheep (sometimes even bears!) than at Flattop Mountain.
Length: 14 miles
When in Anchorage, make sure to stop at Point Woronzof Park. This area is located right next to the airport, is the best spot to watch planes land on and take off from their landing lanes. If you are interested in going for a walk, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail passes through it, which goes from Downtown Anchorage all the way to Kincaid Park. This place is one of the best in the area to watch the sunset, and offers incredible views of Cook Inlet and downtown Anchorage.
Afterwards, drive to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Here, you can listen to stories and learn about the Alaskan Native life and history. You will find all kinds of artifacts in this museum, and different styles of houses outside. The museum is open from the first of May to the 15th of September, and admission is 24.95$ per adult.
In the morning, stop at Snow City Café (1034 W 4th Ave), one of the most popular spots in town for breakfast and brunch. The food is delicious, but it being such a popular destination, you might want to call ahead to make a reservation. Vegan and gluten free options are available as well. Try the sockeye smoked salmon cakes (with Alaskan fresh salmon) or the tundra scramble (with reindeer sausage).
For dinner, stop at the Bear Tooth Grill (1230 W 27th Ave). This restaurant works with Alaskan fisheries and farmers and offers a variety of dishes including Alaskan seafood. Try the blueberry-AK rhubarb salad, the grilled fresh AK salmon, the AK cod chowder or the AK fish and chips. The restaurant also offers a full-service bar with over 90 tequilas.
Go for a local Alaskan beer and brewing tour at the Anchorage Brewing Company, located at 148 West 91st Avenue. The brewery is open from 2:00 to 8:00pm from Wednesday to Sunday.
When to go
This will come to no surprise, but it’s REALLY cold in the winter (-30°F). The best time to visit anchorage is during the summer months, between the months of May and September more specifically. June tends to have the warmest and the longest days. The weather in the summer fluctuates between the 50s°F and 60s°F, reaching the 70s°F occasionally. This said, a nice comfy sweater will probably still be necessary.
How to get there
The best way to get to Anchorage is by plane. The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is located next to downtown Anchorage, with services available to and from Denver, Honolulu, Chicago, Portland, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Seattle.
You can also reach Anchorage by car, by following the Alaska Highway which starts from Northern British Columbia in Canada. The Alaska Highway stops in Fairbanks, and from there, you can drive on the Parks Highway south to Anchorage. Another route is by driving on the Alaska Highway to Tok and from there take the Glenn Highway to Anchorage.
The easiest way to get around Anchorage is by car. Public transportation is not quite existent, and the city is not very walkable (except from the downtown area). Renting a car at the airport is the best way to go, in order to fully enjoy everything this city has to offer.
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