One of the most popular hiking trails in Alaska is the 1.5-mile path to the summit of Flattop Mountain within Chugach State Park. The trailhead is on the southeastern edge of Anchorage, so you’ll need a car to get there.
The Alaska Mountaineering Club (907/272-1811, www.mcak.org) holds meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the First United Methodist Church (9th Ave. and G St.). Visitors are welcome to enjoy the presentations, and it only costs $15 to join the club and go along on any of their frequent outings.
H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark
If you have children, don’t miss H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark (1520 O’Malley Rd., 907/522-4420 or 888/426-2747, www.h2oasiswaterpark.com, daily 10 a.m.–9 p.m. summer, reduced school-year hours), a cavernous indoor water park near the intersection of O’Malley Road and New Seward Highway on the south end of Anchorage.
On busy weekends half the kids in town seem to be here, splashing in the wave pool, shooting jets of water at each other from the pirate ship, gliding down the lazy river, zipping through the body slide, and riding several fast water rides, including the roller coaster–like Master Blaster. Hot tubs are reserved for the over-16 set.
Entrance is $24 ages 13 and up, $19 ages 3–12, and free for younger children with a paying adult. Towel and swimsuit rentals are available, and the food court sells greasy snacks.
Anchorage has 200 miles of urban cycling and jogging trails; pick up bike trail maps at the downtown visitors center. A delightfully easy ride—it’s all paved—goes 11 miles from the west end of 2nd Avenue along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, past Westchester Lagoon, Earthquake Park, and Point Woronzof, and then all the way to Kincaid Park at Point Campbell, out on the western tip of the city. The Chester Creek Trail meets the Coastal Trail at Westchester Lagoon and takes you almost five miles to Goose Lake, where you can take a dip if you’re hot. Or just bomb around to wherever the wind blows you.
Note, however, that the major Anchorage arteries are not especially bike-friendly, so you may want to stick to the side streets to avoid contending with exhaust fumes and speeding pickup trucks. Dirt biking and hiking trails abound within Kincaid Park, Hillside Park, and Far North Bicentennial Park, or you can head up Powerline Pass Trail inside Chugach State Park, Eklutna Lake (bike rentals available on-site), or out on the 40-mile Resurrection Pass from the town of Hope.
Based in Anchorage, the Arctic Bicycle Club (907/566-0177, www.arcticbike.org) organizes races and tours and has a very helpful website. Alaska Backcountry Bike Tours (907/746-5018 or 866/354-2453, www.mountainbikealaska.com) guides all-day cycling trips into backcountry areas around Anchorage.
Several companies have downtown Anchorage offices promoting boat day-tours to glaciers in Prince William Sound (via Whittier) or Resurrection Bay (via Seward). These include Prince William Sound tours from Phillips Tours and Cruises (www.26glaciers.com), Prince William Sound Cruises and Tours (www.princewilliamsound.com), and Major Marine Tours (www.majormarine.com), plus Resurrection Bay trips from Major Marine Tours (www.majormarine.com).
The companies can arrange bus transport to the starting points in Seward or Whittier, or you can ride the Alaska Railroad. Also popular are the day trips from Anchorage to Portage Glacier operated by Gray Line of Alaska (www.graylinealaska.com).
The best way to get a bird’s-eye view of the Anchorage area is from a bird’s-eye vantage point: in an airplane. Anchorage has a large number of companies offering flightseeing; see the Yellow Pages under “Aircraft Charter” for the full list, or visit the flightseeing links on www.anchorage.net.
Two respected Lake Hood operations have been around for many years: Rust’s Flying Service (907/243-1595 or 800/544-2299, www.flyrusts.com) and Regal Air (907/243-8535, www.regal-air.com). Also check out Spernak Airways (907/272-9475, www.spernakair.com), located at Merrill Field.
Typical flights include a 90-minute flight over the Chugach Mountains and Knik Glacier ($200 pp); a three-hour flight over Prince William Sound and Columbia Glacier ($365, includes a remote water landing); and a three-hour flight over Mt. McKinley ($365, may include a glacier landing). The air taxis also feature fly-in fishing trips, primarily to the Susitna River area, where Rust’s has rental cabins available. Charter service may be the way to go if you have a group of four or more people and a specific destination, such as a public cabin in Chugach National Forest.
Although Anchorage sits along Cook Inlet, wild tides and strong winds create notoriously treacherous conditions. As a result, there are no charter-boat fishing operations out of Anchorage. A popular salmon-fishing stream, Ship Creek, flows right through downtown and has good runs of king salmon (late May–July) and silver salmon (Aug.–mid-Sept.). You can also rub shoulders with fellow anglers in mid-summer at Bird Creek, 25 miles south of town on the Seward Highway.
To figure out where the fish are running, or what the local regulations are, call Fish and Game (907/344-0541, recorded message 907/349-4687) or visit the Public Lands Information Center downtown for a copy of the fishing regulations. Both the Anchorage Daily News (www.adn.com/outdoors) and the Anchorage Press publish weekly fishing reports for the Anchorage area.
Increasingly popular are fly-in fishing trips. All the local air-taxi services offer guided or unguided trips to nearby rivers and lakes for world-class salmon fishing.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition