The 6 Best Day Hikes in Southcentral Alaska

As much as people come to Alaska to see bears, moose, and eagles or catch gigantic fish, it’s the sprawling, untouched wilderness landscapes that best define this iconic land. But you don’t have to go far to get a taste of Alaska’s beauty; check out these 6 day hikes all within an easy drive of at least one community. These treks (listed by difficulty, starting with the easiest) will truly immerse you in the wild grandeur that defines Southcentral Alaska.

The Trail of Blue Ice

lake in front of mountains and a glacier in Alaska
One of several glaciers along the Trail of Blue Ice. Photo © Lisa Maloney.

This 5-mile multi-use trail links all the developed recreation areas in Portage Valley, offering stunning views of hanging glaciers on the mountaintops all around. Its combination of pavement and hardened gravel makes for a lovely stroll or bike ride, and a short detour around the only steep hill makes it completely accessible for travelers with disabilities. The trail starts at the Moose Flats Day Use Area at mile 1 of the Portage Highway and ends at the shore of Portage Lake, just outside the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center.

Portage Pass

hikers on the beach near portage glacier in Alaska
Reward yourself with a picnic lunch on the beach near Portage Glacier. Photo © Lisa Maloney.

If you only have time for one hike in Southcentral, make it this one. Sure, you’ll have to go through the longest combined vehicle/railroad tunnel in North America to get to the trailhead in the quirky old military town of Whittier, but that’s part of the fun. Even if you only hike the .8 miles to the top of the 800-foot pass, you’ll be treated to views of Portage Glacier in the distance and the crystal blue waters of Passage Canal behind you; another 1.7 miles gets you down to the lakeshore, directly opposite the glacier.

Pro tip: Bring a picnic lunch with you. If you’re lucky, you might get to see the glacier calve before you hike back.

Grewingk Glacier and Saddle Trail

hikers sitting on the beach near the Grewingk Glacier lake
Grewingk Glacier and Lake. Photo © Lisa Maloney.

Without a doubt the most popular hike in Kachemak Bay, this trail is just outside the artsy fishing town of Homer. But there’s a very Alaska catch: You have to take a boat to get there. You’ll find water taxis up and down the Homer Spit that are happy to give you a ride to the trailhead (for a fee) and then pick you up at the Saddle trailhead. All told it’s an easy, 4.5-mile walk to the shore of Grewingk Lake (with the glacier brooding on the far side) and then out to your pick-up point at the Saddle trailhead in misty Halibut Cove, with gorgeous wildflowers bordering the trail along the way.

Raven Glacier

Crow Pass in Chugach National Forest sign
Crow Pass and Raven Glacier. Photo © Lisa Maloney.

Starting from the end of Crow Creek Mine Road in Girdwood, this trail covers the first 4 miles of the iconic 24-mile Crow Pass trail from Girdwood to Eagle River. But as anyone who’s done the entire trail can tell you, these first miles are the best and prettiest, taking you past old mining equipment to the tundra shores of Crystal Lake and then on to the pass and its overlooks of Raven Glacier.

Reed Lakes

mountainous landscape of Alaska at Lower Reed Lake
Lower Reed Lake. Photo © Lisa Maloney.

This 9-mile round trip is the most iconic of all the hikes in Hatcher Pass, a wonderland of rolling tundra dotted with massive granite boulders strewn like playthings by the passage of long-vanished glaciers. You’ll have to hop through some of those car-sized boulders to reach the two lakes that give this hike its name, with the tumbling sheet of a small waterfall between them—but it’s well worth the effort. This trail starts at mile 2.4 of the rough, unpaved Archangel Road.

Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield

hikers on a trail heading toward exit glacier in Alaska
View of Exit Glacier coming out of Harding Icefield. Photo © Lisa Maloney.

Both of these trails start at the Exit Glacier Nature Center just outside Seward—and in fact, they overlap for the first .4 miles. But after that, their characters become very different. The Exit Glacier trail continues in an almost completely flat 2-mile loop, overlooking a glacial floodplain before ending at lookout platforms that used to be within arm’s reach of the gradually retreating ice. Meanwhile the Harding Icefield trail charges uphill for a challenging 9-mile round trip, but if you’re made of stout enough stuff, the views of the icefield—a massive sheet of snow and ice that spawns some forty glaciers, including Exit Glacier—are incomparable.

Lisa Maloney

About the Author

Lisa Maloney has lived in Anchorage, Alaska since the late 1980s, and travels extensively throughout the state for work and play. Even though she lives in "the big city," Lisa thrives on the self-sufficient mentality that drives the rest of the state forward. She makes her living as a freelance writer, focused primarily on travel, the outdoors, and profiling the unique personalities that call Alaska home. She is also the author of 50 Hikes Around Anchorage and a second guidebook tentatively titled Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska. You can see more of Lisa's writing at or catch up with her latest adventures at and

Learn more about this author

Pin For Later

Alaska Day Hikes Pinterest graphic