Whether you’re taking a trip to Anchorage this summer, or you’re a local looking for some things to do in Anchorage, there are plenty of ways to get outside and get active this summer in the largest city in the state! Staying active all year round is incredibly important for both your mental and physical health, but in the summertime, it’s natural to feel more inclined toward an active lifestyle.
A major advantage of the city of Anchorage and the surrounding areas during the summer are its incredibly long days. Our northern location gives us more daylight than any of the other 49 states in the United States between March 20th and September 22nd. If you really want to take advantage of this city where the sun practically doesn’t set, the best way to do it is to get outside and stay active!
Below are some of the best things to keep you active this summer. Plan your Anchorage itinerary around some of the fun, exciting, and enriching activities listed, and get a true sense of Alaskan culture with these suggestions.
When most people think of summer in Anchorage, they think of hiking. Summer is practically the only time of the year when hiking trails aren’t either covered in snow, or the weather is too cold to make the trek. It’s important to get out and explore the hiking offerings in Anchorage because the natural surroundings of the area are so magnificent that pictures simply don’t do it justice.
Anchorage is lucky enough to house the perfect mixture of bustling city surrounded by remarkable natural splendor in so many different ways – from mountains (some of the tallest in the country) to lakes and rivers, to glaciers (yes, even in summertime!), and more.
Take in the natural beauty with just a quick 20 minute car ride out of Anchorage to the Chugach Range for some of the best hiking around. This 9,000 square mile mountain range allows you to explore a multitude of different designated hiking trails, ranging in difficulty, elevation, and more. It has incredible views as well. Check out some of the top trails in the park below:
Anchorage Overlook Trail
To get active and get a sense of Anchorage from above, check out the Anchorage Overlook trail, which has access from the Glen Alps trailhead. It’s an easy paved trail, only a quarter mile long (or a .4 kilometer loop), and it is wheelchair accessible as well. There is a sitting area and viewing deck where you can overlook the city, Alaska Range, and Cook Inlet. It’s lovely at sunset, when the lights in the city are just coming up.
Rodak Nature Trail
Rodak Nature Trail has access from Eagle River Nature Center, and it’s a bit longer than the Anchorage Overlook Trail at ⅔ of a mile, or a 1 kilometer loop. However, the trail is still an easy hike, paved the whole way and interspersed with seating areas. There’s a viewing area or a roaring river filled with salmon, and informative nature signs along the way to really immerse yourself in the Alaskan wilderness.
Thunderbird Falls Trail
For a longer trail (1 mile back and forth, 2 miles roundtrip) with a spectacular destination, check out Thunderbird Falls. The trail itself is relatively easy, just a walk up through a birch forest to the falls and back, but at the falls, you’ll find a boardwalk viewing area where you can hang out and enjoy the beauty of the 200 foot high waterfall. You can get there by pulling off at mile 25 off of Glenn Highway.
South Fork Valley Trail
The South Fork Valley trail gives you those incredible views of surrounding mountain peaks you’re looking for on an Alaskan hike. Since you’re hiking through a low-dipping valley, they look all that more majestic. You’ll also find various pristine lakes at the back of the valley. It’s a 6 mile hike to the lakes (Symphony and Eagle), but the terrain is relatively flat and easy to traverse, just a few muddy areas.
Turnagain Arm Trail
If you want a big of Alaskan history along your hike, check out the Turnagain Arm three-leg hiking trail. It runs along the highway and railroad below, which was built during the 1910s boom. You’ll see beautiful views of the Turnagain Arm range, as well as coastal vegetation and wildflowers. The three trail options are Potter to McHugh (3 miles, easy), McHugh to Rainbow (4.2 miles, easy), Rainbow to Windy Corner (2 miles, moderate difficulty). You can choose to do only one or two, or the entire trail. If you make it to Windy Corner, you can also see sheep!
Another great way to stay active in Anchorage this summer is to explore some popular biking trails in the area. Biking trails abound in Anchorage, totaling about 135 miles through and around the city. The best trail is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which will let you ride down the coast with wonderful views of surrounding nature and mountain ranges. You can use your own bike if you have one, or rent one in one of the many bike rental shops downtown.
If you want something a little more chill, but still outdoorsy, try out the bountiful fishing scene of Anchorage. You can fish for anglers, trout, grayling, Arctic char, and even 5 different species of salmon in surrounding waters on the outskirts of the city. Definitely check out Ship Creek, which is a popular salmon spot during the summer season.
Tour the National Parks
There are also plenty of national parks in the area to explore, either with a tour guide or on your own. Anchorage tours through national parks also use all forms of transportation, including plane, cruise, kayaking, or good old walking! The most majestic parks in the area include Denali National Park, home of the tallest mountain peak in the United States, and Kenai Fjords National Park.
Also, check out Lake Clark or Katmai where you might even see some wild bears!
What Alaska visit is complete without exploring the national parks? Anchorage’s proximity makes visiting multiple parks easy. Fly over Denali, check out Kenai Fjords on a day cruise or kayak trip, and take off for Lake Clark or Katmai for bear viewing.
Believe it or not, you can actually go surfing all the way up here in Anchorage! This is only suggested for experienced surfers, though. Most people don’t know about this though, so if you want to get outside and ride the waves, go for it! Anchorage tides are extreme, with some of the highest tides in the whole world. Head to Turnagain Arm for shallow, narrow waters that form a bore tide, with waves up to 6 feet tall that roll for miles along that inlet.
Mine for Gold!
The gold rush may be over, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a fun summer activity for you along with friends and family! Try your hand at gold mining at Indian Valley or Crow Creek, which were early sites of gold mining at the end of the 19th century. They still have tools and tours to let you try for yourself, and with a pan, some persistence, and a good eye, you can be a true gold miner for a day! It’s a bit of a different, creative, and uniquely Alaskan way to stay active this summer.
Off-Season Dog Sledding
Yes, you can still go dog sledding even when the sun is out and snow is nowhere in site! This Alaskan state sport is a huge part of local culture, and you are welcome to visit kennels that house the racing dogs all year round. Learn about the sport from the mushers themselves, take a ride on a sledding cart, and play with the puppies! Some sites also have helicopter-accessible retreats atop glaciers that let you slide through snow even during the summertime to beat the heat and have some fun.
Visit the Anchorage Museum
If you don’t want an outdoor activity, but still want to stay active, take a stroll through Anchorage’s flagship museum, which sprawls for 170,000 square feet, for a day. Explore their extensive collection of cultural relics, including 25,000 objects and 500,000 historic photographs. The museum’s combination of art, design, history, science, and culture makes for an educational day with something interesting for people of all ages.
Check out the Alaska Zoo
Another fun summer activity involves taking a day to explore all the activities at the Alaska Zoo, right here in Anchorage. The Alaska zoo is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to conservation of local arctic and subarctic species, so this is a zoo you can feel confident in supporting. With educational programs, research opportunities, and fun family-friendly exhibits and shows, it’s a great way to stay active and learn something new about Alaskan wildlife. Find brown, black, and polar bears along with amur tigers and snow leopards. Check out Muskox, which is a species from the Ice Age, and learn about various types of eagles, owls, moose, caribou, yaks, and other unique Alaskan species!
Active in Anchorage
As you can tell, there are plenty of ways to keep both your body and mind active in Anchorage this summer. Take a trip to the surrounding natural wonders, explore some local cultural sites, or try out a brand new, unique local activity like gold mining or dog sledding. There’s something for everyone in this summer! Check out my blog post about celebrating Independence Day in Anchorage.