If your like most independent visitors coming to Alaska, you are seeking active experiences that thrust you into Alaska’s scenic wilderness. As a result, one of the most popular activities you may take part in are guided hikes into Alaska’s backcountry. Alaska Tour & Travel offers guided hiking tours in Seward, Girdwood, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali State Park, and at Denali National Park and the great news is that when surveying our 2013 clients, we discovered that the guided hikes we offer were among the highest rated tour experiences included in packages. Hiking allows you the opportunity to “get off the beaten path” and to experience Alaskan destinations which even many Alaskan’s haven’t seen. Typically, guided hikes tend to have a smaller maximum number of participants to reduce the impact on the environment. Your safety is always the priority on any professionally guided hiking excursion. Most guiding services keep the guide to hiker ratio to less than six to one, which allows participants to not only to get to know their guides personally, but also provides the guide the opportunity to provide more interpretation about the ecosystem.
Alaska’s wild expanses result not having any two hikes being alike, which is terrific for avid hikers who want to include multiple hiking trips in their trip. Difficulty wise, hikes range from novice hikes which are little more than a walk through the woods to more technical hikes which require participants to suit up with glacial gear while hiking on accessible glaciers. Hikes also range by the means of transport it takes to “being able to hit the trail” – whether the trail head is just outside a lodges front door, a short van ride, a ride on a tram up to the top of a mountain, or by helicopter or float plane to a remote location all of these options are available. Here are a few hikes to consider including in a travel itinerary.
Rising to the east of the City of Anchorage are the Chugach Mountains and one of Alaska’s best state parks – the Chugach State Park. The Anchorage Day Hike provides visitors a chance to explore an alpine environment with beautiful vistas of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, and on a clear day view as far away as Mt. McKinley. Transportation is included, and the name itself doesn’t do the experience justice as the best thing that the Anchorage Day Hike does is quickly transport you away from the city up into one of Alaska’s most accessible and scenic wilderness areas. Our staff loves spending time in Chugach State Park and the views from our office of the Chugach Mountains beckon us often into the mountains during summer months. Each Anchorage Day Hike is tailored to your fitness level and transportation is included from Anchorage hotels.
More of a walk then a hike, the Exit Glacier Tour provides the opportunity for Seward visitors take a tour out to Exit Glacier, the most accessible glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. The Exit Glacier Tour is guided, and the naturalist will take you out to the glacier and the headwaters of the Resurrection River where you’ll be able to learn about the glacial habitat and topography.
Take a tram 2300 feet up Mt. Alyeska to near the top of the mountain, the launching point for your Alpine and Glacial Hike. You’ll hike both on alpine trails and will also gear up for a hike on the Alyeska Glacier itself. All safety equipment is provided by the guiding service for the hike on the glacier. The surrounding glacial vistas are beautiful and you’ll look down on the Girdwood Valley and the Turnagain Arm.
The easy to moderate Talkeetna Lakes Hike may be just for you if you’ve been traveling on the Alaska Railroad or have just came off a Mt. McKinley flight-seeing trip and feel the need to stretch your legs on a scenic hike in Talkeetna’s rolling hills and lakes. Considered to be one of Alaska’s best experiences for visitors or residents alike is the Ultimate Denali National Park Hike and Flight-seeing trip. This trip is totally loaded to impress from the moment you take off on a float plane from a Talkeetna Lake, to flight-seeing over the Ruth Gorge, to landing on a remote lake inside Denali National Park where you’ll meet your guides at their remote camp for a guided hike through glacial boulders, over tundra, with the Ruth Glacier below and the Alaska Range rising above you. Having hiked all over Alaska, I can honestly say that this day trip was a highlight of my family’s summer last year and one none of us will ever forget.
Denali State Park
North of Talkeetna about 60 miles is Denali State Park and one of Alaska’s most scenic lakes – Byers Lake. Byers Lake is the launching point for a highly rated guided hike, the Denali Wilderness Hike that takes you around Byers Lake before climbing above tree-line. On clear days, you can’t get any better view from ground-level of Mt. McKinley than from this hike’s vistas. Considered of moderate difficultly, this hike is a terrific option if you are staying at the nearby Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. Transportation is provided from Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge or if you have a rental car you can drive to Byers Lake Campground to meet the guides at their base camp located on the lake.
Denali National Park
We always recommend at least a two night stay at Denali National Park so that visitors can experience both a trip deep into Denali Park by bus and several other activities including a hike. The good news is that Denali outfitters offer an abundance of guided hiking options. Choose from a truly “high end” Denali Helicopter Hiking experience where your helicopter will quickly take you away from the busy Nenana Valley up into the Alaska Mountain Range above tree-level or take an easy to moderate Steps Thru Time hike among the forested hillside to learn about interior Alaska’s ecosystem. A more vigorous option is the Denali Interpretive Hike for moderate to advanced hikers. The highly trained interpretive guides will take you deeper into wilderness, through several of Denali’s ecosystems from the forested valley below to the Alpine tundra above the Nenana Valley floor. Speaking from our own experience on this hike, you’ll be impressed with the knowledge and enthusiasm that the guides have for time hiking with you.
Of course, in Alaska you are never too far away from a hiking trail so feel free to ask locally for suggestions on where the nearest trail head is if you haven’t planned in advance. If you choose to hike on your own, be sure to get some expert local knowledge on the terrain, the potential to run into Alaska’s wildlife and what to do if you do as its different for each species of wildlife. Also, it’s always a good idea to let someone know at your hotel where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Then be sure to check back in with them upon your return.