Top 4 Hikes Near Anchorage Alaska
1. Portage Pass Trail, Alaska
Trail Difficulty: Easy Length: A couple miles, turn back whenever you want or extend into the wilderness off-trail. My bear-sense (like Spiderman’s spider-sense, but for bears) (Later in this article my bear-sense comes into play): It did not feel like a place where bears would commonly be. We did not see any bears or bear indications. Portage pass trail was a very beautiful, easy to deal with, day hike that can take anywhere from an hour, to several hours, depending on how long or how far you want to explore. Hike up through a green valley and at the pinnacle of the hike, you catch great views of the Portage glacier. An amazing sight for someone not from Alaska who may have never seen a glacier in real life. The saturated, blue ice rises into the mountains and even on our cloudy day it was something special. Here are some pictures we got of the hike:
2. Crow Pass Trail and Winner Creek Gorge Trailhead (Lower Winner Creek Trail)
My Bear-sense for Crow Pass Trail: At first, my bear-sense was tingling, walking up a dense trail I felt like we could stumble upon a bear around every corner. We never did, nor did we see any bear markings. Eventually the trail opens up into a huge, wide-open mountain-valley, and you could see bears (if there were any) for kilometers in all directions, at which point you’d be pretty safe.
Crow Pass Trail: (Difficulty: moderate) Pretty cool hike. The mountains have some beautiful coloring, and this area used to be an old-fashioned gold mine many years ago. You can find a pretty neat waterfall after a couple miles.
My Bear sense for Winner Creek Gorge Trail: My bear sense was going crazy on this one. It was a dark, very dense, wooded/forested trail. It felt like a bear could be anywhere, blending in against the trees, and we could stumble across one with very little time to react to the situation. Plus the destination of this wooded trail was a river and bears like rivers right? Anyway, we didn’t see any bears, but some squirrels scared the shyt out of me.
Winner Creek Trail: (Difficulty: easy) This is a short and easy trail that leads to a super epic ‘hand tram’ thing, the likes of which I have never experienced before. It was pretty fun! A ‘Hand Tram’ is basically like a ski-lift thing, built for 1 or 2 people, and you pull yourself across the river-valley. The tram is connected to some ropes or a cable thing and is suspended about 80 feet off the ground. It made us a little uneasy especially because the three of us were definitely putting its weight limit to the test…
3. Portage Lake Hike (only possible during the winter)
Difficulty: Moderate and cold
Bear-sense: No bear danger
Remember the Portage glacier I was talking about earlier? Well, if you’re in Alaska during the winter, definitely don’t miss out on this hike. You can walk across the frozen Portage Lake and walk right up to the glacier itself (be very careful…). This hike is much longer than it appears and takes quite a bit of time (several hours). It can also be pretty cold as there is no protection from the wind. We did this in jeans and a jacket the year before and it was one of the coolest places ever. We were also completely alone. We actually have a vlog about this exact hike right here, on the 1Lifeonearth YouTube channel.
4. Exit Glacier Hike to the Harding Icefield
Difficulty: Hard and uphill Duration: Many hours, many miles depending on when you turn back (for us, probably 6 miles 6 hours).
Bear-sense: Strong. There were lots of signs of bears on this hike. Berries to eat everywhere, a river nearby, wooded areas for bears to hangout. In fact, at the peak of our hike, we came across a giant bear eating berries in the wide-open tundra. We saw it from far away and thought it was a grizzly bear. My brother took out his broken binoculars and then moved-in closer for a better look. My brother moved up to a little cliff, and peered over the edge. Immediately the bear stood up on his hind-legs and stared my brother in the eyes and then eventually wandered away. This whole exchange of the bear stare-down can be seen in this brand new vlog we just filmed. (Side note – I was alone in the woods in Yellowstone this summer and suddenly a giant, full-grown grizzly bear walked past me 40 feet to my left, it was incredible. Similar things happened to Tyler and I in Glacier National Park and Alaska and I advise anyone going hiking anywhere in Alaska to pack bear protection, never let your guard down and never become complacent.)
Exit Glacier trail is absolutely stunning. Not many places like this in the world. Probably the number one hike in Alaska, at least in this part of the state near Anchorage. You walk up the edge of a mountain with a giant glacier on your left, eventually you reach the top and can look out to the horizons with nothing but white snow and ice (even in the summer) to the horizons. This fantastic area at the top is called the Harding Icefield. If I had to pick on thing to do in Alaska, it would probably be this.
^ The video of Michael staring-down the bear ^
Overall, when you’re in Alaska, or anywhere close to Anchorage you shouldn’t miss out on these hikes. There is no better place in the world for pure wilderness adventure. With moose and bears around every corner and amazing views over every horizon. There are so many hikes to choose from and so few people in Alaska that you will usually have the paths to yourself. Make sure to be prepared for bear encounters and above all, have fun!