VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 PG.10 SIGHTSEEING BY WATER AND AIR PG.18 2023 OUTLOOK FOR DENALI NATIONAL PARK PG.46 SEE ARTS AND CULTURE IN ANCHORAGE PG.27 CANNABIS: A CONSUMER’S GUIDE READY TO EXPLORE? An insider’s guide to Alaska’s biggest city PG.34
BeinspiredbythelightoftheAuroraBorealis.Renewyourenergy undertheMidnightSun.ExperiencethewarmthofFairbanks—Alaska’s GoldenHeart—andthebasecamptoDenali,InteriorandArcticAlaska. MaketheMorrisThompsonCulturalandVisitorsCenteryourfirststop toplanningyourAlaskanadventure.
2 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
MorrisThompsonCulturalandVisitorsCenter 101DunkelStreet•DowntownFairbanks 8am–6pmSummer•8am–5pmWinter www.explorefairbanks.com (907)456-5774
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
6 / GLACIERS
Get close to some ice
10 / FLIGHTSEEING
Alaska by air
12 / BOAT TRIPS
Alaska by water
14 / FISHING
Where ﬁshing dreams come true
17 / WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS
Explore Kennecott Mines and more
PUBLISHER Andy Pennington
EDITOR Victoria Barber
COORDINATOR Nina Wladkowski
AD OPERATIONS Lisa McGuire
AD DIRECTOR Eric Groves
AD DESIGN Michael Oldroyd
18 / DENALI NATIONAL PARK
Here’s what will be open for visitors in 2023
20 / WILDLIFE
See animals up close — safely
22 / HIKING
Tips, etiquette and safety
24 / TRAILS
Great hikes near Anchorage
27 / MARIJUANA
A guide to legal cannabis in Alaska
31 / Find the best seafood in the city
34 / Downtown Anchorage nightlife, shopping and more
36 / Get a taste of Anchorage’s coffee culture
40 / Exploring Anchorage’s terriﬁc trail system
42 / A guide to Alaska breweries
46 / Museums, galleries and cultural centers
50 / Endless options await JUNEAU
52 / Visiting is a capital idea
The newsroom of the Anchorage Daily News is responsible for the content of the Alaska Visitors’ Guide.
EDITOR David Hulen
MANAGING EDITOR Vicky Ho
PHOTO EDITOR Anne Raup
GRAPHIC DESIGN Kevin Powell
COVER PHOTO Newborn moose calves by Marc Lester
56 / Land of spectacular extremes
MAT-SU • EAGLE RIVER
58 / There’s magic in the Valley
KODIAK • SOUTHEAST
48 / Life on the water’s edge
GIRDWOOD • WHITTIER • SEWARD
61 / Tips for an epic road trip down the famed Seward Highway
64 / Explore Hope, Seward, Soldotna, Kenai and Homer
CONTRIBUTORS Laurel Andrews, Mollie Barnes, Bailey Berg, Mike Campbell, Daron Dean, Bob Hallinen, Alli Harvey, Erik Hill, Loren Holmes, Zachariah Hughes, David James, Marc Lester, Shelby Lum, Ken Marsh, Richard Murphy, Josh Niva, Katie Pesznecker, Bill Roth, Mara Severin
SALES Ryan Estrada, Adam Garrigus, Victoria Hansen, Joleesa Stepetin, Erika Watsjold
4 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
Alaska is a place customarily discussed in superlatives: We talk about the biggest mountains, bears and salmon, or mention how there are the most glaciers and miles of wilderness. We ruminate about the longest hours of daylight in summer and where to see the most vibrant northern lights in winter.
ose are the aspects of Alaska that attract a healthy share of visitors each year — and rightfully so. Many people come for bucket-list, print-and-frame-the-photo, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and that’s exactly what they get.
But when you live in Alaska, you grow to love the quiet pleasures, too, even if they are less obvious to spot.
We locals appreciate a soaring mountain peak and a cracking glacier as much as
— in many cases, more than — any avid traveler. But we also know there’s a great local beer to enjoy at the end of that big hike, and some key gear will make getting there com er. An epic day on the water deserves to be kicked o with a serious cup of co ee, and a long summer evening is even better with a really good meal (and preferably, an even better view).
Books, lms, TV shows and songs are written about the peaks of human experience Alaska will bring out. e joy of being a local is that you can have the best of that with some creature comforts as well. And nding your way to both is what we hope to share with you through this guide.
— VICTORIA BARBER Editor
ALASKA WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU CHASE EPIC EXPERIENCES — WITH SOME CREATURE COMFORTS ALONG THE WAY INTRODUCTION
Downtown Anchorage, as seen from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 5 Enjoygracioushospitality, ﬁne dining, and spectacular sceneryinthecenter of the Wrangell-St.EliasNational Park. Hikeon a glacier, discoverhistoric Kennicott,and goﬂightseeing Explore America’sLargestNationalPark KennicottLodge.com800-582-5128info@KennicottLodge.com
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
GLACIERS TRIPS FOR ALL AGES: WHERE TO GO IN SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA
By LAUREL ANDREWS
Whether you live in Alaska or are visiting, glaciers are one of the state’s most awe inspiring and unique attractions.
Home to the most glaciers in the United States, Alaska o ers incredible glacier experiences for people of all ages and abilities. We narrowed the trips on this list down to those under 150 miles — or a two- to threehour drive — from Anchorage.
But before planning your next adventure, let’s talk brie y about glacier safety.
HOW TO ENJOY GLACIERS AND STAY SAFE
All visitors to glacial areas will bene t from bringing warm, layered clothes, sturdy shoes or boots, and a windbreak layer. Glaciers are colder than surrounding areas and o en breezy due to katabatic winds.
Walking on glaciers can be dangerous unless — and sometimes even if — you have proper training and equipment.
Crevasses and moulins (deep holes) form in the glacier, some of which are not always visible. Only experienced outdoors people with extensive knowledge should trek the surface of a glacier by themselves; otherwise, hire a guide to lead you safely.
Glacier safety while kayaking and boating is crucial. Tidewater glaciers can calve at any moment, causing powerful waves that can overwhelm kayaks and nearby shoreline.
“Sudden waves from calving ice … can hit the shore with surprising power,” the National
Park Service writes on the Kenai Fjords National Park website.
Stay at least a half-mile away from the glacier when kayaking or on a boat, the park service recommends. Don’t try to paddle between two large icebergs, and remain as far away from an iceberg as twice its width or height. e same formula applies when walking around the glacier’s terminus, or toe. Maintain awareness of your surroundings.
ONE LAST NOTE: Some of Alaska’s glaciers may be hard to access due to certain seasonal conditions. Make sure to contact local visitors centers for current information.
Got it? Phew. Now for the fun stu .
is list explores some of the most popular glaciers, but for brevity’s sake does not include many of the tour operators o ering hikes, boat trips, scenic ights, kayaking and more. Information about tours can be found with a simple online search.
PORTAGE VALLEY: ACCESSIBLE FOR ALL AGES
About an hour’s drive from Anchorage on the Seward Highway is Portage Valley and the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. Two glaciers are easily accessible in the valley.
Byron Glacier is considered highly accessible for all ages. e 1.4-mile trail is a at, easy walk. e rst half is well maintained with a wide path. e second half is rocky, and to get closer to the glacier, visitors must cross boulders and small streams.
en there’s Portage Glacier. e glacier has receded out of view from the visitor center, but in the summer there’s a daily cruise and a pull-o where you can see the glacier from the road. A little farther down the road, Portage
Pass trail is a 4-mile round-trip hike with glacier views.
During the winter, frozen Portage Lake is a popular spot for skiers and bikers traveling to the toe of the glacier. ere are no park rangers around in case of emergency, though, so traverse the ice at your own risk.
Check ahead on the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center website for information regarding current conditions, operational hours and fees.
WHITTIER AND PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND: TIDEWATER GLACIER TOURS
Continue down Portage Glacier Road another few miles — including a trip through the 2.5-mile-long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel — and you wind up in the town of Whittier.
Whittier is the launching point for many cruises in Prince William Sound, which boasts more tidewater glaciers than any other region in North America. (Valdez is another launching spot, about a ve-hour drive from Anchorage.)
Columbia, Meares and Blackstone glaciers are just three of the o -visited glaciers in the area. ere are many di erent types of tours, kayaking opportunities and public-use cabins in Prince William Sound.
SPENCER GLACIER: TAKE A TRAIN RIDE TO A GLACIER
About 60 miles southeast of Anchorage, Spencer Glacier is only accessible via the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery Train, which runs daily from May 27 through Sept. 17 in 2023.
Visitors enjoy a scenic ride from
A guide leads hikers on a tour of Matanuska Glacier in July. The glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Southcentral Alaska.
6 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
Anchorage, getting o the train at Spencer Whistle Stop in Chugach National Forest at 1:45 p.m. Hike about 1.3 miles one way to the glacier viewing platform, or another 1.7 miles to the edge of the glacier (but be mindful of getting back to the train in time for the 4:30 p.m. pickup). Hike on your own or enjoy a hike guided by a U.S. Forest Service ranger. e route then continues past Spencer Glacier to Grandview, revealing views of Bartlett Glacier and Trail Glacier. A er a 20-minute stop, the train heads back to Portage. From there, visitors take a motorcoach back to the Anchorage train depot, arriving around 6:45 p.m.
Campsites and a cabin are open mid-June and can be reserved through the railroad.
Tour operators o er guided kayaking, ice climbing or trips down the Placer River.
Visitors can also take the Alaska Railroad to the community of Seward and experience the same glacier views along the way.
EKLUTNA GLACIER AND LAKE CAMPGROUND
About an hour northeast of Anchorage is Eklutna Glacier, which provides most of the drinking water for Alaska’s largest city. Part of Chugach State Park, Eklutna Lake Campground has a large campsite, bike and kayak rentals, and a trail system that leads out to the glacier.
Glacier access is a bit of a journey — to get up close, take the Eklutna Lakeside Trail, 12.9 miles one way. e path follows the shore of the lake, then to the river and glacier. Alternatively, the Bold Ridge Trail is about 4 miles long with a steep 3,600-foot elevation gain that rewards you with glacier views.
MATANUSKA GLACIER, ONE OF THE WORLD’S MAJOR ICE SHEETS
Matanuska Glacier is about a two-hour drive on the Glenn Highway northeast of Anchorage. It’s touted as one of the few major ice sheets in the world that visitors can drive to and explore on foot. e glacier itself is gigantic — about 26 miles long and 4 miles wide at its terminus.
e Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area has 12 campsites, and a 20-minute walk to glacier viewing platforms, but no direct access to the glacier.
e only road-accessible route direct to the glacier face is through property owned by Matanuska Glacier Park LLC. Tours are sold out of a gi shop and information center. en, it’s a short drive and hike to reach the glacier.
Glacier Park only allows access via guided tours. e cost is $150 for out-of-state visitors, $30 for children 14 and under, and $50 for Alaska residents and military members.
SOUTH FORK VALLEY TRAIL: BACKCOUNTRY HIKING
e South Fork Valley Trail is an easy- to moderate-level hike to Eagle and Symphony Lakes in Eagle River, about half an hour east of Anchorage. e hike is about 12 miles round-trip. Flute Glacier can be reached by hiking to Eagle Lake, then heading another 4 miles up valley to the toe of the glacier — which isn’t a very common destination among visitors due to the amount of backcountry travel involved.
TALKEETNA: GLACIER FLIGHTSEEING IN THE ALASKA RANGE
A little over two hours north of Anchorage, the town of Talkeetna is the staging point for climbers heading to Denali. It also has ightseeing options for those who want to bask in the splendor of North America’s tallest peak without climbing it.
ere are hundreds of unnamed glaciers on Denali, and 40 named ones, according to the National Park Service. e longest ones — Ruth, Kahiltna and Muldrow — each span more than 30 miles.
Multiple Talkeetna air taxi operators o er trips around the mountain. Some land on glaciers.
SEWARD AND KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK
Exit Glacier is the only glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park accessible by road.
e Exit Glacier Nature Center is the starting point for a system of trails leading to the glacier. ose wanting more can make the strenuous 8.2-mile round-trip hike up the
Harding Ice eld Trail for spectacular views of the massive ice eld.
ere’s also a 12-site, tents-only campground near the nature center. Exit Glacier Road is only open to cars during the summer, usually mid-May. In the winter, snowmachines, skiers, dog sleds and fat bikes are still allowed on the road. Check the park’s website for current conditions. en, there’s the rest of Kenai Fjords National Park. e National Park Service highlights Bear Glacier Lagoon and boat tours that take visitors along the park’s tidewater glaciers.
KNIK RIVER TOURS AND FLIGHTSEEING
Excursions to Knik Glacier in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough have exploded in popularity during the winter, with fat-tire bikers taking a northern route that crosses a river.
Summer access comes by way of Knik Glacier Trail. ere’s an 8-mile trail starting from Knik Glacier Tours that requires river crossings. Biking and boating are common. Tours are also o ered through Knik River Lodge, but call ahead to con rm. ere’s also ightseeing available to Knik and Colony Glacier.
CROW PASS TRAIL: A HIKE TO RAVEN GLACIER
Raven Glacier can be seen on the historic 21-mile Crow Pass Trail, which has trailheads at Girdwood (40 miles from Anchorage on the Seward Highway) and the Eagle River Nature Center (about 26 miles east of Anchorage). is hike is recommended from late June to early September due to snow and avalanche danger.
For a glacier view with an 8-mile round-trip, start from Girdwood’s Crow Creek trailhead. Hikers follow a series of switchbacks uphill, passing Jewel Glacier to the east of Crow Pass Cabin, and eventually arrive at Crow Pass and Raven Glacier. Hikers can continue past the glacier, or turn around.
HATCHER PASS: BACKCOUNTRY HIKING TO MINT GLACIER
About 80 minutes north of Anchorage is the Hatcher Pass Management Area, a popular recreation area.
e Gold Mint Trail is a 16-mile round-trip journey that follows the Little Susitna River to the Mint Glacier Valley, where at the end, hikers can follow a fairly undeveloped trail up to Mint Glacier. ere’s also good glacier viewing — and traversing — on the multiday Mint-Bomber Traverse for more advanced outdoor explorers.
Wander through walls of ice with a Matanuska Glacier Park guide.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 7
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
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THERE’S NO VIEW MORE EPIC THAN THE ONE YOU’LL FIND ON AN ALASKA FLIGHTSEEING TOUR
By MIKE CAMPBELL
At663,268 square miles, Alaska is by far the biggest state in the union. But only four states have fewer road miles.
It makes sense that one of the best ways to see Alaska is by air on one of the charters that specialize in ights into the rugged and spectacular Alaska Range. You’ll enter the wilderness cathedral of mountains surrounding 20,310-foot Denali, the tallest peak in North America, and perhaps land on one of the mountain’s glaciers.
Prices for ightseeing vary widely, from about $250 to $1,000 — or more, depending on the length of the trip, the departure point and whether the tour includes a landing. at might seem steep, but on a bluebird day, few trips deliver such gawk-worthy moments as you soar past sheer granite faces and above glaciers.
And while Denali may be Alaska’s best-known ightseeing tour, the options don’t end there.
Rust’s and Regal Air are among the Anchorage ight services that cross Cook Inlet to Chinitna Bay in Lake Clark National Park and the Brooks River in Katmai National Park in search of brown bears feeding on salmon. Trips from Anchorage generally depart in the morning and return about 10 to 11 hours later, and run about $1,000 or more per person.
Typically, Regal pilots make early-season scouting ights. Usually, the grizzlies are up and about by May 10, and the season runs into September. e company provides a pre ight safety brie ng in Anchorage. At Brooks, the brown bears may walk beneath the boardwalk (spanning the river). But passengers never approach closer than 50 feet.
Knik River Lodge glacier tours start less than 60 miles from
Anchorage, leaving from Knik River Lodge at the end of Knik River Road in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. e lodge’s front lawn doubles as a helipad for helicopters that take groups of two or three people to the Knik Glacier, a ve-minute ight away. Perhaps the most popular trip is dog sledding on the glacier a er a landing. En route, you’ll see the Knik Glacier in all its glory as well as Lake George and a couple of the feeder glaciers. (Tours range from about $350-$680.)
Less than an hour south of Anchorage is the ski and recreation community of Girdwood. Alpine Air, operating since 1991, will y you above the Mount Alyeska tram to land on glaciers or to Prince William Sound in search of calving glacial ice. In peak season, helicopters depart regularly from the Girdwood Airport. You can take a 30-minute ight, but the 60-minute tour with a landing on Colony Glacier is even more fun. A walk on the glacier — and a sip from a glacial stream — will help you cool o in summer months. (About $320-$470; glacier dog sledding tours are also available.)
WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the nation’s largest national park, featuring 14 of the 20 tallest peaks in North America. You can take a regularly scheduled ight from Chitina to McCarthy
Journey above glaciers, gorges and peaks on a ﬂightseeing tour for unique views of Alaska’s landscape.
10 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
on the edge of the park to avoid driving the gravel-surfaced McCarthy Road, which is slow going (allow up to three hours) but scenic; ying in from Chitina is typically even more spectacular. A Wrangell Mountain Air ight may take you into the mountains and through the Fourth of July Pass if weather permits.
You’ll see rock glaciers and maybe some critters. On the other side of the pass is giant Root Glacier. You’ll y right past the old copper mine structures in neighboring Kennecott before landing in McCarthy. Flights range from 50 minutes to two hours. ($300-$475)
If you’re driving, you’ll park at the McCarthy footbridge, then make your way over to the airport and y from there.
COLUMBIA GLACIER (VALDEZ)
e 400-square-mile Columbia tidewater glacier has retreated nearly a dozen miles since 1982, but there’s still plenty of ice, and the warming climate has triggered a surge of calving, during which large pieces of ice break o and splash into Prince William Sound.
A convenient way to see it is to book a ight to Valdez with Ravn Alaska. Try to get a window seat on the le side of the plane. When you land in Valdez, you can circle back by boat on a charter for a Columbia Glacier view from the water. Other Valdez ight services o er tours of Columbia and the Valdez Glacier as well.
Commercial ights into the state capital of Juneau can o er great views of Mendenhall Glacier. But several companies o er helicopter tours, typically an hour or two. And if you want a double-shot of Alaskan on a single trip, book one that includes dog sledding on a glacier.
Most helicopter tours require that three seats be booked before the ight, potentially an issue if you’re traveling alone or as a
Juneau Shore Tours o ers an Ice eld Excursion package ($359), recommended for those looking to see Alaska from a bird’s-eye view but not necessarily interested in dog sledding. TEMSCO Helicopters o ers an array of trips, too.
On most of the tours, you’ll get a nice view of downtown Juneau, including the popular Mount Roberts Tramway, which leaves from the cruise port. On most trips, you’ll see the exposed deep-blue ice that’s the face of Taku Glacier, a sharp contrast to the muddy Taku River.
ose are some highlights for Alaska ightseers, but Denali trips remain at the top of many must-see lists. You can catch a ight right out of Anchorage, but that’s more expensive than driving north to Talkeetna and ying with K2 Aviation, Talkeetna Air Taxi or Sheldon Air Service. e companies
o er a selection of tours that include views of the Ruth Glacier, the Wickersham Wall, the climbers’ base camp at Kantishna Glacier and the Denali summit (weather permitting). Prices range from about $255-$425 or more if the tour includes a glacier landing.
Particularly memorable is a tour that includes a glacier landing. Most pilots favor Ruth Glacier, because it is so spectacular and the runway is well-marked. But the clouds move in and out quickly, so several other glaciers are available if the Ruth is socked in.
While a little more spendy, helicopter ightseeing o ers an alternative. Enclosed in Plexiglas with no wings to peer over, even trips as short as 30 minutes can provide exceptional views.
Wherever you want to see, there’s probably a ightseeing business nearby. Among the locales where tours are o ered: Kenai, Soldotna, Tok, McCarthy, Homer, Girdwood, King Salmon, Talkeetna, Juneau, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, Skagway and Kantishna.
Soar over the Tokositna and Ruth glaciers on a breathtaking ﬂightseeing tour of Denali.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 11
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
WHETHER IT’S ON A BOAT TOUR, RAFT OR KAYAK, GET ON THE WATER AND SOAK UP SOME SCENERY
By MIKE CAMPBELL
One dependable way to escape crowds of Alaska summertime visitors is simple. Just get wet.
When you see the 49th state from the water — whether aboard a tour boat, paddling a kayak, renting a powerboat or moseying around a lake on a stand-up paddleboard — you won’t be trading elbows with anyone.
And what’s not to like? You can still see wildlife, glaciers and mountains soaring above the water. Or soak up the quiet of a July evening paddling on a Southcentral Alaska lake, watching a greenwinged teal paddle with her chicks in tow.
Options are plentiful.
Human-powered trips in ra s or kayaks are rewarding, but to see the most glaciers and marine mammals, consider a boat tour in Resurrection Bay or Prince William Sound. ey’re accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
Major Marine Tours has cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park out of Seward from four to 8.5 hours on vessels ranging from large catamarans to much smaller ships ($129-$229 for adults; $64.50-$99.50 for children ages 2-11). Many of them include onboard narration by a National Park Service ranger, turning a pleasure cruise into a learning opportunity.
In Prince William Sound, Blackstone Bay or Harriman Fjord each have glaciers that descend from extensive ice elds to the ocean. Marine mammals including otters, seals and whales are usually visible.
Although a full-day Prince William Sound trip is pricier than a short trip, you usually see much more.
Phillips’ 26 Glacier Cruise, which sails through Oct. 1, travels up College Fjord, taking in views of the perilously steep glaciers that cascade down from Mount Marcus Baker, the highest peak in the Chugach, before traveling through Harriman Fjord. For nervous atlanders, the company o ers what it calls a “no seasickness guarantee” (about $189 per adult, $125 per child; meal included).
Family-owned Lazy Otter Charters, now in its 26th season, o ers a convenient 4.5-hour trip in the Sound, including the spectacular waterfalls of Blackstone Bay (about $200 per adult).
Kenai Fjords Tours has an array of trips in Resurrection Bay, including a dinner cruise, which delivers breathtaking scenery of towering peaks and hanging glaciers above Seward. A tour to Northwestern Fjord is popular — you’re likely to see pu ns, sea lions and whales, as well as tidewater glaciers plunging from the Harding Ice eld. At $239 for a full day cruising, you probably aren’t paying more than you would to buy gas for your own boat.
In spring, a four-hour tour that includes lunch is designed to o er a glimpse of gray whales migrating from the Baja in Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic ($80 for adults, $40 for children).
Have a hankering to paddle whitewater? Consider a trip with NOVA on the Matanuska River. Lion’s Head, a section of Class III-IV whitewater that cascades between towering cli s and the Matanuska Glacier’s terminal moraine, is particularly scenic and thrilling ($125 per person). If you prefer a mellower oat, NOVA also runs trips through the easier rapids just downstream of Lion’s Head, a location that’s particularly stunning as the leaves change color in August ($99 for adults; $49 for children under 12). ere’s even an evening ra trip to take advantage of Alaska’s long summer days.
If you’re headed toward the Kenai Peninsula and looking for a bigger adrenaline rush, consider a trip down the Class IV-V Six Mile Creek. Six Mile’s turquoise waters wind between overhanging cli walls and hammer down intimidating rapids that drop 50 feet per mile, and clients paddle under their guide’s supervision. It is one of the most intense guided ra trips you’ll nd in the country, due to the powerful rapids on the creek. Only physically t individuals who can swim well — occasionally people get ung out of the ra s — should sign up for this trip with NOVA or the Chugach Outdoor Center. (Prices range from about $129-$199.)
ough the Gulf of Alaska has some of the world’s worst maritime weather, there are o en calm waters and spectacular sea kayaking near Anchorage.
Consider a day trip to Resurrection or Kachemak Bay or plan an overnighter to Prince William Sound to observe whales, otters, sea lions, glaciers and towering peaks.
To paddle in Resurrection Bay, you might drive to near the road’s end and rent kayaks from Miller’s Landing, which is conveniently located for an easy paddle out to Caines Head and back. Expect to see marine mammals and spectacular sea arches.
In Kachemak Bay, Mako’s Water Taxi o ers a 20-minute ride from Homer across Kachemak Bay (most trips are about $100 per adult, $80 per child). From there you can paddle around Yukon, Grass and the Herring Islands. Mako’s runs trips all day, so you can head out in the morning, paddle for a few hours and come back in the evening.
Prince William Sound has one of the most underrated sea kayak
The skies begin to clear following a rain shower as a kayak tour group returns to Miller’s Landing in Seward.
12 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
trips in the region: an out-and-back paddle to Decision Point, 9 miles each way.
Make sure to check the weather before embarking on any sea kayaking trip, and don’t head out unless the marine forecast calls for calm seas (2 feet or less). e marine forecast is easy to nd: On weather.gov, simply click on the body of water you plan on visiting.
Rent a board and take a lesson to see whether you’ve got the balance, strength and aptitude for stand-up paddleboarding.
Among the Southcentral companies marketing boards are Liquid Adventures in Seward; Alaska Rivers Company in Cooper Landing, which takes clients to Kenai Lake and Portage Lake; Alaska Paddleboard Guru in Anchorage and Eagle River; and True North Adventures in Homer.
What’s the appeal?
“ e experience of essentially standing on a lake, my feet inches from the surface, gave me a new perspective,” wrote Alaska outdoors columnist Alli Harvey of her inaugural paddle. “It felt playful, a feeling I don’t readily access as an adult since so much of what I do outside is structured — I’m going for an hourlong run; I’m going to ride my bike to the grocery store, etc.”
Paddlers try out, from left, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding at Goose Lake.
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PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
CASTING CALL: URBAN AND REMOTE ALASKA ARE WHERE FISHING DREAMS COME TRUE
By JOSH NIVA
Sensational silvers and killer kings. Trophy-worthy trout and fantastically nned grayling. Hearty halibut and rewarding reds. It’s a lineup of Alaska’s nest shing action, and these spectacular species — and many more — are all within casting distance, driving distance and short- ight distance of Anchorage.
Yes, Alaska’s largest, busiest and most populated urban hub is also a shing fantasy come to life … and that isn’t a shing tale. Even the most secretive sherman will brag about this shery, and it couldn’t be kept secret anyway: Anchorage is a mainstay on any “America’s Best Fishing Cities” list.
“We’re very fortunate here in Southcentral, where we have so many diverse sheries,” said Jay Baumer in 2022. Baumer — a sport sheries manager biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who manages the Anchorage, Prince William Sound and North Gulf Coast regions — added: “You can go shing for a wide variety of species and have di erent opportunities, whether it’s a remote experience or you just want the convenience of something nearby. We’ve got it all here, which is fantastic.”
“You can go shing just about anywhere in Anchorage,” added Dan Bosch in a 2018 interview. Bosch is a passionate sherman, now retired from a longtime role at Fish and Game, most recently as regional management coordinator for the Anchorage area. “It’s some of the best shing around. And the accessibility — it’s so easy. Right at your doorstep.”
For Anchorage visitors, that includes lodging doorsteps. e community is covered in streams, creeks and lakes that are packed and stocked with tens of thousands of fun, ghting sh. And there are seemingly endless shing options around Southcentral Alaska that are just a short and scenic drive or ight away.
Sport shing is a year-round activity in Anchorage and Alaska, but the action surges in summer. From May to September, the sh counts are generally high, the midnight sun is warm and bright, and shermen are giddy. Where should you wet a line? Around Anchorage, practically anywhere there’s water, there are sh. Many of these shing holes also o er peace, quiet and the natural vibe of wild Alaska. As you cast and relax, it’s easy to forget you’re in Alaska’s biggest city.
SHIP CREEK, ANCHORAGE
One of Anchorage’s most exciting shing holes is set in one of the city’s most popular hospitality hot spots — downtown. Ship Creek carves across the northern side of Anchorage, passing by the William Jack Hernandez Hatchery before depositing downtown into picturesque Cook Inlet. It’s a beautiful natural oasis on the edge of Anchorage’s cityscape. Its waters are home to a regular run of summer salmon — kings early in the season, silvers (coho) later — and its banks
EDITOR’S NOTE: e 2023 shing season around Southcentral Alaska will be unlike any in recent history. In March 2023, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced unprecedented restrictions and closures on sport and personal-use shing of king salmon around the state’s Cook Inlet region, from the Kenai Peninsula to the Mat-Su. e series of emergency regulations illustrates the severity of decreasing king salmon populations and the broader salmon crisis playing out across the state. While many popular king sheries will be closed from May through July, a handful remain open for catching kings, including Anchorage’s urban shery at Ship Creek and the Eklutna Tailrace o the Old Glenn Highway in Mat-Su. Learn more about the emergency orders, speci cs on where kings can and can’t be caught, and stay up to date with other shing regulations at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.
are usually bustling with shermen.
“Right downtown you can sh for king salmon and coho salmon,” said Bosch, himself a Ship Creek regular who has worked and shed the Anchorage area for decades. “If you haven’t shed there before, just watch what everyone is doing, if they’re using eggs or spinners, and where they are setting up along the creek.”
URBAN HOT SPOTS
Ship Creek might be the most visible venue, but incredible shing opportunities abound in every corner of town and every direction of Southcentral Alaska. Anchorage lakes (Campbell, DeLong, Jewel, Mirror, Sand Lake) are loaded, and creeks (Bird, Campbell and Ship) and rivers (Eagle and Eklutna) are crammed with an array of sh: from several freshwater and landlocked salmon species to Dolly Varden/ Arctic char and awesome Arctic grayling. Chester Creek runs through
Anglers ﬁsh during the Coho Rodeo Derby at Ship Creek in Anchorage.
14 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
the center of town and can be great for rainbow trout (8-12 inches!), too.
OUTSIDE ANCHORAGE ACTION: ROAD TRIP REELING
Anchorage is also the jumping-o point for shing adventures all over Southcentral Alaska and beyond. A short drive or quick hike in practically any direction from urban Anchorage adds more casting spots. For nextlevel ground sh and salmon shing, drive south for an hour (Prince William Sound out of Whittier) or two (Resurrection Bay out of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula) or ve (Kachemak Bay out of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula), or drive north for 30 minutes to two hours (Matanuska-Susitna Borough).
Some of Alaska’s — and the world’s — most exciting salmon shing goes down on the Kenai Peninsula, a few hours’ drive south of Anchorage, where the Kenai, Russian, Anchor and Kasilof rivers ow ush with sh.
is is action-packed angling for Alaska’s salmon species. It can also be combat shing at its gnarliest. When the sh are running, anglers line the banks, practically shoulder to shoulder, while locals and guides motor boats up and down the rivers, homing in on the hot spots. For most, all the work is worth it when they land one of Alaska’s bright and hard- ghting salmon, creating photo-worthy moments that will be social media pro le shots for years.
e shing is also exciting in port towns like Whittier, Seward and Homer, which are all a beautiful drive south of Anchorage. ere, you can cast from the banks for salmon, but you’ll improve your odds and your options by jumping aboard a charter boat to chase the big, bad, barn-door halibut and cruise along salmon runs as they return to their freshwater spawning grounds. Catching a big halibut is tough work, but it’s a di erent kind of sh ght. Instead of running and splashing, these at lunkers are more likely to play like dead weight as you slowly reel them up from the dark of the ocean bottom. ey sometimes freak when they surface and see daylight, but handy deckhands are ready with a net and/or a ga to snatch the opping sh.
e port town of Valdez is an even longer drive away, but the roads there are about as scenic (glaciers, mountains, wildlife, waterfalls) as it gets and once you’ve arrived, the shing is equally impressive.
Point your vehicle north from Anchorage and you’ll soon have awe-inspiring Denali looming large in your windshield, guiding you toward the glacier-carved and sh- lled Matanuska-Susitna Borough. You’ll also nd exciting shing all around the Mat-Su, some less than an hour from Anchorage, some a
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little farther. When the salmon are running, the region’s rivers are slamming, especially the Deshka River, Willow Creek, Susitna River, Eklutna Tailrace and Montana Creek. If you prefer a slower pace, there are dozens of lakes packed with grayling, trout, Arctic char and landlocked salmon; favorites include Nancy Lake, Big Lake, Rolly Lakes and Knik Lake. If you like lakes, consider packing a lunch and your gear, renting a canoe and soaking up the midnight sun and the peace of the Alaska outdoors.
OUTSIDE ANCHORAGE ACTION: FLYING FISHING
If you’ve come all the way to Alaska to chase sh, you might as well dial up the fun to a once-in-a-lifetime experience by booking a y-in shing adventure. From Anchorage, oatplanes, skilled pilots and savvy guides will get you to the sh in high- ying fashion. O en, you’ll take o in a oatplane from Anchorage’s Lake Hood, which buzzes with around-the-clock activity during Southcentral’s warm, bright summers. If you think the takeo from the lake is thrilling, wait until the landing! And that’s just the start of the fun. (Of course, more conventional plane rides are available; you could even y commercial to great shing towns like Cordova, Ketchikan, Juneau and more.)
What do you want to catch? A ghting salmon? A plump trout? A vicious pike? All of the above? Your guides have you covered. How long do you want to cast? Half-day, fullday and multiday trips are available. Want to go really big? Hook up with an out t that will get you to a remote, y-in lodge, where you can spend your days shing until your arm is sore from casting and your nights recovering like royalty in a massive, cabin-like lodge. is is the ultimate in Alaska shing experiences.
Overwhelmed by the options? Too excited to think clearly? Contact Fish and Game in person, on the ADF&G Sport Fish Information Center phone line (907-2672218) or online (firstname.lastname@example.org or the Fishing section of adfg.alaska.gov) for questions about shing, licenses, regulations or anything else Anchorage or Alaska shing related. Fish and Game’s We Fish AK and Go Fish AK sport shing websites are especially helpful for ambitious anglers.
e Sport Fish Information Center (333 Raspberry Road) provides up-to-date information on all the sheries. You can even borrow shing gear! ere are also area shing blogs and message boards, and friendly shermen and retailers who are
happy to share tips while you shop for tackle or gear.
Lures and lines, rods and reels — the choices are endless. But there’s one piece of equipment shermen (residents 18 or older and nonresidents age 16 or older) must carry: a sport shing license. Nonresidents have many sport shing license options, from one-day ($15) to 14-day ($75) to annual ($100), and many options in between. If you are on a quest for a king, you will also need a king salmon tag, which runs an additional $15 for one day and up to $100 for an annual stamp, with three-, seven- and 14-day stamps available. For residents, there are numerous license options for di erent shermen (military, low income, senior citizens, blind), so do your research. For the savvy shopper, many license prices have dropped from prior seasons following a dip in sales during the pandemic.
NOTE: You might hear about Alaskans lling their freezers while dipnetting salmon. Yes, it can be an awesome and fruitful shing experience, but only Alaska residents are legally allowed to do it.
Alaska sport shing licenses are available at most sporting goods shops, even many grocery and convenience stores, and online, of course. It’s also a sherman’s responsibility to know regulations, which are easily available in print and online. Bosch said the key to guring it out is to read the general regulations for each region (example: the Anchorage area), then look for site-speci c regulations for streams (example: Ship Creek). In other words, know where you are shing
and what you are shing for. Oh, and always be bear aware — clean your sh and dispose of sh waste responsibly.
If you’re plotting a chartered or guided shing experience, whether by road, boat or plane, shop around. Most reputable charter companies have years of experience and are easy to study up on via their websites and social media. Find a perfect shing t by being speci c about what you want to catch, how long you want to sh, and how much you want to spend.
One charter shing bonus: It o en comes with sightseeing in some of Alaska’s most incredible landscapes and wildlife, including water wonders like whales, orcas, porpoises and countless seabirds.
And don’t forget the bevy of shing derbies that take place all summer in regions across Alaska. Catching a trophy sh in Alaska is memory making; neglecting to buy a derby ticket and then landing a potentially winning sh is heartbreaking.
Baumer recommended that visitors and residents alike spend time on the ADF&G’s sport shing website — adfg.alaska.gov — for updates on everything from hot shing spots to places to borrow, rent or buy gear.
“And we’re always here to help with questions, whether they’re planning their trip or there’s a speci c detail they’ve got a questions about,” he added. “And we’re ready to get people here to go shing. You can come up and sh, be careful and, like always, do it safely.”
Trout, char and grayling in Chugach State Park’s mountain lakes will take a variety of ﬂies and lures. The selection in this ﬂy wallet covers all the bases — and then some.
FISHING 16 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY KEN MARSH
By BAILEY BERG
At13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest national park in the United States and covers roughly the same area as the next two biggest national parks combined (Denali and Gates of the Arctic, also in Alaska). It’s di cult not to talk about the area in superlatives, as that sheer amount of acreage holds a lot: four major mountain ranges; the second- and third-highest peaks on the continent; nine of the 16 highest peaks in the U.S.; incredibly diverse wildlife; and the nation’s largest glacial system.
For true adventure seekers and wilderness lovers, the park is a kind of El Dorado, a place rife with opportunities to play — from backpacking, shing and camping to ra ing, hiking and climbing — and see the wilderness in all its glory.
HOW TO GET THERE
Only two roads, both dirt, lead into the park: McCarthy Road and Nabesna Road. Of the two, the 60-mile-long McCarthy Road is the one far more traveled. You’ll know when the Edgerton Highway merges with McCarthy Road in Chitina because it will go
from pavement to dirt road atop what was once a railroad track. It’s slow going, with blind corners and potholes, but the scenery makes up for it: spectacular views of distant mountains, the Copper River raging below and the impressive Kuskulana River Bridge, which spans a vertigo-inducing gorge. e road ends at the Kennicott River; from there, you cross the river on a footbridge and can either shuttle or walk the half-mile to McCarthy or 4.5 miles to Kennicott. Alternatively, Copper Valley Air o ers biweekly ights from Anchorage, Gulkana and May Creek to McCarthy (907-822-4200). Wrangell Mountain Air does three daily ights from Chitina into the park (800-4781160).
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
KENNECOTT MINES: Within 35 years, the Kennecott Mines went from being an established mining camp — pumping out copper around the clock — to a ghost town. For decades, the mill sat empty and abandoned, until 1998, when the National Park Service purchased the mill, power plant and many other camp buildings from private owners and began restoring them. You can take a tour of the mill, a 14-story behemoth that was used to process ore through a multistage process. e tour is worth it for the glaciers and mountain view from the
top oors and the opportunity to check out the massive, nearly 100-year-old machinery. ere’s also oodles of information about the history of the mines and the people who once worked there at the Kennecott Visitor Center.
MCCARTHY-KENNICOTT HISTORICAL MUSEUM: While it could be argued that both towns are museums in and of themselves, the actual museum, located in what was once a railway depot, does a good job of showing the history from the town’s inception in the late 1800s to today. You can see old photographs, artifacts, a miniature model of historic McCarthy and a diorama of the Bonanza Mine.
ROOT GLACIER TRAIL: Past all the wagon-red buildings of the mining camp on the far end of town is the start of the Root Glacier Trail. It’s an easy 4-mile round-trip jaunt out to one of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers. Even from a distance, you can look for the blue pools and streams speckled across the top of the glacier and admire the nearby peaks. If you intend to walk on the ice, wear appropriate footwear and take appropriate safety measures.
GUIDED WILDERNESS ADVENTURES:
Companies like Kennicott Wilderness Guides, McCarthy River Tours & Out tters and St. Elias Alpine Guides o er hiking, ice climbing, packra ing and multiday trips through the spruce forests, alpine tundra, glacier elds and canyons of the park.
Visitors to McCarthy and the Kennecott copper mine site can walk and haul gear across the Kennicott River using a footbridge that replaced a tram system.
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 17
BIGGEST OF THE BIG: WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK AND KENNECOTT MINES
DENALI NATIONAL PARK: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
By BAILEY BERG
Sure, Denali National Park and Preserve is named for the nation’s mightiest mountain, but the 6-million-acre park encompasses so much more. Denali has options for every type of visitor. Whether you’re an avid backpacker looking to forge new trails or a relaxed traveler content to watch for animals on a tour, you’re sure to experience jaw-dropping scenery.
Located roughly four hours north of Anchorage and two hours south of Fairbanks on the George Parks Highway, it’s an easy drive to the heart of the state — a er all, there’s only one road entrance to the park.
If you don’t have your own wheels, here’s how to get there:
BUS: One option is Alaska/Yukon Trails (907-452-3337), a passenger van company capable of transporting up to 16 passengers. ey run from Anchorage to Talkeetna to Denali to Fairbanks and the same route in reverse. Expect to leave town early for either departure and to get in around lunchtime. For a ride in a deluxe motorcoach, another option is e Park Connection (800-266-8625), where travelers can either book tickets from Anchorage or Seward.
TRAIN: Taking the train (the Alaska Railroad turns 100 this season) adds about three hours of travel time to your journey, but it goes through wilderness only accessible on the track. Plus, there’s a dining and bar car, knowledgeable guides and viewing-dome cars with sweeping views of the mountains and valleys along the way. e train makes a stop on the nearly 1,000-foot-long railroad bridge over an enormous gorge known as Hurricane Gulch. On a clear day, you can see Denali from there. (A more economical option both in terms of funds and time is taking the rails one way and a motorcoach back. Bonus: You’ll see even more of the state.) Check out alaskarailroad.com for more information on riding the train.
e National Park Service maintains the only road leading into
the park. It’s a 92-mile, mostly gravel route running parallel to the Alaska Range to what was once the mining community of Kantishna. Normally, from late May to early September, visitors can drive the rst 12.5 miles of the road to Savage River with just their park pass.
To go farther than the dozen-ish miles allowed to personal vehicles, travelers have to be on foot, bike or riding on one of the school-busstyle shuttles. You can hop on a cheaper, more exible bus tour that allows you to get o and on and explore on your own, or you can take a narrated bus tour with a driver who cra s an itinerary for you. ere are also courtesy buses that serve the portion of the park road that is publicly driveable, which includes stops at the sled dog kennel and visitors center.
Due to rock slides, during summer 2023, the road will only be open to mile 43 (the road is expected to reopen in 2024). Be sure to check the National Park Service for updates at nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit.
A visit to Denali National Park includes the drama of nature taken to new heights.
18 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 WEDO ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EVERYDAY!
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
WEDO DenaliNationalPark Flightseeingwithglacierlanding-4timesaday! TOURSEVERYDAY! Visitourwebsiteformoreinformation andtobookatour www. ydenali.com•907-683-2359
‘WILL THE MOUNTAIN BE OUT?’: WHERE TO SEE DENALI
Rising 20,310 feet, Denali can be seen from parts of Anchorage to Fairbanks on a clear day. But clear days can be hard to come by. National Park Service rangers stress to visitors that the mammoth mountain is only out one of every three days (a rule that isn’t hard and fast — it could be out for days at a time and then hidden for a month straight).
Even with its great height, the mountain isn’t visible from the park entrance, the surrounding campgrounds or nearby hotels. Miles 9 and 11 are your rst chances of spotting it, the latter spot having a pullout and interpretive waysides with information about the cli . ere are many other spots along the road that allow for peeks of the peak. While the most iconic view of Denali is at Re ection Pond, near Mile 85, the road to that view is closed in 2023.
FOR SURE OPEN IN 2023
SLED DOG KENNEL: Denali is the only national park in the U.S. where rangers do winter patrols via dog sled. But during the few precious months when there isn’t snow on the ground, the dogs have di erent duties: educating tourists, posing for pictures and getting belly rubs. eir kennel is free to visit, and their handlers are available to chat about what goes into making a sled dog. (Bonus: ere’s usually a litter of puppies there training to become full- edged sled dogs.)
DENALI NATIONAL PARK VISITORS CENTER: If you come in by train, the visitors center will be one of the rst buildings you see. It’s the main information center in the park, with exhibits on the park’s history and the animals you might see in the boreal forest outside its doors. ere are also various ranger-led activities and hikes that launch from there.
ADVENTURE SPORTS AND FLIGHTSEEING: Various operators tout all manners of escape from their storefronts on Glitter Gulch, a halfmile stretch of road near the park entrance. Activities range from ATV rides and ziplining near the park to ra ing down the Nenana River or ightseeing around the mountain. Shop around to nd an itinerary that matches your interest and budget.
REOPENING IN 2024
e National Park Service has announced that the road will remain closed at Mile 43 through the 2023 season. If you’re planning ahead for next summer, however, you can add these spots to your list.
EIELSON VISITOR CENTER: Located at Mile 66, you can reach the Eielson Visitor Center by shuttle. On a clear day, the views of Denali are stunning. ree maintained trails
spider out from the center, though hikers are welcome to go o path. Inside the center is also a small art gallery with works depicting the wilderness of Denali.
WONDER LAKE: is is where Ansel Adams’ famous photograph of the mountain was taken. When Denali isn’t shrouded in clouds, its image is mirrored in the water below, making Wonder Lake a favorite spot for photographers.
WHERE TO STAY
ere are four campgrounds in Denali National Park that will be accessible in 2023: Riley Creek (at the park entrance), Savage River (13 miles in), Sanctuary River (23 miles) and Teklanika River (29 miles).
e sites have anywhere from seven to 53 tent-only campsites, with the exception of Riley Creek, which has 150 sites suitable for camping and RVs. Considering how few campsites there are in the park, we highly recommended you make a reservation ahead of time. For more information, go to reservedenali.com. (Note: In 2023, Sanctuary Campground will take walk-up registrations only. No reservations for this campground are available.)
ere are also many hotel, cabin, B&B and hostel options for visitors to Denali National
Park. Many are clustered just outside the park entrance, a few are found at the end of the park road and more are located in neighboring towns.
While remote, the accommodations at the end of the park road in Kantishna are far from roughing it. Places like Denali Backcountry Lodge, Kantishna Roadhouse and Camp Denali may be 92 miles into the national park, but they don’t skimp on creature comforts like running water, electricity, heat and private bathrooms (granted, there’s no Wi-Fi or cell reception). Generally much spendier than the options at the park entrance, these lodges are usually all-inclusive.
Outside the park, your options vary widely. Crow’s Nest is made up of terraced rows of cozy cabins tucked up on a hillside, o ering exponentially better views of Mount Healy the higher you go; and Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is one of the biggest lodging options with high-end amenities, including an espresso bar, a dinner theater and laundry services. More lodging options can be found at denalichamber.com.
DENALI VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 19 theBest ComeExperience Pizza Denali in CraftBeers OnTap 907.638.PIES ProspectorsPizza.com LocalIngredients Food‘til11pmDaily
By BAILEY BERG
The 49th state is home to an astounding variety of wildlife: Some species are present at the highest density anywhere in the world. ese animals have the power to captivate locals and visitors alike; you’ll o en see cars pulling over to get a closer look. Here are just a few for your bucket list and tips on where to scope them out.
MOOSE: Locals will joke that moose are to Alaska what squirrels are to the Lower 48. While they’re not quite that ubiquitous, they do o en show up where you’d least expect them — perusing a backyard garden, browsing shrubs in a grocery store parking lot or enjoying the long grass on the side of the highway. ey’re hard to miss: Adult females weigh between 800 and 1,300 pounds and males tip the scales at 1,200 to 1,600 pounds.
BEARS: Of the species of bear found in Alaska, the two you’re most likely to see are brown bears and black bears. Black bears, the smallest of the bunch, usually dwell in forested areas, but are also more likely to wander into town or pick through garbage cans. Brown bears, also called grizzlies, are spread throughout much of the state. A subspecies of brown bear, the Kodiak bear, is one of the largest kinds of bears and found exclusively in the Kodiak Archipelago. en there’s the Arcticdwelling polar bear, found in coastal areas above the Arctic Circle and on the North Slope.
DALL SHEEP: Snow white with small, curved, golden-brown horns, this nimble subspecies of sheep thrives in mountainous terrain, where predators can’t reach and humans don’t bother them. You might see them high up on the near-vertical rock face of the Seward Highway — where they can sometimes distract drivers and present a tra c hazard.
ey’re also found throughout Chugach State Park and scattered around Denali National Park and Preserve.
SALMON: Five kinds of salmon can be found in the rivers and streams of Alaska: sockeye (also called red), pink (aka humpy), king (or chinook), coho (silver) and chum (dog). During the summer months, salmon return from the sea to the waters where they were hatched. eir internal homing devices bring them remarkably close to where they entered the world, and that’s where they mate, spawn and die. You can watch their epic homecoming journeys throughout the state, though one of the easiest viewing areas, Ship Creek, runs through the heart of downtown Anchorage. ere you can watch kings, coho and pink salmon charging upstream and eager anglers standing shoulderto-shoulder, trying to ll their freezers. Kings start running in late May through July and cohos claim the river from August through mid-September.
A bull moose walks across a small pond between the Seward Highway and the Alaska Railroad tracks at Potter Marsh in Anchorage.
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
20 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
HERE’S HOW TO SEE MUSK OXEN, EAGLES, BEARS AND OTHER ALASKA WILDLIFE UP CLOSE — SAFELY
BALD EAGLES: Bald eagles, Alaska’s largest resident bird of prey with a wing span of up to 7.5 feet, are a frequent sight in the Last Frontier. Some towns, like Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, are practically overrun with this national emblem. It’s estimated that a whopping 30,000 bald eagles are in Alaska.
WHALES: Take a boat in Prince William Sound or Resurrection Bay and, if the timing is right, you’ll see the tails of humpback, bowhead and gray whales waving in the distance. A few of the other kinds of whales in Alaska: beluga populations found in Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm; bowheads, which come close to North Slope villages during their migration; and orcas, found in Glacier Bay area and the Aleutian Islands.
WHERE TO SEE ALASKA ANIMALS UP CLOSE
ALASKA WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTER (PORTAGE)
Each of the animals at the Conservation Center has a story. Uli, the female black bear, was found wandering downtown Juneau as a 5-pound cub; Jade, the red fox, was found by joggers a er being orphaned; Artemis, a musk ox calf, was found hiding under a raised utility building near Prudhoe Bay a er she was separated from her herd. ey’ve all found a lifelong home at the sanctuary, which is dedicated to animal care, conservation, research and education. e center has over 200 acres of habitat for the animals — including moose, wood bison, deer, elk, birds of prey, coyotes and reindeer. Some, like the wood bison, are raised and reintroduced to the wild. (Mile 79 of the Seward Highway, Portage)
ALASKA ZOO (ANCHORAGE)
Started in 1969 with just Annabelle, an elephant won by a local grocer in a contest, the
zoo now includes more than 100 animals, including polar bears, Dall sheep, harbor seals and Arctic fox. Beyond simply providing a way to view the animals, the zoo focuses on education, research and animal rehabilitation. (4731 O’Malley Road, Anchorage)
ALASKA SEALIFE CENTER (SEWARD)
e only coldwater marine science facility in the Western Hemisphere, the SeaLife Center in Seward is where to go if you want to see Steller sea lions, seals, pu ns and other coastal birds, salmon, octopus, crabs, star sh and sea urchins. A big part of the SeaLife Center’s mission is rehabilitating injured or abandoned animals from throughout the state, so you might even see an infant walrus, beluga whale or other sea mammal. (301 Railway Ave., Seward)
THE MUSK OX FARM (PALMER)
Located on a Colony farm in Palmer, e Musk Ox Farm is a domesticated animal operation that began in 1964. Part of the farm’s animal husbandry involves collecting the hair that’s shed from musk ox undercoats each spring. e bers, called qiviut, are said to be so er than cashmere and warmer than wool when spun into yarn, which you
can purchase in the farm’s gi shop. You can only get as close as the fences allow, but you’ll have no problem seeing the handful of new calves born each spring. (12850 E. Archie Road, Palmer)
REINDEER FARM (PALMER)
You can pet and feed the roughly 150 reindeer at the
Reindeer Farm in Palmer — they’re friendly and will take grain pellets out of your hand. Fun fact: ese same reindeer participate in the annual Running of the Reindeer at the Anchorage Fur Rondy festival each February (think running of the bulls, but with reindeer in downtown Anchorage). (5561 S. Bodenburg Loop Road, Palmer)
ROBERT G. WHITE LARGE ANIMAL RESEARCH STATION (FAIRBANKS)
Bordering the University of Alaska Fairbanks, this research station is mostly devoted to studying musk oxen, which gives students at the university experience maintaining colonies of large animals. You don’t have to be a student to meet their musk oxen (and the reindeer and cattle that also live there) — LARS has regularly scheduled open hours in the summer and pre-arranged tours in the winter for visitors to stop by. (2220 Yankovich Road, Fairbanks)
A red fox comes out of its den in South Anchorage.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 21 VOTEDTHE BESTDECK INANCHORAGE ANDBES T BRE WP UB PROUDLY BREWED IN ALASKA DOWNTOWNANCHORAGE 717WEST 3RD AVENUE 907-277-7727 DENALINATIONAL PARk MILE248.5PARKSHWY 907-683-BREW #49thState 49StateBrewing.com
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
By BAILEY BERG
Hikers are spoiled for options in Alaska. From quick jaunts near urban centers to multiday hikes, there is no shortage of trail options. While some hikes demand special equipment, like crampons for a glacier trek or a tent for overnight ventures, there are other items you need every time. Here are some of the essentials.
GOOD SHOES: If you’re doing a fairly at or paved trail, you can probably get by with trail running shoes or a pair of hiking sandals. If you’re on a hike with multiple creek crossings, muddy trails or loose rocks and scree, you may spend more time missing the ankle support and waterproo ng powers of your hiking boots than you’ll spend actually enjoying nature.
LAYERS: Even the most beautiful bluebird day can devolve into a downpour of rain. Be sure to bring moisture-wicking base layers, an insulating layer and a waterproof outer layer to keep you dry and cozy. A good rule of thumb is to avoid cotton-based clothing, as it doesn’t dry as quickly as others.
BEAR PROTECTION: Did you know that an estimated 30,000 brown bears and 100,000 black bears are spread throughout Alaska? While bear attacks are rare, it’s always a good idea to carry bear spray in an accessible spot (and to know how to use it).
WATER: Staying well-hydrated while hiking is essential for both performance and general survival, so if you can’t carry the amount you need for your trip, bring a lter or purifying tablets to cleanse the water you nd along the way. Clear owing water, like streams, is
usually a better, safer water source than stagnant bodies of water, such as lakes and ponds.
MAP: Cellphone coverage is a rare gi in Alaska’s backcountry, so don’t plan on relying on your cell service to download maps on the trail. Even busier trails in the city can be out of range. If you’re going to use your phone, download a topographic map on your device before you head out. Otherwise, print maps of your desired trail (plus a few miles more of the surrounding area, in case you accidentally wander too far o the map) or pick one up at stores like Alaska Geographic and REI.
Consider these nature’s rules of the road.
DON’T CUT SWITCHBACKS: When done repeatedly in high-tra c areas, it can lead to erosion.
IF YOU STOP FOR A WATER BREAK OR TO TAKE A PICTURE: move to the side of the trail so others can get by easily.
GIVE HIKERS MOVING UPHILL THE RIGHT OF WAY: ey’re working harder than those going downhill.
PACK OUT WHAT YOU PACK IN: Don’t leave empty bottles, food wrappers or toilet paper in the woods. Why would you want to destroy the nature you’re out here to see?
BE MINDFUL OF NOISE POLLUTION: Many people go out into the woods to get away from city noise and to enjoy the sounds of nature, so don’t blast music on speakers. at being said, consider wearing a bear bell to warn the other mammals in the park that you’re coming — you don’t want to catch them by surprise.
SAFETY AROUND MOOSE AND BEARS
Generally speaking, neither bears nor moose want anything to do with you. Try to make noise when you’re on the trails — talking,
Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park.
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
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HIKING TIPS AND ETIQUETTE: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE TACKLING THE TRAILS
clapping or singing are all good signals that people are coming. If you’re making enough noise that animals can hear your approach and travel slowly enough that they have time to move, you might not even see them.
Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game has some good resources about what to do in case of a close encounter. Here are some general pointers.
MOOSE: Moose are commonly found by trail systems, even in urban centers like Anchorage. Make sure to give them lots of space, and never get between a cow and a calf. Moose aren’t usually aggressive unless they’re provoked, but if a moose charges at you, you should run — a bull moose can weigh over 1,400 pounds, which can do some serious damage. Get behind a tree, car or fence, or put some kind of sturdy object or structure between you and the moose.
BEARS: If you happen to encounter a bear, give it plenty of space and remain calm. If it appears that the bear hasn’t seen you, move away slowly, never taking your eyes o it. If it has seen you, face the bear, stand your ground and talk to it in a normal voice so it recognizes you as a human. Try to seem bigger by standing near others in your group or putting your arms above your head. If the bear comes toward you, raise your voice, throw rocks or sticks and use a deterrent like bear spray if you have it.
Don’t try to outrun the bear — you can’t, and running will trigger the animal’s prey drive, causing it to chase you instinctively. In the very unlikely event that you are attacked, either play dead or ght back. To play dead, lie as still as possible on your stomach and protect the back of your neck with your hands. If the bear no longer feels you’re a threat, it will most likely leave. Stay motionless as long as you’re able. If the bear sees you moving again, it may renew its attack.
To read up more on the topic, see the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s guide: “ e Essentials for Traveling in Alaska’s Bear Country.” Regarding situations where you might have to ght back: “Fight any bear that has been calmly focused on you and makes contact or that
breaks into a tent or building. In almost all situations, your best defense against an attacking black bear is to ght back. Concentrate on the bear’s face or muzzle with anything you have on hand.”
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 23 alaskan wild game burgers Famousbeergarden alask PROUDLY BREWED IN ALASKA SEETHE“Into TheWild” Bus Vo ted AT opBre w pubinamerica Whiskeycollection•VegetarianOptions•giftshop&beerto-go #49thState 49StateBrewing.com DOWNTOWNANCHORAGE 717WEST 3RD AVENUE 907-277-7727 DENALINATIONAL PARk MILE248.5PARKSHWY 907-683-BREW
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
HIKES NEAR ANCHORAGE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE
By BAILEY BERG
It’s no secret that hiking opportunities in Alaska are worldclass. But while the state is geographically massive, it doesn’t mean all the good stu is remote — even Anchorage, the largest city, has quick and convenient access to incredible nature. Here are just a few hikes, with varying degrees of length and di culty, that epitomize the beauty and majesty of Alaska, all within a 30-minute drive of downtown Anchorage.
IF YOU HAVE 3 TO 4 HOURS
FLATTOP MOUNTAIN: Easily the most climbed mountain in Alaska, Flattop is a perennial favorite among locals and visitors alike thanks to its well-maintained trail and views encompassing all of Anchorage (and stretching as far as Denali on a clear day).
While the entire mountain stands at 3,510 feet, you’ll only ascend the nal 1,280 over the course of a mile and a half. e mountain’s popularity has its pros and cons. On one hand, you don’t need a car to get there — simply take the Flattop Mountain Shuttle ($25 roundtrip; runs May 26 to Sept. 10, 12:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 907-279-3334). It departs from downtown and arrives at the Glen Alps Trailhead within 30 minutes.
Late-day sun brightens a hike up Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park on the summer solstice.
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
A runner strides down into Raven Creek valley during the Crow Pass Crossing race.
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PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
e downside is that it’s easily the most crowded trail in Anchorage, so you may be jockeying for space with other visitors and their dogs. e trail becomes steep near the summit, and the last 300 or so feet call for some rocky scrambling that might be a little scary for novice hikers.
TONY KNOWLES COASTAL TRAIL: If you’re looking for a walk that can be done with co ee in hand, this is it. Starting in downtown Anchorage, this paved 11-mile trail hugs the coast all the way to its terminus in Kincaid Park. It’s a leisurely path (save for a daunting nal half-mile that rises somewhat steeply) that links up with several sightseeing spots, including Westchester Lagoon, Earthquake Park and Point Woronzof. Aside from the occasional urban moose, there aren’t many possibilities of animal sightings until you reach Kincaid Park (unless you count the metal birds blasting o at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport), but the land and cityscapes are lovely.
IF YOU HAVE A HALF-DAY
RABBIT LAKE: Eight and a half miles out and back, it’s a gorgeous hike the whole way, but the big payo comes right at the end with views of Rabbit Lake in the shadows of the mighty Yuyanq’ Ch’ex, formerly known as Suicide Peaks. An easy hike with pretty minimal elevation gain, the rst half cuts through brush as it runs parallel to the Flattop ridgeline before emerging into an open valley for the nal couple of miles. Pack in a picnic and spend
some time soaking in the lakeside views before heading back. Keep an eye out for blueberries in late summer!
EAGLE AND SYMPHONY LAKES: Just northeast of Anchorage near Eagle River, this 12-mile round-trip hike is outrageously photogenic from start to nish. Even though it’s a longer hike, the bulk of the trail is level, making it easy to breeze through. It’s not until the end when you reach a boulder eld that you really need to watch your step (this part can be challenging for small kids and dogs). But the nale, including the two lakes — one mint green, the other a deep aquamarine — separated by a single moraine, and the towering peaks on all sides, makes the e ort worth it.
FULL DAY OR WANT TO DO AN OVERNIGHT TRIP
WILLIWAW LAKES: Tucked in Chugach State Park, this string of nine alpine lakes allows for the most customizable itinerary. You could do a big loop, starting at the Prospect Heights Trailhead parking lot and coming back via the Campbell Creek Canyon Trail and Near Point. You could take it easy, going down Powerline Pass to Middle Fork to the Williwaw Lakes Trail, following the creek through the valley as long as you care to before turning around. Or, if you start at the Glen Alps Trailhead, you could go up and over via the “football eld” (also called the “ball eld”) for a workout that’ll make your legs burn but o ers the most aweinspiring views of the valley. Whichever way you choose, you’ll almost certainly see moose or
CROW PASS: If you travel light, move quickly and start early, you can cover the 21-mile trail in a single day. Most people choose to break it up over two days, though. Starting in Girdwood, the trail passes glaciers, waterfalls, mine ruins and a Forest Service cabin, then winds through a valley to the Eagle River before terminating at the Eagle River Nature Center. e river crossing can be dangerous (the depth of its frigid waters can reach
your belly button, though it’s lower earlier in the morning, and the current is swi ), so it’s not recommended for a solo trek. Your odds of seeing wild animals — ranging from arctic ground squirrels, marmots and Dall sheep to bears and moose — are good, considering the trail isn’t as tra cked as others in the Chugach. Make sure to arrange for transport back to town from the end of the trail in Eagle River, though: e hike back to Girdwood is uphill.
A man walking on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail at Point Woronzof is silhouetted against Mount Susitna.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 25 VOTEDTHE BESTDECK INANCHORAGE ANDBES T BRE WP UB PROUDLY BREWED IN ALASKA DOWNTOWNANCHORAGE 717WEST 3RD AVENUE 907-277-7727 DENALINATIONAL PARk MILE248.5PARKSHWY 907-683-BREW #49thState 49StateBrewing.com
PHOTO BY BILL ROTH
Water carves through the tundra deep in the Williwaw Lakes valley in Chugach State Park.
PHOTO BY VICKY HO
A VISITOR’S GUIDE TO LEGAL CANNABIS IN ALASKA
By ZACHARIAH HUGHES
So, you’re visiting Alaska and wondering about weed. You’ve come to the right place.
Here’s an overview of where you can nd what you’re looking for — and how to safely consume in a way that respects a, frankly, confounding patchwork of rules and regulations.
Whether you’re a cannabis connoisseur or just looking to sample a novel local o ering during vacation, Alaska’s pot industry is a smallerscale version of what you’re likely to encounter in bigger markets.
Alaska has long had permissive rules when it comes to cannabis, but following a 2014 ballot initiative, the state fully legalized recreational consumption for anyone 21 and older. at includes tourists, provided you have a valid ID to show. Cannabis is regulated more or less like alcohol, so if you’re wondering if something is legal or not, ask yourself “Would I get in trouble doing this with a cocktail in my hand or an open beer?”
e big caveat is that Alaska has almost no equivalents of bars for pot. With the exception of one establishment in Fairbanks, Good Titrations, there are no “pot cafes” or easy commercial locations in which to light up.
is leaves visitors with relatively few places to legally consume.
Most hotels and bars ban indoor smoking (of everything). If you’re staying on private property, check the rules or with your host. As with alcohol, it remains unlawful to consume in public parks and greenbelts.
is all gets especially confusing given that federally regulated entities like planes, marine ferries and national parks within Alaska still abide by full prohibitions on cannabis. e state has a handy and comprehensive guide about lawful consumption while you’re visiting.
WHERE TO BUY
Most of the cities and towns in Alaska that a tourist is likely to visit have cannabis retail shops. e state has the highest number of retailers per capita of any in the union (take that, Oregon!). If you’re in population centers like Anchorage, Juneau or Fairbanks, you should have no problem nding a number of high-quality retailers. Even smaller towns that tend to see lots of summer tourists and cruise-ship passengers have multiple well-stocked businesses with a full range of products.
While rural hub towns in Western Alaska like Nome, Bethel and Kotzebue have pot shops, most of the small, primarily Indigenous communities do not, and have local bans on cannabis commerce, as they do with alcohol.
Shops abide by strict standards for IDing customers, so make sure you have your driver’s license or a state-issued ID handy when you enter. ey also deal primarily in cash, though businesses will typically have an ATM on site. Don’t expect to just breeze in with your AmEx or Apple Pay.
Budtenders at cannabis retail shops around the state are a resource for information about local marijuana varieties.
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 27
Once inside, “budtenders” are on hand to help you nd what you need, and are generally exceptionally well versed in the merits of the products on hand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. e industry is still relatively new, and sta , especially budtenders, are accustomed to helping customers nd what they are looking for, not dismiss or belittle people who are new to cannabis.
Same as you would with a barista or bartender, always tip your budtender.
WHAT TO BUY
Owing to a number of factors, Alaska has a unique cannabis industry relative to other states that have legalized recreational use. ough there are some bigger players, the state’s cultivators, manufacturers and retailers are generally small and independently run. We are overwhelmingly a “mom and pop”-type cannabis industry, without the major corporate and heavily nanced conglomerates that have begun to dominate in the Lower 48 — at least so far.
e cannabis scene here is creative, collegial, comprehensive and high-quality. You’ll nd most of the same products you’d encounter in bigger, more sophisticated markets. e caveat is that the range of options, particularly for more cutting edge and highly re ned products, might be a bit smaller.
And a bit more costly. Everything is more expensive in Alaska, from energy costs to cultivation equipment to labor, and that is re ected at the point of sale. Businesses work hard to keep costs low for consumers, but you’re still likely to nd familiar products a bit pricier than if you’re buying them in Seattle or Los Angeles.
Bud ower remains the most popular product in retail shops across the state, with plenty of strains and strengths to choose from. Alaskans have tended to prefer higher THC strains, which are generally what’s
28 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
most ubiquitous at product counters.
ere are lots of small and ambitious edible operations that have thrived in the last few years. Cookies and gummies, sure, but also highly local fare like THC-infused reweed honey, cannabis ice cream and “strawberry moose milk,” which … does not actually come from a moose. It can be hit or miss wandering into a shop if you have a speci c edible product in mind, so check the menu online or look up an edible manufacturer’s website and see where they supply their products.
As far as more avant-garde concentrate products go, from THC cartridges to sugar wax to live rosin o erings, Alaska lags just slightly behind what’s happening in major markets. Again, it’s best to query a particular store or company in advance if you have a speci c product you’re intent on purchasing.
Whatever your level of interest in cannabis, spending a little bit of cash while you’re visiting (even if it’s just on a shop T-shirt or hat) supports local businesses and chips in a little tax money to our state budget, which are things to generally feel good about.
And lastly: Always, always tip your budtenders.
WARNING:Marijuanahasintoxicatingeffects&maybehabitforming&addictive.Marijuanaimpairsconcentration,coordination,&judgment. Donotoperateavehicleormachineryunderitsinﬂuence.Therearehealthrisksassociatedwithconsumptionofmarijuana.Foruseonlyby adults21orolder.Keepoutofthereachofchildren.Marijuanashouldnotbeusedbywomenwhoarepregnantorbreastfeeding.License#24383
Like most commodities, you’re likely to ﬁnd familiar cannabis products are a bit pricier in Alaska than in the continental U.S.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 29
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
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License #3a-11638 •#3a-23821 •#3a-31418 Marijuanahasintoxicatinge ectsandmaybehabitformingandaddictive. Marijuanaimpairsconcentration,coordinationandjudgment. Do notoperate a vehicleormachinery underitsinﬂuence. There are healthrisksassociatedwithconsumptionofmarijuana. Foruseonlybyadults21andolder.Keepoutofthe reachofchildren. Marijuanashouldnotbeusedbywomenwhoare pregnantorbreastfeeding
IF YOU WANT TO TASTE THE BEST ALASKA HAS TO OFFER, THINK SEAFOOD
By MARA SEVERIN
Ilike to explore a new place fork rst. A destination’s culinary landscape is o en as interesting as its topographical one.
And Alaska is no di erent. If you want to break the ice with a local, ask them about their favorite pizza. Or burger. Or bowl of pho. You’ll de nitely hear about Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria, which might be described as one of the city’s most important social hubs. You’ll hear about the broth-tonoodle soup ratios at old-school Vietnamese eatery Ray’s Place vs. the trendy Phonatik in South Anchorage. You’ll hear about Tommy’s Burger Stop, Lucky Wishbone and Arctic Roadrunner, where loyal locals have gotten their burger-and-fries x for decades. Landlubbers, quit reading here.
For most visitors to Alaska, fork- rst travel means seafood. Fish is at the top of our gourmet (and recreational) food chain. Many residents love to sh, and those who don’t make sure to befriend someone who does. How else will you keep your second freezer packed tight with salmon and halibut? However, if during your Alaska vacation you’re not lucky enough to nagle a dinner
invitation from a well-stocked local, never fear. e seafood-savvy chefs at Anchorage’s best restaurants have you covered.
From sweet king crab legs to humble halibut tacos, dining out in Anchorage means eating the way many Alaskans dine in. Which is to say, beautifully.
Salmon, in Alaska, is both a luxury and a staple. Flaky, fatty (the good kind of fat) and full- avored, salmon stands up to a wide range of preparations, including the smokiness and heat of an open ame. ere are ve salmon species found in Alaska, but the king variety is, well, king.
If you’re going to treat yourself to a glistening piece of Alaska king salmon (also known as chinook), you should also treat yourself to a view of Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna (known locally as the Sleeping Lady). Simon and Seafort’s o ers sweeping views of the mountains of the Alaska Range as well as a full range of Alaska’s nest seafood — black cod, halibut, and both sockeye and king varieties of salmon — prepared your way: grilled, baked, pan seared or blackened.
For similarly beautiful views with a more relaxed vibe, check out the 49th State Brewing Co., where grilled king salmon is served on a bed of brown and red rice, kale, red quinoa with a lemon cream sauce and can
be paired with a house-brewed IPA. Bonus points for grabbing a spot at the best deck in town.
Or keep your eyes peeled for the “Big Blue “ — the Salmon HookUp Truck — which makes appearances at festivals, breweries and food truck fairs around Anchorage throughout the summer. Owned and operated by commercial shermen, the Cook Inlet salmon in their sandwiches, quesadillas, tacos and kebabs is as fresh as it’s possible to get anywhere. It’s like a taste of the ocean on wheels.
For a meal with a little Latin air, duck into the chic and trendy Tequila 61 for salmon tacos garnished with crispy fried onions, grilled pineapple and chipotle slaw. Make sure to wash them down with one of their topnotch scratch margaritas.
For a bit of Asian air with your sh, head to local favorite Kincaid Grill, which serves a troll-caught salmon crusted in togarashi roasted peanuts, served with broccolini and vermicelli rice noodles in a coconut red curry.
Or you can get your seafood x at the most important meal of the day by hitting up Snow City Cafe for a Ship Creek Benedict made with smoked salmon cakes. is laid-back local favorite also o ers fantastic salmon BLT and a snow crab Benedict (Oscar style). When it comes to breakfast in Alaska, it’s go big or go home.
Altura Bistro chef and owner Nathan Bentley pours bone marrow dashi tableside for his black cod dish. The Alaska-caught black cod is served with ginger-nori butter, pork dumplings, bone marrow dashi, bok choy and fresno chili. Bentley is a two-time James Beard Award semiﬁnalist.
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 31
Considering the size of this behemoth catch (some exceed 400 pounds), Alaska halibut is prized for its delicate, buttery avor. Its name is derived from half (holy) and butte ( at sh), and a beautifully prepared llet can indeed be a spiritual experience. Its immaculate white esh — rm textured and clean tasting — lends itself to a wide variety of avor pro les.
At Orso, downtown Anchorage’s buzzy Italian eatery, you can order it served simply in a thin wrapper of salty prosciutto with a Marsala garlic butter sauce. Next door, the halibut llet at Glacier Brewhouse is coated with basil pesto and spent grain breadcrumbs and will pair nicely with one of their house-made beers.
One of Anchorage’s newer downtown hot spots, Tent City Taphouse, also has sh and chips-style halibut, with traditional mushy peas and a less traditional gluten-free batter and their own raspberry and blackberry tartar sauce.
e always-inventive Crush Bistro serves halibut cheeks and glass noodles with a ka r lime beurre blanc, basil, blood orange and pistachio butter, if you’re looking for a bit of citrusy zing with your sh. In Midtown, the re ned but relaxed Kinley’s Restaurant also o ers halibut cheeks served with pancetta and pea risotto, lemon brown butter, basil oil and a balsamic reduction.
But if you want to eat halibut
like a true local, look for the hand-held variety. Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse serves up ever-popular halibut tacos that most locals could describe from memory. You can also enjoy your seafood al fresco at El Green-Go’s, a popular downtown food truck where you can customize your sh tacos with either halibut or salmon. e White Spot Cafe, established in 1946, is an oldschool lunch counter that serves up a lightly battered halibut sandwich revered by Anchorage residents for decades. Similarly old-school and just as beloved is Arctic Roadrunner, which serves salmon and halibut burgers topped with traditional xings and some of the best onion rings in town. eir dining room is a treasure trove of nostalgic Alaskana, and on nice days you can eat your lunch outdoors along Campbell Creek.
THE KING OF CRAB
Alaska king crab legs have such a sweetly subtle avor that I’m resistant to experimental recipes. Drawn butter and perhaps a few lemon wedges are, for me, the ideal accompaniment to this particular delicacy. Happily, many of Anchorage’s best restaurants share my view. Crow’s Nest, 49th State Brewing Co., Simon & Seafort’s and Tent City Taphouse all o er this decadent treat, by the pound, in its simplest form. And if you want your old-school dish served in an old-school dining room, head to Club Paris, which has
been serving seafood and steak since the 1950s, and where you can eat your crab with a side of nostalgia and a dash of “Mad Men” atmosphere.
For a spicier take on king crab, check out downtown’s new Cajun Corner, where your king crab legs are served “bucket style” and can share space on your plate with tiger shrimp, craw sh, andouille sausage, corn and potatoes. Or in South Anchorage, order a feast at Inferno Seafood Boil, where the sign encourages
you to “get kraken.” You can order king crab and live varieties of blue crab, Dungeness and snow crab (among other crustacean varieties). You can’t get much fresher than that.
A cheeky king crab o ering can be found at Altura Bistro in a deeply decadent red king crab macaroni and cheese featuring fresh gemelli, hatch chilies, aged white cheddar, fontina, grana and gremolata. And while there, do not — I repeat, do not — pass up a bowl of their sweet prawn
DINING IN ANCHORAGE
King crab legs and blue-cheese-stuffed ﬁlet at Club Paris in downtown Anchorage.
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PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
Of course, if you’re going to eat the king of crabs, you might as well be treated like royalty. e elegant and upscale Crow’s Nest restaurant at the top of the Hotel Captain Cook will t the bill with impeccable service and 360-degree views.
A ne-dining destination with low-key charm is e Marx Bros. Cafe, located in a diminutive, freestanding historic house on ird Avenue in downtown. A bit of planning is called for in order to snag one of the 14 tables at this cozy culinary gem. Once there, try their Kodiak scallops served with a piquillo pepper-tru e velouté, with cauli ower and house-made pasta. Marx Bros. also boasts one of the best wine cellars in the state and will be happy to help you nd the perfect sip for your scallops.
Or head over to Ginger, where seared diver scallops are served atop a basil-pine nut crusted three-cheese pasta, tomato brunoise, and nished with tru e oil and fresh basil. is is not your grandma’s mac and cheese.
In Midtown, there’s Jens’ Restaurant, a long-standing white-tablecloth favorite. At Jens’, you’ll nd sophisticated versions of Alaska’s nest, including a mushroom-
chestnut bisque with pink peppercorn grilled Kodiak scallops, topped with Alaskan rye berries, fennel, mushrooms and crispy shallots.
As my family will tell you, I love oysters. Every year, I dutifully bring my family to the Alaska State Fair. And while I like giant pumpkins and baby piglets as much as the next person, secretly I go for the oysters. When I arrive, I saddle up to the Pristine Products oyster booth and down a quick dozen of Prince William Sound’s nest while watching the pros shuck the next plateful. At the end of the day, a er my family has stu ed themselves full of funnel cake and onion blossoms, I’ve been biding my time and saving my appetite. My farewell gesture to the fair is to slurp back another dozen oysters on my way out. ey’re that good.
If you aren’t lucky enough to be visiting during the Alaska State Fair, you’ll just have to suck it up (so to speak) and get your x without the funnel-cake palate cleanser.
Many restaurants serve fresh-shucked local oysters with a traditional mignonette or cocktail sauce, including Fletcher’s (the more casual dining option in the Hotel Captain Cook) and Sullivan’s Steakhouse (which also
serves them charbroiled and Rockefellerstyle). At the Crow’s Nest, raw oysters are served with a rotating and always creative “mignonette of the day.”
In Midtown, Altura Bistro serves fresh oysters with cucumber caviar, yuzu mignonette and ruby grapefruit while nearby, Kinley’s serves them cold in a Riesling mignonette or au gratin in roasted shallot cream sauce topped with basil and sauteed spinach.
at said, the cold salt waters of Alaska’s coast produce the most delicious oysters in the world — plump, sweet and briny — so a er dabbling with dips, toppings and sauces, do yourself a favor and end your meal with at least one oyster eaten au naturel. A little taste of the sea is the perfect dessert.
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HEAD TO DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE FOR FOOD, SHOPPING AND NIGHTLIFE
By KATIE PESZNECKER
Anchorage’s downtown o ers shopping options, tourist attractions and a range of restaurants and bars. It’s conveniently compact for visitors who are ready to explore on foot.
Of the roughly 732,600 people who live in Alaska, nearly 292,000 people call Anchorage home. While the town proper sprawls across 1,706 square miles, the downtown core is neatly compressed, the oldest developed part of the city. Its sensible street grids render it pleasantly walkable and easily navigable, a bonus for tourists who are lodging downtown or visitors who build an Anchorage stop into itineraries.
Start your urban adventure at the central Log Cabin Visitor Information Center at the corner of F Street and Fourth Avenue. Sta ed year-round by well-versed hosts, you’ll nd information about Anchorage history, general visitor guides and access to out-of-town excursions and city tours. Also of note, across the downtown corridor, interpretive sidewalk signs tell stories of Anchorage’s earliest days and signal important landmarks.
While the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake destroyed many of
Anchorage’s older buildings, signi cant historic structures remain. Next to the visitor center sits the two-story cast concrete Historic City Hall, which rst opened in 1936. Its lawn is o en fronted by summer vendors selling ever-popular reindeer hot dogs and sometimes hosts outdoor public concerts.
Nearby, a handful of charming circa-1915 cottages on ird Avenue are among the city’s original homes. Just below downtown in Ship Creek, the Alaska Railroad Anchorage Depot, built in 1942, still serves the state’s rails today.
e circa-1915 Oscar Anderson House Museum at 420 M St. today is surrounded by a charming park, a quiet corner of downtown where kids can burn o some energy. e house, which in past summers has opened to tourists, is a peek back in time to the pioneer days, when namesake Anderson claimed to be the 18th settler to arrive in “Tent City.” His widow donated the property to posterity in 1976.
Other downtown stops for the historically curious include the Anchorage Museum, at 625 C St., packed with historical, arts and cultural exhibits, and the Fraternal Order of the Alaska State Troopers Alaska Law Enforcement Museum, boasting the state’s only collection of historical law enforcement memorabilia.
e Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, is the nal resting place for some of Anchorage’s most signi cant pioneers and historical gures, including Alaska Native leaders, politicians and artists. e 22-acre cemetery covers a nine-block area and o ers contemplative space for walking along its footpaths.
Downtown’s shopping options help pass the time too. e Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall has lost many retailers in recent years, though it still has local and chain stores of interest, and a food court with a ordable dining options.
Seeking authentic Alaska treasures? Venture beyond the mall and wander downtown’s streets, lined with tourist shops selling reasonably
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priced T-shirts, hats and trinkets. More valuable Alaska mementos like fur, ivory and Alaska Native art are sold at higher-end boutiques.
A couple spots to not miss: the Sevigny Studio (314 G St.) sells locally cra ed jewelry, pottery and artwork, including work by its namesake Katie Sevigny; and e Kobuk (504 W. Fi h Ave.) is a charming shop selling locally made collectibles and global cra s, foreign foods, gourmet candies and a wide range of tea.
ANCHORAGE DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
Anchorage’s nighttime pursuits range from sporty pubs to higher-end cocktail bars to no-frills Alaska dive bars. A hot ticket during Anchorage’s long-lit summer days is to score a patio or deck seat and soak in the novelty of late-day sunshine.
For pub-crawling, begin at the corner of F Street and Sixth Avenue, across from the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, where a nexus of bars includes Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse (610 W. Sixth Ave.). e menu covers the gamut of Alaska pub grub, like fried halibut and king crab nuggets with garlic aioli, and its expansive beer selection is top-tier. Next door to Humpy’s is Flattop Pizza + Pool (600 W. Sixth Ave.), featuring a
laid-back urban vibe.
Across the street, Williwaw Social (601 F St.) boasts a roo op bar that opens on nice summer days and is unparalleled for its sunsoaked views of Anchorage’s Town Square. A second option for open-air patio time is 49th State Brewing Co. (717 W. ird Ave.), whose deck overlooks Cook Inlet and even the tip-top of Denali during favorably clear conditions.
For a fancier evening, several ne-dining restaurants downtown have similarly delicious cocktail creations and extensive wine selections.
Ginger (425 W. Fi h Ave.) serves Paci c Rim-in uenced cuisine with a modern, warm aesthetic and a chic bar. Crush Bistro (328 G St.) features wine ights from an impressive cellar presented by competent sta , alongside shareable small plates and seasonally sourced entrees.
Haute Quarter Grill (525 W. Fourth Ave.) boasts upscale American cuisine, featuring Alaska seafood and home-grown produce whenever possible. is is a great spot on a warm summer night when the bar opens up its front-facing accordion walls and diners can enjoy patio seating.
Looking for a view? Check out Simon & Seafort’s, and enjoy cra cocktails and Alaska
seafood while staring out at pretty Cook Inlet. Or head to the top oor of the Hotel Captain Cook where dining or the bar at Crow’s Nest promises impressive views of downtown and the Chugach Mountains.
For a more laid-back dive-bar experience, and a chance to mingle with friendly locals, try Darwin’s eory (426 G St.) or Pioneer Bar (739 W. Fourth Ave). Both share commonalities: long legacies, personable bartenders, and a ordable drinks.
Mad Myrna’s (530 E. Fi h Ave.) is downtown’s lively and welcoming gay club, recently remodeled. With drag shows, cabaret performances, karaoke nights and dancing, Myrna’s is a true standout with a highenergy vibe and a long tradition of inclusive entertainment in the Last Frontier.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 35 5227OLDSEWARDHWY//907.563.3283//WWW.WEMUSTBENUTS.COM ALASKANLANDMARK ESTABLISHEDIN1962 ////////// NEXTTOSALMON SPAWNINGCREEK 70HDTV’S ////////// 10GIANT BIGSCREENS ////////// LARGEPARTIES ANDGROUPEVENTS
COFFEE CULTURE, ANCHORAGE STYLE
By MARA SEVERIN
Even the hardiest Alaskans need a coping mechanism or two to help us through the long winter. Whether it’s sun lamps, blackout curtains, aromatherapy — you name it, we’ve probably tried it. And, sure, long walks and vitamin D are great, but have you tried co ee? One thing most Alaskans rely on is year-round co ee therapy.
A hot, frothy cappuccino, sipped in a cozy cafe, can be the perfect cure for the lowwinter-sun blues. Or, skip the trudge through a snowy parking lot and pick up a hot brew from one of Anchorage’s many drive-thru co ee carts. Sip smugly in your warm car.
Ca einated pick-me-ups are no less valuable in summer when Alaskans are burning the candle at both ends. A er all, if the sun never goes down, is it ever really bedtime?
Which is why Alaska’s co ee roasters are household names to the locals. ere’s Kaladi Brothers, which grew from a lone espresso cart in 1984 to a burgeoning business with 16 stores around the state (and one in Seattle). ere is SteamDot Co ee Co., whose Midtown cafe (located in the Midtown Mall) features a “slow bar” with a rotating menu of origin co ees, where your co ee is ground and brewed fresh to order. Or try “ e Lab” — which they describe as “the mothership” of their operation. Here you can enjoy your favorite hand-cra ed beverage or take a seat at their pour-over bar if you like your brew with a little bravado. And then there’s Black Cup — they serve a full menu of espresso drinks but their motto, as their name implies, is: “Extraordinary co ee best served black” (341 E. Benson Blvd.). Undecided? Head over to Sip Co ee Lounge (510 W. Tudor Road), where you can order a ight of co ees featuring both Kaladi Brothers and Black Cup brews. (Sip is also known to do other unusual ights — pickle and beer ight, anyone?)
It’s a friendly battle of the beans. Everyone has their favorite, but each of these co ee
breakfast lunch espresso
Est.1998 | Downtown snowcitycafe.com 1034 W 4th Ave 907.272.2489
Est.2008 | ♥ ofspenard spenardroadhouse.com 1049W NorthernLights 907.770.7623
Est.2015 | o’malley& old seward hwy southak.com 11124 OldSeward Hwy 907.770.9200
ﬁnewine inspired cocktails
Est.2008 | Downtown crushak.com 328 GSt 907.865.9198
A barista prepares a latte at Black Cup in Midtown.
36 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
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purveyors enjoys a well-earned popularity. But co ee can be as much about cafe culture as it is about beans. A good co ee house is part community center, part extended o ce, part mental day spa and part art gallery. It’s a great way to learn about someplace new. And in Anchorage, cafe culture is thriving.
e Kaladi Brothers Cafe at the Performing Arts Center (621 W. Sixth Ave.) in downtown is a bustling space and a convenient spot to grab a cup of stamina while in the midst of souvenir shopping or if you’re on the way to see a show. Another cozy spot is Moose A’La Mode (360 K St.), featuring expertly made co ee drinks, fantastic hot dogs (really!) and some of the best cupcakes in town, with inventive avors like s’mores, blueberry lemonade and cinnamon toast crunch. Another spot that specializes in sweet treats and brew is Gelatte (with a downtown location and one in the Dimond Center mall) where, as the name suggests, you can warm up with a specialty drink or cool down with house-made ice cream. Or you can thread both needles and order an a ogato, if you want a grown-up sip that pleases your inner child. Another local favorite is Dark Horse Co ee (646 F St.), a cozy, slightly out-of-the-way spot with a reputation for great co ee drinks (which they source from Heritage Co ee in Juneau), avocado toast and warm welcomes. Bonus points for their inviting little porch, where you can sit and sip on sunny days.
e Cubby, the spacious and comfortable co ee shop in Anchorage’s most elegant hotel, the Captain Cook, serves delicious Kaladi Brothers co ee drinks with a side of nautical style. With big windows, it’s an excellent place to put your feet up and do some people-watching. Open later in the day than some downtown co ee spots, they now o er wine and beer if you are needing a di erent kind of pick-me-up.
If you require an American breakfast alongside your Americano, Kaladi Brothers co ee (including their own Snow City espresso blend)
is served up at the friendly Snow City Cafe (1034 W. Fourth Ave.). A favorite with locals, this funky, vibrant spot features rotating local art, an impressive variety of eggs Benedict and espresso drinks. I’m particularly partial to their use of tall, sleeved pint glasses to serve large-sized lattes and mochas. Hot drinks taste better served this way. It’s just science.
Originale, the authentic, downtown Italian deli, serves a variety of traditional specialty Italian co ee drinks. And if you can resist their incredible sandwiches stu ed with imported Italian salumi, then I bow to your superior willpower (my favorite is the “Don Quixote,” with ham, homemade garlic mousse and Manchego cheese). You can also purchase vacuum-sealed sandwiches that are perfect for road trips, camping or your plane ride home. Picking up your morning co ee and your a ernoon lunch in one stop is a delicious way to multitask. (400 D St.)
at Feeling Co. (logo: “Plants, Co ee, and All the Feels), with a location in Midtown and one just on the edge of downtown, is an eclectic houseplant, gi and co ee shop. e downtown location shares its space with Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop and Charlie’s Produce, making this a one-stop shopping, can’t-miss experience (718 K St.). e bakery makes some of the best breads, pastries, sandwiches and cookies in town, and we all know that pastries get lonely without a cup of co ee to keep them company. As you sip and munch in the indoor jungle of houseplants, you’ll appreciate this site’s popularity with the locals. I personally appreciate the little produce stand, because if you come home from an a ernoon of mochas and croissants carrying a bag of local carrots, you can say you’ve been “doing errands.”
In East Anchorage, Cafecito Bonito, a warm, community-spirited co ee spot, serves espresso drinks with a Latin air — like a Spanish latte with sweetened condensed milk, a Café de Olla featuring
COFFEE IN ANCHORAGE
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piloncillo (unre ned sugar, which lends a caramel avor to drinks), or the horchata, which features rice milk and cinnamon. ey also host popular and unique events like drag lotería and brunches. e baked goods are unique and delicious, such as scones with avors like strawberry basil, maple bacon and lavender.
For a unique co eehouse experience with a bohemian vibe, head to Spenard and track down Uncle Leroy’s Co ee, a local roaster that began in a 1968 bus (and owned by an “outlaw preacher” according to legend).
e origin story is scrappy, but the drinks being served from this mobile co ee bar are anything but (the bus is in operation during summer months only).
Or hit up Spenard Joe’s (motto: Not Your Average Joe) for some of the most unique co ee creations in town. Try the “Lady Godiva,” a lavender mocha with salted black currant whipped cream, or the “Spenard Fog” made from whiskey barrel aged black tea with vanilla and cayenne, topped with cinnamon frothed milk.
On the other end of the ambiance spectrum is Kobuk Co ee (504 W. Fi h Ave.). By Town Square, in the historic Kimball Building (1915), this charming little gi shop retains some of its original xtures and ooring. In a store packed full of unnecessary necessities (old-timey candy, scented candles and teacups), you’ll be hard-pressed to make it to the co ee room without doing some impromptu browsing (and, if you’re like me, buying).
Kobuk o ers a whole range of espresso drinks and a wide variety of teas but, whichever you choose, make sure you get house-made doughnuts to keep it company. What kind of doughnuts, you ask? Like everything else in the store: old-fashioned. One of the best places to soak up local color and read up on local lore is e Writer’s Block, a cozy book shop with an excellent cafe featuring local co ee, beer and wine, and an eclectic food menu (I’m partial to the currydusted pelmeni).
e Writer’s Block has a unique origin story. Four good friends reclaimed a bit of old Spenard and transformed the site of an adult bookstore (literally called “Adult Book Store”) into a welcome and inclusive cultural hub. With comforting food, well-cra ed drinks, a lovingly selected range of books featuring local writers and a menu of eclectic events like poetry slams, book launches and even the occasional Japanese sake tasting, this space has quickly become the neighborhood’s living room.
e cafe took a hit a er a signi cant earthquake in 2018. Glasses shattered, books scattered and even a heavy ling cabinet
took a dive. But when the doors opened that morning, they were not the only ones who got to work.
“Our rst customers walked in and asked for brooms,” recalls Vered Mares, one of the
bookstore’s founders. “ ey said, ‘We’ll sweep up. You make the co ee.’”
It’s a reminder that a cup of co ee can invigorate, but a cafe can inspire.
A barista chats with a customer at That Feeling Co. in downtown Anchorage.
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By KATIE PESZNECKER
Toauthentically experience Anchorage life, tackle the city’s extensive and impressive trail system.
It’s an award-winning and intertwined network of routes connecting the city’s various neighborhoods.
Anchorage boasts more than 120 miles of paved bike and multi-use trails, not to mention 130 miles of plowed winter walkways, 105 miles of maintained ski trails, 36 miles of dog mushing trails and 87 miles of non-paved hiking trails — and that’s just within the municipality!
Many makeshi routes wander into woodsy stands within neighborhoods. Or, ramble beyond and connect to Chugach State Park, with its scenic alpine tundra and access some 495,000 acres of jaw-dropping scenery.
Within town limits, Anchorage’s impressive trail system borders the city’s watery coast, travels thick forests and connects pretty parks and multitudes of neighborhoods. Pedestrian tunnels barrel protectively beneath busy roadways, and wood-planked bridges span creeks and streams. is comprehensive system is the foundation for recreation, exploration, relaxing and, in some cases, commuting. Overall, Anchorage’s trail system is ideal for visitors who want to experience Alaska’s largest city from the vantage point of its natural surroundings.
e crown jewel of the system is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a recreational conduit for walkers, bicyclists, runners and rollerbladers in its popular summer months.
e 11-mile trail connects downtown’s historic Second Avenue sector to the multiuse chalet at Kincaid Park. e generally at grade a ords easy access and use for all ages and abilities. ere are multiple locations to access this picturesque route, making it a scalable and customizable experience. From
this beloved route, users will enjoy views of the downtown skyline, possibly wildlife and Denali, and skirt the fault line of the epic 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
Begin or pause your Coastal Trail outing at Westchester Lagoon. Just 1.6 miles from the trail’s downtown start, the lagoon features plenty of parking and an expansive park, with Chugach Mountain views, serene water, picnic tables and benches for contemplative breaks and a nice playground for kids. Birders will appreciate waterfowl, migrating shorebirds, mallards, grebes, swallows and more. e lagoon sets the stage for a splashy summer paddle. When iced over in winter, it transforms into a popular spot for skating and hockey.
From Westchester, travel 9 miles on the Coastal Trail to Kincaid Park, or hop on the eastbound 4-mile-long Chester Creek Trail. e Chester Creek Trail is paved, at and fun, following its namesake creek as it tumbles and burbles over rocky shallows and carves meandering braided paths across
Cyclists pause along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail at Point Woronzof to watch cargo planes take off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
ANCHORAGE HAS A TERRIFIC TRAIL SYSTEM. HERE’S WHERE TO START EXPLORING. 40 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 429W.4thAvenue,Anchorage,Alaska99501 (DowntownCornerof4th&E) www.alaskamint.com (907)278-8414•1-800-770-6468 AlaskaQuilting Fabric, Patterns & Kits LocalHand-dyedYarn & Qiviut Pottery • Jewelry • Books • Ulus • And more! 412GSt.•907-278-3522
silty riverbeds. Popular points of interest on Chester Creek include Valley of the Moon Park, another spot worthy of picnic or play on a pleasant summer day.
Chester Creek Trail ends at Goose Lake Park, in central Anchorage near the University District. If you’re not ready for your walk to end, follow the 3-mile paved trail surrounding this scenic lake. Warm summer days draw swimmers here, and municipal lifeguard schedules are updated on the lake’s website. Adults must be present while children are swimming.
Another popular entry point or rest stop along the Coastal Trail is Earthquake Park. Famous for the long-gone houses that slid into the sea with the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the park today is a spacious parking lot and viewpoint with interpretive signs pointing out signi cant peaks. ere are opportunities for striking photos of downtown Anchorage, and on clear days, you may see North America’s tallest peak, Denali, and its companion mountains Foraker and Hunter on the northern horizon.
If you want to go big, consider tying all these trails together and attempting the growing-in-popularity Moose Loop. e Moose Loop is an inventive hodge-podge of existing routes and imaginative links that, creatively, might be viewed almost-kind-of, sort-of like the shape of a moose head.
e route is 32 miles and it covers it all — from parks to schools, trails to neighborhood streets, past businesses and homes, in quiet woodsy areas and crossing highway overpasses. It’s a bu et of Anchorage biking and an epic ride. e major trails that cover the Moose Loop do not seamlessly link, so riding this route demands paying attention to location and being nimble in making one’s way.
For those eager to bike the trail system, multiple downtown vendors rent bikes all year round. Rates and lengths of rentals vary from hourly to by the day or even the week. Downtown Bicycle Rental (333 W. Fourth Ave. #206; 907-279-5293) o ers all kinds of options and accessories, including complimentary bear spray and electric bikes. Alaska Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals (415 L St.; 277-2453) is also open year-round with plenty of wheels for rent.
Anchorage’s trail system is busy and full of people of varying skills and abilities traveling at di erent speeds, so it’s important to remember some basic safety and courtesy guidelines. e municipality reminds users that trails are usually multi-use and not intended for racing, so be aware of surroundings, travel at safe speeds and never
take up more than half the trail. Keep right, except to pass. Listen for others upon approach; it’s common for bicyclists and others to have bells on, or to verbally warn those ahead of their approach by saying
things like “on your le !”
All pets must be leashed. e law requires any animal or human litter be picked up and disposed of. Even so, keep an eye out for meandering dogs as you navigate turns and narrow spaces. Leashing dogs is also a good idea due to ever-present wildlife in the area.
Wildlife awareness is key. Moose, bears, coyotes and other animals share city trails, and that’s especially true the farther one travels from downtown. Be alert and give wildlife plenty of room — moose, in particular, o en show up on or near the trails.
When traveling in bear country, be mindful of making noise, traveling with one or more people whenever possible, and staying observant.
It’s smart to carry water and make sure someone knows your route plan. Applying bug spray and carrying bear spray are smart moves. Sunscreen shouldn’t be forgotten in the long summer daylight hours.
Of note: Camps where unhoused people reside are present along some of the Anchorage greenbelts o the trail system, and you may notice them as you go by. Daytime is the best time to access the trails, and as always, be aware of your environment and exercise caution when traveling, especially when solo.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail winds through Anchorage.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 41 porcupines,muskoxandothersthat calltheAlaskaWildlifeConservationCenterhome. Wildlifeviewing,bearencounters,mooseencounters, tours,andeducationalopportunitiesabound. Just45minutessouthofAnchorageonthescenicSeward Highway!AWCCisanonprofitsanctuarydedicatedto preservingAlaska’swildlifethroughconservation,education, research,andqualityanimalcare. Mile79,SewardHighway | Portage,AK | 907.783.0058 | alaskawildlife.org Comemeetthelocals!Bears, bison,moose,wolves,reindeer, cupines,musk xandothersthat
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DISCOVERTHE WILD OFALASKA
BREWERIES, DISTILLERIES, CIDERIES: WHEN IN ALASKA, DRINK AS ALASKANS DO
By MARA SEVERIN
Inexchange for living in what is perhaps the country’s most beautiful state, Alaskans sometimes have to do without: professional sports teams, Trader Joe’s and, well, sunlight for half the year. But we make up for it with the Iditarod, reindeer sausages and aurora borealis chasing. In other words, we o en have to make our own fun. And by “fun” I mean “beer.” ose words are interchangeable, right?
Beer is a big part of life for Alaskans. We hike with it, camp with it, boat with it, cook with it and pair it with foods like the stu est of sommeliers. We throw it monthly birthday parties like the First Tap events at Broken Tooth Brewing Co. (otherwise known as Bear Tooth eatrepub and Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria), complete with national musical acts. We even occasionally do yoga with it (at Alpenglow Brewery, in the heart of Mountain View). In other words, we take it everywhere and we take it seriously.
Beers from the state’s biggest brewery, Alaskan Brewing Co. based in Juneau, might already be in your refrigerator if you live in one of the 25 states where it’s available. With a steady line of signature brews — and some seasonal specialties that incorporate cranberries, raspberries, locally roasted co ee, white wheat from Alaska’s MatanuskaSusitna area and even Alaska spruce tips — it’s the most well-established of all the state’s breweries. Ubiquitous around Alaska, this long-running brewery is our Papa Beer, if you will (I’ll show myself out).
But Alaskan Brewing is just one of over 50 breweries, distilleries, meaderies and cideries in the state (for an excellent list, visit brewersguildofalaska.org). And while almost half of them are in Anchorage or within a short drive of our state’s largest city (including
the relatively populous communities of Girdwood, Eagle River, Palmer and Wasilla), some of our most remote ports of call and tiniest towns are emphatically in on the brewing action (I’m looking at you, Gakona Brewery in Gakona, population 218).
e ever-expanding Denali Brewing Co. in Talkeetna (population 876) may be a small-town hero, but it’s now anything but small. eir four signature beers — Mother Ale, Chuli Stout, Single Engine Red and the
ever-popular Twister Creek IPA — as well as their seasonal brews, like Slow Down Brown and Flag Stop Milepost #3, are year-round mainstays of summer barbecues and winter bon res around the state.
eir brewery is also home to the more recently established Alaska Cider Works, Alaska Meadery (which makes “Razzery,” a mead made with raspberries, sour cherries, and apples) and Denali Spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey, and “smoke” whiskey) because when
A Tent City Taphouse bartender/server pours a glass of Grace Ridge Hazy IPA from Homer.
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you’ve fermented one, why not ferment them all?
(Denali Spirits’ canned cocktails, especially their blueberry mojito, are so popular in Anchorage that there is a Facebook page largely dedicated to tracking them down.)
But some breweries are even more remote. Ports of call and island hopping here can be one way to get your ll of hops. Breweries can be found in Ketchikan (Bawden Street Brewing Co.), Kodiak (Kodiak Island Brewing Co. and Olds River Brewing), Homer (Homer Brewing Co. and Grace Ridge Brewing Co. for beer, and you can also check out Sweetgale Meadworks for
hard cider and locally sourced meads), Sitka (Harbor Mountain Brewing), Seward (Seward Brewing Co. and Stoney Creek Brewhouse), Valdez (Valdez Brewing and Growler Bay Brewing), and Skagway (Klondike Brewing Co. and Skagway Brewing Co.).
Of course, many trips to Alaska begin and end in Anchorage. And if, during your travels, you’ve foolishly le some beers untasted, you can make up for lost time in our state’s biggest city which boasts — let’s face it — a ridiculous number of exceptional cra breweries.
Downtown’s Glacier Brewhouse specializes in oak-aged English and American West-
Coast style beers, 13 of them, from blondes to stouts. Beneath the oor of the Brewhouse is a “Wall of Wood,” composed of casks of special release beers that are conditioned in oak barrels once used to age wine and bourbon.
e history of the oak imparts the “mother tongue” avor characteristics, like vanilla and coconut, into these limited-edition brews. Opt for one of these unique beers or choose from their agship choices like raspberry wheat, oatmeal stout, imperial blonde, Bavarian hefeweizen or a ight that includes them all.
Down the street is 49th State Brewing Co., expanding into Anchorage from its original location in Healy, at the edge of Denali
A beer ﬂight at King Street Brewing Co.
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National Park and Preserve. If you were unable to visit their agship location, where you can sip beer while playing bocce or horseshoes on the lawn, you can catch up with them here. ere are unique beer year-round choices like Smok, their smoked lager, as well as seasonal o erings like the Oktoberfest lager described as a “majestically malty marzen” or the creamy, slightly briny undershuck Alaska Oyster Stout, brewed with over two bushels of oysters from Naukati Bay. is location also boasts some of the best views in town and an expansive outdoor roo op patio.
Just about all of the full-service restaurants in downtown Anchorage proudly feature some variety of Alaska beers. In the heart of downtown, Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse prides itself on a huge selection of beers, both international and local. Tent City Taphouse o ers a diverse and carefully curated list of rotating local brews including their house beer, Tent City Tangerine IPA brewed by Glacier Brewhouse. ey recently hosted a Taste of the North ve-course dinner in collaboration with 49th State Brewing; pairings included Neon Antler DIPA served with a tru e honey beet salad and Cabin Fever Spiced Imperial Brown served with crème brulée cheesecake.
If you have transportation around the city, treat yourself to a brewery tasting-room tour. Found in unassuming little side streets in the more industrial areas of Anchorage, some of our best beers can be sipped and savored at the source. Finding these funky little spots can feel like being invited to a secret party. And it’s a glimpse into Anchorage’s most authentic beer culture.
You might start by trying the Neighborhood IPA at Alpenglow Brewery. Called “the most diverse beer in Anchorage,” it celebrates its home neighborhood of Mountain View, which, according to census data and a widely seen CNN story, was at one point the most diverse census tract in the United States. (Second place, for context, is a neighborhood in Queens, New York) Or try one of their inventive
Beer taps and whiskey bottles line the back of the bar at 49th State Brewing Co.
44 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 www.alaskafurgallery.com 907-274-3877Main 1-888-722-3877Toll-Free 428W4thAve, Anchorage,AK99501 WeShipWorldWide! A c o ag ,AK•J a ,AK Skagway,AK•Va ,CO QualityFursatAffordablePrices ALLFUR OuTerWeAr 40%Off MSRP ALLFUR ACCeSSOrieS 50%Off MSRP AllCAShmere CApeS 50%Off MSRP ALLFUR BlAnKeTS 40%Off MSRP
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brews of the month like the Cerveza de los Muertos, a stout brewed with cinnamon, raw cacao nibs and chiles de Arbol or bird’s beak chilies.
In Midtown, Onsite Brewing Co. has unique small-batch brews in a funky relaxed environment. And while not an actual brewery, the quaint Café Amsterdam at the Metro Mall (530 E. Benson Blvd.) o ers an interesting range of local and international beers in a Europeanstyle tasting room adjacent to their dining room. In the same stripmall is La Bodega , a local shop that sells cra beer and wine from all over the globe, plus sake, mead, cider and other cra liquor. (And by that is Wild Scoops, a fantastic ice cream shop — it’s truly one-stop shopping).
Farther south, King Street Brewing Co., Anchorage Brewing Co., Turnagain Brewing, Cynosure Brewing, Magnetic North Brewing Co. and Brewerks are all within a stone’s throw of one another. If you’re lucky, you might run into one of Anchorage’s popular food trucks parked outside, so you’ll have something to wash down with your ights. Depending on the day, you might nd reindeer sausages, pad ai, cheesesteaks or pupusas.
Nearby, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. is part tasting room and part community center, with First Friday art openings, a rotating menu of creative comfort food and an all-around cool, local vibe. My next-door neighbors frequent the brewery for their great brews (favorites include the Panty Peeler Belgian-style Tripel and the Pleasure Town IPA) and also to pick up free spent grain to feed to their chickens.
One of the newest and farthest south, while still in the Anchorage Bowl, is Raven’s Ring Brewing Co., which is a brewery/winery and meadery. From a traditional IPA to a Concorde grape wine called Grape Juice to a rotating vintner’s pour like sweet peach jalapeno mead, this ambitious operation is challenging the notion that you can’t please everyone.
Other Anchorage points of interest for non-hoppy but still homegrown adult beverages include Alaskan Spirits Distillery, Anchorage Distillery, Double Shovel Cider Co., Hive Mind Meadery and Two Seasons Meadery
If your travels are over and you still haven’t had your ll, check out the Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co. inside Terminal C at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on your way out of town. An o shoot of the agship Silver Gulch brewery in Fox, Alaska (about 10 miles north of Fairbanks), this location has a bar and restaurant as well as a retail shop carrying growlers of their own brews and those of other Alaskan brewers and distillers. Last-minute souvenir shopping never tasted so good.
Before you start your great northern beer safari, bear in mind that tasting rooms o en have limited and varying hours so always doublecheck before planning a visit.
Whether your travels take you to ne-dining restaurants, low-key alehouses or even rustic cabins in the woods, make like an Alaskan and fuel your adventures with one of our beloved, home-grown brews. When in Alaska, drink as the Alaskans do.
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EXPLORE A VIBRANT WORLD OF ARTS AND CULTURE IN ANCHORAGE
By KATIE PESZNECKER
Whether you’re culturally curious, into the arts or hung up on history, Anchorage’s arts and culture scene has you covered. Museums and galleries across town showcase perspectives, experiences, treasures and truths that o er insight into Alaska’s past, its contemporary landscape and the world beyond, as seen by artists, pioneers and others.
For many, the journey begins at the campus of the venerable Anchorage Museum (625 C St.), an easy walking distance for downtowndwelling tourists. Permanent installations include “Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: e First People of Alaska.” is interactive gallery showcases Alaska Native history, arts and culture, with more than 600 objects from the Smithsonian, selected and
interpreted with counsel from Alaska Native groups.
From traditional clothing fashioned from skins and furs, intricate beadwork and baskets, and hand tools dating to long-ago times, it’s an impressive collection highlighting the resiliency, originality and beauty of Alaska Native cultures.
e Alaska Exhibition highlights the ingenuity, technology and connection to place that have allowed Alaskans to thrive, touching on areas such as aviation exploration, the military in Alaska, and signi cant industries such as mining and oil. Nearby, the Art of the North exhibit populates impressive gallery bays with sculptures, videos, photography and paintings, including the timeless works of Sydney Laurence, Alaska’s most-loved romantic landscape artist.
Current exhibits are featured on the museum’s website. Two that run through Sept. 3 are “Visitations: From Greenland to Iceland to Alaska in Borderless Arctic Seas,” by Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson,
which explores how polar bears interact with humans in times of climate change; and “Pass the Mic,” which celebrates contemporary Alaska musicians and sound artists, inviting interactive participation in making and listening to the sounds and songs in Alaska today.
Other featured exhibits in summer 2023 include “Alaska Biennial,” which celebrates place through the lens of contemporary art.
e “Black in Alaska” exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the Rasmuson Foundation and Black leaders to discuss critical issues to the Black community in Alaska.
e museum store sells unique items, with proceeds bene ting educational and public programs and exhibitions; items are also available for purchase online. A cafe in the atrium sells co ee, tea and snacks.
On summer Wednesdays, don’t miss the museum’s popular Lunch on the Lawn for live music and family activities in a beautiful green space. Included are fun food trucks, live
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local music, science activities and familyfriendly games.
For cultural tourism devoted to Alaska’s Indigenous rst peoples, the Alaska Native Heritage Center (8800 Heritage Center Drive) o ers an encompassing celebration of the history and experience of Alaska Natives.
e Native Heritage Center is an indoor and outdoor facility that covers some 26 scenic acres, located northwest of the Glenn Highway and Muldoon Road. Its largely Alaska Native sta educates visitors about the enduring legacy of Alaska Natives, including their resiliency, unique traditions and shared experiences. It includes exhibits, demonstrations, a cafe and gi shop.
Many visitors will be surprised by Alaska’s broad range of Native cultures and traditions, and the Heritage Center presents an extraordinary chance to see it all in one place. Situated alongside a picturesque lake, the center includes recreated village sites, a glimpse into more traditional ways of life that visitors can freely explore.
e Heritage Center reopens for summer season on May 17, 2023, and is open seven days a week through summer.
e Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center are the best-known of their kind in the region, but many other cultural centers and museums address both broad topics and niche interests.
Downtown Anchorage, visitors will nd the Fraternal Order of the Alaska State Troopers Alaska Law Enforcement Museum (245 W. Fi h Ave., Suite 113). Admission is $5, or $3 for military, law enforcement, youth and seniors, and the museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.
is specialty museum houses the state’s only collection of historical law enforcement memorabilia, including an authentically restored 1952 Hudson Hornet automobile. e troopers museum also sports antique radios, handcu s and leg irons, early wiretapping equipment, old photographs and documents
and Alaska policing uniforms. Exhibits showcase women in Alaska law enforcement and one room contains a remarkable collection of law enforcement patches. ere’s even a gi shop with Alaska State Troopers memorabilia and souvenirs.
Also downtown is the Oscar Anderson House, a 1915 home in storied Bootleggers Cove that was home to the 18th settler to arrive in “Tent City.” e charming cottage now surrounded by a park and looking out across the waters west of Anchorage is a National Trust for Historic Preservation “Distinctive Destination.” For current hours, check its website.
On Anchorage’s east side, the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature (201 N. Bragaw St.) is a hidden gem showcasing the unique science of Alaska, from prehistoric times to present. e museum is designed to take visitors of all ages on a learning adventure exploring Alaska’s unique geological, cultural and ecological background. e museum is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ursday to Saturday.
Another unique stop from Anchorage’s roster of museums is the Alaska Aviation Museum (4721 Aircra Drive), on the shores of Lake Hood Seaplane Base west of Midtown Anchorage, billed as the busiest seaplane base in the world. In and of itself, Lake Hood is worth a stop and photo op, or even a walking tour around the lake complex to enjoy watching landings and takeo s and photograph its colorful oatplanes.
e Aviation Museum is among Anchorage’s top attractions, with artifacts and relics of Alaska’s remarkable air travel history that will delight aviation bu s. ere are more than two dozen vintage aircra on display in four hangars, and also outdoor exhibits. e Aviation Museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday; entry is $17.50 for adults, $14.50 for seniors and veterans, $10.50 for children 3-13, and $48 for a family of up to
two adults and three children.
And before leaving Alaska, there are more arts and culture opportunities to be found at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
First, on the lower level is the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. is ever-growing exhibit celebrates Alaska athletes, sporting events and moments, paying homage to some of the state’s greats.
A few names will ring bells with visitors from the Lower 48, like cross-country skiing Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall and NBA player Mario Chalmers. Inductees o er interesting peeks into Alaska’s unique sports culture and Arctic pursuits. e Hall of Fame celebrates dog mushing feats, mountain climbing and other athletic advocacy, and the lovely hall of portraits include compelling captions and context.
e main airport past security features a bronze, life-size statue of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, for whom the airport is named. e statue depicts “Uncle Ted,” as Alaskans fondly called him, seated on a bench with an arm outstretched, as though midsentence, making a point. It’s a point of interest for fans of Alaska politics and history, in which Stevens was pivotal for decades.
Finally, the airport o ers a ne display of Alaska Native art. e “Art in Public Places” gallery covers two areas, with the main collection on the C Concourse mezzanine level, and additional light-sensitive pieces in the Northern Lights Corridor that connects the main terminal to rental car and railroad facilities. It’s a last chance for visitors to take in beautiful creations unique to the 49th state before their Last Frontier adventure draws to a close.
ANCHORAGE MUSEUMS VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 47 •Ropedclimbingto45ft •Expansiveboulderarea •Fitnessandweightrooms,personaltraining Findoutmoreatalaskarockgym.com THEWEATHERISALWAYSPERFECTATTHE ALASKAROCKGYM! Greatindoorclimbingsince1995.
By BAILEY BERG
Just a taste of Kodiak’s island life or the summer hustle of the shing towns of Southeast Alaska leave most people wanting more. With busy shing eets, thriving art and food scenes, vibrant Native communities and quirky little museums, it’s hard not to fall deeply, madly in love with Alaska’s largest island and coastal communities.
You can drive to a few towns in Southeast, but those road trips require many, many miles. For a rst visit, your best bet is to travel by boat or plane. (Note: Travel by boat has become more complicated lately due to the beleaguered state of Alaska’s ferry system; if you’re hoping to travel the Alaska Marine Highway
System, be sure to check updates at dot.alaska.gov/amhs.)
One word of advice — pack some waterproof layers. Known as the Alaska Panhandle, Southeast Alaska is part of the world’s largest temperate rainforest. ere’s a reason for all that lush greenery you’ll see as you travel through. Ketchikan normally gets just under 23 inches of rain between June and August — but some years, it blows that average out of the, um, water. From May to August 2001, Ketchikan residents (grudgingly) welcomed 57.12 inches of rain to town.
Famous for its sizable namesake brown bears, Kodiak should be just as well known to outsiders for its ever-so-green landscape — its nickname is the Emerald Isle. Between Kodiak City and the villages, there are around 13,000 year-round
residents on the island. Hike the local trails. Launch a kayak or stand-up paddleboard in Anton Larsen Bay. Keep watch for whales or, o en just as thrilling, pu ns speeding by. Drive out Anton Larsen Bay Road to see the island’s famed wild bison. (Just slow down as you approach them. You don’t want to startle a herd of something so sizable.) Dig into Kodiak’s history at the
Alutiiq Museum — home to more than 250,000 artifacts, recordings and documents — or the Kodiak History Museum (formerly known as the Baranov Museum). Get ideas for the next day’s adventures over a brew at Kodiak Island Brewing Co.
It could be the mist or fog that o en hugs Sitka. Or perhaps it’s
The city of Kodiak.
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
48 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 DISC OVERALASK A’S HISTORY& ART. SITKA | 907-747-8981 museums.alaska.gov JUNEAU | 907-465-2901 lam.alaska.gov CELEBR ATEALASK A NATIVECULTURES.
PANHANDLE: LUSH GREEN LANDSCAPES ARE JUST THE BEGINNING
the insane sunsets that take over the entire sky. Maybe it’s just the really good co ee at the local bookstore. Whichever “it” of Sitka grabs you, the place sticks with visitors forever. Ignore the rain and keep on paddling during a guided kayak trip around the islands o Sitka. Walk the pathways and take time at each totem pole at Sitka National Historical Park. e park, where Russians invaded and fought the Tlingit people, o ers an immersion course in the Russian occupation of the town.
Sitka served as the capital of Russian America from 1808 until Alaska became part of the United States 59 years later. Open the drawers in the exhibition space of the Sheldon Jackson Museum — rst opened in 1887 — to see antique children’s toys, jewelry and more beautiful artifacts. It’s quite the intimate and peaceful museum experience. Classical music fans would do well to time their visit to the annual Sitka Summer Music Festival (May 31-June 25), when some of the world’s best chamber music groups perform. For a locally made treasure, head straight to the Island Arts Gallery, a co-op run by 24 of the town’s artists.
Ketchikan tends to be all hustle and bustle in the summer when cruise ships are in, but there’s more to the town than just that. Ketchikan has one of Southeast Alaska’s most colorful art scenes. Get the lowdown on who creates what on the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council site. e city’s best-known artist, Ray Troll, is the talent behind the punny T-shirts you’ll see everywhere from airport gi shops to festivals across the state. Check out Troll’s work, along with pieces by Evon Zerbetz and many of Ketchikan’s other ne artists, at the Soho Coho art gallery (5 Creek St.). But the art goes on … from the docks to the school buildings, the island community celebrates local artists at every turn. Turn a walk around town into a public art treasure hunt. Or, for art that’s equal parts cra smanship and storytelling, visit the Totem Heritage Center — or just keep your eyes open for some of the many, many totem poles around town. Prefer learning about the, ahem, saucier side of olden times? Stop in at Dolly’s House Museum (24 Creek St.) to learn about Ketchikan’s Prohibitionera red light district. en, take a ight trip out to Misty Fjords National Monument for the chance to kayak among whales.
is is Klondike Gold Rush territory, at out. Skagway has its modern bits — Glacial Smoothies & Espresso, the breweries Skagway Brewing Co. and Klondike Brewing Co. and gi shops that sell things that aren’t made in Alaska — but at its core, it’s a town-sized Gold Rush museum. Home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, visitors intent on camping should consider staking their tents in the former town of Dyea, home to ruins and cemeteries that include gravesites of many a person who once moved to the area to strike it rich. Of course, there’s plenty more to explore here, with trails to hike and, a er a helicopter ride out, glaciers to dog sled on. One of the only Southeast towns accessible by road (via the Klondike Highway), visitors can also get to town by air, ferry or cruise ship.
On special weekends during the summer season, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad will pick up hikers at Bennett at the northern terminus of the trail and bring them down White Pass back to Skagway.
PHOTO BY RICHARD J. MURPHY
Ketchikan artist Ray Troll paints a salmon mural.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 49
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
By KATIE PESZNECKER
Valdez is an end-of-the-road town teeming with endless adventure, a sure bet for summertime fun where visitors will delight in its beauty, history and recreation.
Located at the head of a deep ord in eastern Prince William Sound, Valdez is a 300-mile drive from Anchorage, treating motorists to boundless views of mountains, wildlife, waterfalls and more.
While the road route is impressive, travelers can alternatively venture by Alaska Marine Highway System ferry. Drive an hour south
of Anchorage to Whittier, and enjoy front-row views of beautiful Prince William Sound.
In many ways, Valdez delights with small-town charm. ere is one post o ce and one main grocery store. Many residents work for or in connection to the terminus of the historic Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, visible across Port Valdez. e town is simply arranged and easy to navigate, with walkable, open roads and frequent and sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that beckon the daring to backcountry adventurers.
For water-based play, it’s easy access to a glittering port that lls with shermen, shrimpers, kayakers and sightseers, especially on sunny days. A number of hotels, camping and RV options a ord choices when booking overnight accommodations.
In the early 1900s, Valdez enjoyed prosperous Gold Rush-era roots,
A whitewater kayaker paddles down Mineral Creek in Valdez.
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
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roots, but its landscape changed forever when the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused the deaths of 32 residents and the demise of the town as they knew it. History bu s can visit the original Valdez townsite today.
e old site is just a few miles east of modern Valdez, now a quiet, natural place of remembrance, marked with signage and a seaside pioneer cemetery. Salvageable buildings were moved to the town’s current location. Download a self-guided walking tour (valdezmuseum.org) to view those buildings that survived the quake.
e Valdez Museum and Historical Archive showcases the town’s vibrant history, from its earliest Alaska Native settlers to its prospector days to its modern form. Another option, the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum, boasts one of the largest collection of Alaska Native art and artifacts in the world. Check the websites for operating hours.
Valdez boasts a satisfying assortment of restaurants. e Fat Mermaid on North Harbor Drive o ers sensational pizza and a full bar with occasional live music and an outdoor dining area. A cluster of food trucks also on North Harbor Drive o er delicious variety, among them local favorites Nat Shack, with artisan tacos and Cal-Mex fare; and Aunty Yum Yum’s has bountiful and authentic ai cuisine.
Also by the harbor is e Roadside Potatohead, open May 1 to Sept. 15. is corner-spot restaurant has excellent beer and wine options and al fresco patio dining, plus fantastic views of anglers hauling in the daily catch.
Valdez visitors have endless opportunities to hike, bike, boat, kayak, sh and more. e Valdez vicinity serves as a jumping-o point for countless remarkable hikes and trails, including the Dock Point Trail, Gold Creek Trail, the Valdez Glacier area for hikes and kayaking, and Mineral Creek, which cuts deep into the folds of the surrounding mountains toward old mining territory.
Alaska Guide Co. o ers an array of guided excursions, whether you want to paddle, ice climb, rock climb, hike, backpack or mountain bike. Valdez Stay and Play o ers adventures like glacier tours and electric bike rentals. Kayak out ts Anadyr Adventures and Pangea are also reputable for safe, unforgettable, fully out tted experiences.
For a more relaxing experience, try a sightseeing charter: Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises o ers far-ranging day cruises aboard smooth-sailing catamarans. Ventures range from 6 to 7.5 hours. e comfortable ships are captained by knowledgeable crews who will delight passengers with information about the history, wildlife and landscapes of the area.
While a trip out into Prince William Sound will stun, wildlife lovers have plenty of opportunity in and around town too. Watch harbor waters for lolling otters or the occasional orca, and look up for bald eagles. It’s worth a drive around Port Valdez to Allison Point for a chance to see black bears pawing waters near the hatchery for pink salmon.
For souvenirs commemorating your Valdez visit, there are options.
e Prospector (200 Egan Drive) remains the go-to spot for outdoor gear, shing and hunting wares, and brand-name outdoor clothing.
e Salty Lupine (130 Meals Ave.) features stylish and trendy Valdezbranded clothing and gi s. e Valdez Art Co-Op (122 Kobuk Drive) sells adorable wares by local artists. And on the waterfront, e Painted Moose is an excellent spot for gi s and trinkets.
To drink and dress like a local, visit Valdez Brewing, buy a pint of local beer and a stylish branded hoodie, and enjoy the industrial-chic taproom or the spacious outdoor patio. Valdez Brewing is one of two breweries in town. e second is Growler Bay Brewing Co. At press time, its hours of operation were 4-8 p.m. every Saturday.
Nasturtiums brighten the scene at Valdez harbor.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 51
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
CAPITAL: THE BEST PLACES TO EAT, SIGHTSEE,
By MOLLIE BARNES
Juneau is anked by white snowcapped mountains, elds of blue ice, verdant green forests and frigid turquoise waters, making it the perfect town for travelers who love cozy small-town vibes, as well as those who seek extreme outdoor adventures in nature. Long the land inhabited by the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people, the capital city of Alaska got its Western name and infrastructure during the Gold Rush. is waterfront town is an outdoor enthusiast’s haven, and boasts that it has more miles of trails and mining tunnels than road (of which there are just 190).
Make sure you pack your rain gear, as this town of 32,000 gets 70 inches of rain a year, and around 235 days of precipitation. But no matter the forecast, locals and travelers alike will be out enjoying nature. As the Scandinavians say, “ ere is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”
e absolute must-see for most travelers is the Mendenhall Glacier. ere are many ways to see the glacier, depending on your level of comfort. e West Glacier Trail is by far one of the best bangs for your buck. While it includes a little bit of scrambling (up a waterfall, for example), the payo is worth far more than it will cost you to get there.
e trail is 3.5 miles out and back, and brings you right up to the face of the glacier. For less experienced hikers, Above and Beyond Alaska o ers guided hiking tours.
For a more family-friendly/accessible option, the Nugget Falls Trail
brings you around the other side of the Mendenhall Lake directly to a massive waterfall with views of the glacier from a bit farther away. ( e short, informational video in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is the cheapest tour of Juneau you’ll get.)
Liquid Alaska o ers canoe tours that go across the lake to bring you to the face of the glacier, getting you closer to the ice. Or, if you’re feeling ush, you can charter a helicopter through Northstar, Coastal or Temsco Helicopters for a ightseeing tour that will land you on the glacier (tours cost $300 or more). Northstar’s Extended Helicopter Glacier Trek is the most adventurous tour for thrill seekers who want to maximize their time on the glacier, learn basic ice climbing techniques and explore more territory than the standard glacier trek tours.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing way than hiking to sightsee and get up close to a glacier, try a full-day boat trip to Tracy Arm Fjord with Allen Marine. For $179, this seven-hour tour is an exceptional value and unforgettable experience. Enjoy cruising through a steep ord, usually seeing whales, bears, eagles, harbor seals along the way, and culminating at one of the Sawyer Glaciers, which are o en actively calving. Even if it’s cloudy or rainy, this trip is sure to be memorable and enjoyable — the glacier can look more blue when it’s overcast. If you’re looking for a shorter tour, several other companies o er two- to three-hour whale watching or city tours during the summer cruise ship season (check out Juneau Tours & Whale Watch and Allen Marine for options). If you’re seeking more water adventures, you’d be remiss not to try spotting whales and other wildlife as you ocean kayak in the Channel Islands State Marine Park on Above and Beyond Alaska’s Kayaking with Humpback Whales tour.
If you’re more of a plant lover than animal lover, check out the upside-down tree gardens at Glacier Gardens. ey also o er tours up the mountain in small trams during the summer season. A good place to see reweed is along Point Bridget Trail. e drive out the road to this trail also makes for great views of the looming Chilkat Mountains. Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy Cycle Alaska’s 8.5-mile biking tour that stops at local breweries.
Another top-notch Juneau experience is cabin camping. You can
Low clouds hug the mountains at Mendenhall Lake near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center in Juneau.
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
52 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
HIKE AND MORE IN JUNEAU
rent cabins online; however, weekends can generally get booked up to six months in advance, so make sure to book far ahead of time. Most public cabins are in the backcountry and require hiking your gear out. However, there are some private cabins that can be rented that are more accessible, such as those at the Shrine of St. erese or on Airbnb. Nights at Eaglecrest Ski Resort’s newest cabin, Hilda Dam, during the winter, and a city cabin, Amalga, are among the most coveted reservations in town.
Good family activities include walking along Sandy Beach on Douglas Island. Ruins from the old mine that collapsed there give the beach a historic vibe, and informational signs along the way entertain and inform little ones. e Mount Roberts Tram usually runs during the summer cruise season. Families can also rent strollers and other baby travel necessities like hiking backpacks, carseats and highchairs from Gear Up Baby.
Here are some quick favorites if you’re looking for places to eat, drink, and shop:
BEST VALUE BREAKFAST: Donna’s Restaurant.
BEST FOOD IN THE MENDENHALL VALLEY: Zerelda’s Bistro (check their Instagram for specials).
BEST FOOD DOWNTOWN: In Bocca Al Lupo (the chef specials are where it’s at; chef Beau Schooler was recently nominated as a James Beard Award semi nalist).
BEST LIVE ENTERTAINMENT: Crystal Saloon (visit their website for full list of shows)
BEST FOOD ON DOUGLAS ISLAND: e Island Pub (try the salmon dip).
BEST FAMILY DINING: e Hangar on the Wharf (can’t go wrong with anything with the halibut, great views of seaplanes taking o during the summer).
BEST TACOS: Deckhand Dave’s (only open in summer).
BEST ICE CREAM: Gelato by the pint from In Bocca Al Lupo.
BEST BAR: Alaskan Hotel & Bar (especially on open mic nights or live music nights, check their Instagram for updates).
BEST COCKTAILS: Amalga Distillery (early hours — closes at 8 p.m.), e Narrows (late night).
BEST CRAFT BREWERY: Barnaby Brewing Co.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT: Alaskan Brewing Public House
BEST PLACE TO DRINK WITH KIDS: Forbidden Peak Brewery.
BEST DRUNK FOOD: Pel’mini’s (if you’re not drunk, try them anyway — in Juneau, these dumplings topped with butter, curry, cilantro, Sriracha and sour cream are a staple).
BEST PEOPLE WATCHING: Triangle Club Bar and the downtown cruise ship docks.
BEST PLACE TO NURSE A HANGOVER WITH SALTY POPCORN AND A BLOODY MARY: Red Dog Saloon (also best kitschy decor).
BEST COFFEE: e Grind Co ee Co.
BEST SHOPPING: Resolute Boutique, Treetop Tees.
BEST FREE SAMPLES: Free smoked salmon from Taku.
BEST CHEAP SOUVENIRS: Alaska Shirt Company.
BEST INSTAGRAM PHOTO OPS: e Whale Project, the ower wallpaper at Amalga Distillery, Nugget Falls, holding crab legs at Tracy’s Crab Shack, atop the platforms on the top of the Mount Roberts Tram.
BEST SOUVENIRS: Whale tail necklaces from various downtown jewelry stores, whale tail salad tossers, Tlingit silver bracelets from Mt. Juneau Trading Post and others, kitschy matching shirts from the Alaska Shirt Co., Alaskan Brewing Company sweatshirts, smoked salmon from Taku Store, a Ray Troll “Spawn Till You Die” shirt.
BEST PLACE TO CATCH A SUNSET WHEN IT’S SUNNY: Bon re on the Outer Point Beach on North Douglas or Auke Recreation Area.
MOST ADVENTUROUS TOUR TO DO WITH KIDS: Alpine Zipline Adventure with Kawanti Adventures
BEST ACTIVITY TO DO WITH KIDS WHEN IT’S RAINING: Alaska State Museum
BEST FOOD WHEN YOU’RE COLD FROM WALKING AROUND IN THE RAIN: Old Friend Noodle Soup from Lemon Tree Cafe.
A pedestrian walks the Gold Creek Flume Trail on a soggy morning in Juneau.
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PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
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Water gushes down Nugget Falls as visitors make a short hike to the cataract adjacent to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
IN WINTER OR SUMMER, FAIRBANKS IS A TOWN OF SPLENDID EXTREMES
By DAVID JAMES
Located near the geographic center of the state, Fairbanks is Alaska’s year-round tourism destination. Established along the Chena River in 1901, it originally served prospectors working outlying gold claims. In the 12 decades since, the city has grown to include a university and two military bases, and has become the commercial hub of Interior Alaska.
e Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau is the rst stop for information, and has welcome centers along the riverfront, both downtown and in the nearby Morris ompson Cultural and Visitors Center. e ompson Center provides an excellent introduction to the history and culture of Interior Alaska’s original inhabitants, the Athabascan people.
Downtown has many shops, restaurants and events. O en on summer evenings, the Golden Heart Plaza is brimming with live music from local performers. And from there, it’s a short stroll to nearby Pioneer Park, which o ers fun for the whole family, with playground equipment, historic buildings, a train ride, restaurants, gi shops, museums and more.
Fairbanks is the site of several summer festivals where residents and visitors enjoy being outdoors during the long daylight hours. e annual Midnight Sun Festival, hosted by the Downtown Association, takes place in the city’s downtown center on Saturday, June 24. e large outdoor gathering includes live music, vendors and activities. e weeklong Golden Days celebration, the largest summer event in Fairbanks, includes a variety of events and culminates downtown on July 15 with a parade, street fair, rubber ducky race on the Chena River and more. Finally, the Tanana Valley State Fair runs from July 28 to Aug. 6 this year and o ers fairgoers a chance to watch livestock shows, take in live music, wander through commercial exhibits and let the kids go on some rides, all while staying fueled up on the endless food options.
Museums are scattered throughout town, including the Museum of the North on the university campus, which holds one of the state’s premier collections of Alaska and Arctic artifacts. e Fairbanks Community Museum focuses on city history. Car bu s will motor toward the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. Summer visitors wanting a taste of winter can experience 20-below temperatures at the Ice Museum. And restless young ones will enjoy a stop at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum.
Fairbanks has a lively, close-knit and very supportive arts community, with several galleries open year round displaying the work of local artists. For those seeking a deeper knowledge of Alaska and its culture, its people and its history, the secondhand bookstore ForgetMe-Not Books — operated by and bene ting the Literacy Council of Alaska — always has a large selection of Alaska-related books, some quite rare, along with plenty of other volumes on all topics.
Much of Fairbanks’ growth has been driven by resource extraction. A tour of Gold Dredge 8 north of town gives visitors a taste of the rich gold mining history of Fairbanks, while the nearby Trans-Alaska Pipeline Viewpoint lets people walk right up to one of the world’s engineering marvels.
For a taste of nature, Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, located on the north side of town, o ers birding and wildlife viewing as well as miles of walking trails. e Large Animal Research Station on the north part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus allows visitors a close look at musk oxen.
Sportspersons looking to go shing or hunting rst need to obtain the proper license from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. e department also has advice for obtaining a licensed and quali ed guide to help arrange transportation, supplies, and other needs to make the experience complete.
For outdoor recreation, hiking and/or mountain biking trails can be found on the UAF campus, at the nearby Birch Hill Recreation Area, in the Chena River State Recreation Area east of town and elsewhere. Trails on Birch Hill and campus are groomed for skiers when the snow arrives. e Chena River winds through downtown and is popular with paddlers. Mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks can be rented from several establishments, and skis and fat bikes can be rented in winter.
e Fairbanks Hiking Club, Fairbanks Cycle Club, Fairbanks Paddlers and Running Club North can be contacted for information. All four welcome out-of-town guests to their events.
ATVs and snowmachines can be rented for excursions on the vast network of public multiple-use trails that extend in all directions beyond Fairbanks. Check with rental companies for information on accessing the best trails.
For getaways, Denali National Park is just a two-hour drive south, and the Arctic Circle about ve hours north. e Riverboat Discovery Tour provides the opportunity to slip out of town and head down the Chena and Tanana rivers via sternwheeler.
e nearby town of North Pole is home to the Santa Claus House, where it’s Christmas all year. A bit farther down the road is the Chena Lake Recreation Area. Open all year, it’s popular in summer with paddlers, cyclists, walkers and swimmers, and overnight visitors at one
Soak up some sun on or off the water in Fairbanks.
56 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
of the 45 campsites. In winter, it’s a nearby destination for snowmachining, skiing, fattire biking, ice shing and more. Wildlife viewing can be enjoyed during any season.
Many races are available for those seeking a workout. is year’s Midnight Sun Run will be held on June 24 at 10 p.m. Held annually on the Saturday night closest to summer solstice, the race o en attracts as many as 3,000 participants for a 10-K dash under the perpetual daylight of summer. In September, the Equinox Marathon, starting and nishing at the university, is one of the most grueling marathon courses in North America. It features over 3,000 feet of climbing and descending along a route that is largely set on trails and dirt roads, and that o ers a spectacular view of the Alaska Range from the top of Ester Dome — if the skies are clear. Some years it snows on race day, so be prepared for anything. is year, the race is on Sept. 17. ere will be a full marathon as well as a half, but no relay.
Restaurants for all tastes and budgets abound, including a remarkable number of very good ai restaurants. And later, visitors can kick back at one of the growing number of breweries and distilleries.
FAIRBANKS IN WINTER
Winters bring icy temperatures dipping to minus-40 or lower, and visitors should come prepared. But usually it’s nowhere near this severe. And with the dry climate and minimal wind, zero in Fairbanks can feel warmer than 30 above in Anchorage. Winter solstice brings just 3 hours and 41 minutes of direct sunlight, but the low-lying sun envelops the town and hills in a beautiful pink and golden glow. By late January, the light is back.
December is when the darkness reaches its zenith, and the season is marked by numerous events downtown, leading up to the solstice itself, Dec. 21, when an evening festival culminates with a reworks show welcoming back the light. Ten days later, on New Year’s Eve, reworks again illuminate the sky, this time from the West Ridge of the UAF campus. Fairbanks is the ideal location for aurora viewing, and a number of local businesses cater to this growing clientele. It also o ers some of the best winter recreational opportunities in Alaska. Snowmobile tours are gaining in popularity, and several guides o er them, both near town and further a eld. Dog sled tours are available for those wanting to experience mushing.
For winter athletes, the Chena River to Ridge Race o ers 25- and 50-mile routes for skiers, fat bikers and runners every March, while the White Mountains 100 presents those same groups with a challenging 100-mile trip though the White Mountains National Recreation Area about an hour north of town. ose with more modest ambitions can rent fat bikes for winter excursions on the trails in Goldstream Valley, and cross country skis for the trails on Birch Hill and the university campus. Downhill ski runs can be found on Birch Hill and Moose Mountain.
Finally, no visit to Fairbanks is complete without a trip to Chena Hot Springs Resort, 56 miles east of town. While open year round, winter is the best time to climb into the outdoor pools. e hot water keeps bathers comfortable even as air temperatures drop below zero, snow and ice sweep upward from the pool edges, and the northern lights dance in the sky. It’s the quintessential Fairbanks experience, and one of the reasons why many residents consider winter in Fairbanks the best season of all.
FAIRBANKS VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 57
VISIT MAT-SU AND GET A TASTE OF EVERYTHING THAT’S MAGIC ABOUT ALASKA
By ALLI HARVEY
Drive less than an hour north of Anchorage and the landscape changes dramatically as you enter the Matanuska-Susitna region. e view opens up to showcase dramatic peaks rising steeply from a vast, at
is is only the beginning. At 25,000 square miles, this region is nearly the size of West Virginia. e attractions in the area are varied and surprising; you will nd everything from world-class and accessible wilderness experiences, historic sites and museums, to delicious and uniquely Alaskan eats.
e charms of Mat-Su start even before its o cial boundary: in Eagle River (still technically inside the Municipality of Anchorage). Be like a local on a sunny Saturday and hike up Mount Baldy, a short, steep climb to above treeline and terri c views. You’ll earn your lunch (and Schooner-sized signature beer) at Pizza Man, chased by a quick
There’s no knowing what kind of friendly faces you’ll ﬁnd in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
PHOTO BY BILL ROTH
58 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023
pick-me-up from the well-loved, adorable co ee shop Jitters. Not quite ready to leave the area? Head a little farther north on the Glenn Highway and take the exit to Eklutna Lake. Rent kayaks for the day and paddle out on this pristine, glacial lake that supplies Anchorage its drinking water.
Next stop: Palmer. You could spend an a ernoon or a lifetime here and have plenty to do. Downtown is postcard-picturesque with breathtaking mountain views. Park the car and take a walk. Check out the Palmer Museum of History and Art for behind-thescenes scoop on the area and local guidance; duck into the well-loved independent Fireside Books; and fuel up at delicious and superbly run Turkey Red restaurant. Top o your visit with a ight at 203 Kombucha, a modern and community-minded kombuchery. Need to stretch your legs? Options range from hiking the well-loved local Butte, to more strenuous hiking on Lazy Mountain. On your way out of town, pay a visit to the Musk Ox Farm to learn rsthand about this unique and iconic Arctic creature from knowledgeable guides.
Heading north, don’t miss historic Hatcher Pass. Hatcher Pass Road winds 12 miles from downtown Palmer and over 3,000 feet up into the Talkeetna mountains, with incredible views at every turn. Learn about the area’s mining history rsthand by visiting
Sunbathers at Newcomb Park wade in Wasilla Lake during a sunny day.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 59 ilehdnuobtuo@ )raeYllAgnibmilCecI( snoisrucxEdezilnosreP AVONhtiwserutnevdA moc.ileHdnuobtuO 6376.153.709 kooBruoYerutnevdAyadoT
PHOTO BY BILL ROTH
the unique museum set right in the alpine at Independence Mine State Historic Park; take a hike and see remnants from perilous gold mining operations amidst the jaw-dropping tundra scenery. If an a ernoon visit isn’t enough, stay over at Hatcher Pass Lodge in one of the adorable A-frame cabins. Or just grab a bite in the cozy cafe with stellar views.
Wasilla gets a bad rap for its most prominent feature: big box stores. Locals know there’s much more just o the beaten path. Pay a visit to the Wasilla Museum and Visitors Center to orient yourself. Venture down Knik-Goose Bay Road to the Knik Museum, sited at what was once the most populated community along Cook Inlet. Golf much? Keep driving, and tee o at Settlers Bay Golf Course. Back in the core of Wasilla, don’t miss a meal at the creative Basil Ginger restaurant. Take advantage of convenient
one-stop-shopping by fueling up the car and getting groceries before continuing north.
Talkeetna is as charming and quirky as Alaska towns come. e walkable downtown is a scene from the TV show “Northern Exposure” (if it were actually lmed in Alaska). e journey down the 14-mile spur road to town from the main highway is long because there’s so much to see. Inventive and tasty Denali Brewing Co. cannot be missed; ditto with Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, a standalone gem tucked away in the forest. Alaska Wild Harvest o ers tours and tastings in its birch syrup production facility, and a wonderful gi shop. Approaching town, the Denali view on a clear day is worth the entire trek. A visit to Talkeetna Roadhouse is a must — either to stay or to feast, or both. Visit Dancing Leaf Gallery for a avor of well-curated local art and cra . Want to get a
closer look at “the Great One” (the Koyukon Athabascan meaning of Denali)? Check out K2 Aviation for ightseeing tours.
Finally, push the boundary of the Mat-Su region and your physical ability by paying a visit to Denali State Park. No, this isn’t the national park and you won’t actually summit e Mountain. But you’ll still experience the thrilling and wild Alaska outdoors with an overnight at K’esugi Ken Campground, and a hike up the slow but steadily uphill Curry Ridge trail that has stellar and consistent Denali views.
If there’s one region in Alaska with a little taste of everything magic about the state, it’s Mat-Su. Fuel up, power down, explore and enjoy all that you’ll nd in this amazing corner of the world.
Tourists pass by Nagley’s Store in Talkeetna in August 2016. The store was previously named B & K Trading Company.
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PHOTO BY B OB HALLINEN
TIPS FOR PLANNING AN EPIC SEWARD HIGHWAY ROAD TRIP
By KATIE PESZNECKER
Anchorage visitors who want to see sights beyond the city’s con nes can nd a scenic escape via the Seward Highway, a spectacular route with a surprising number of diversions.
is renowned 125-mile roadway runs south from Anchorage, alongside a narrow waterway called Turnagain Arm. e highway is anked by the dramatic Chugach and Kenai Mountains, where ancient glaciers wink through summertime greenery. Passing small bedroom communities, rustic roadhouses and pristine alpine lakes, the highway terminates in Seward, on the edge of Resurrection Bay.
e time-pressed traveler could make it to Seward and back in one long, full day, logging ve-plus hours of road travel alone. But overnighting in Seward will o er a more enjoyable and leisurely experience, allowing for lingering stops to appreciate the Alaska scenery and character, history and dining o ered by small towns along the way.
About 45 minutes south of Anchorage, Girdwood is a laid-back ski town that relocated inland a few miles from the highway a er the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
For Alaskans and visitors alike, Girdwood is a recreation mecca, with a charming collection of memorable restaurants, art galleries, ski chalets and condos. Winter slopes and ski li s transform to host downhill mountain biking come summer. Paved paths thread throughout town, o ering an opportunity to take in scenery at a slow pace.
For hikers, the user-friendly Winner Creek Trail begins just behind the picturesque Hotel Alyeska. For a challenge, tackle the south end of the 21-mile Crow Pass Trail, which connects Girdwood to Eagle River’s outskirts north of Anchorage. e rst few miles of the Girdwood end of the trail wind upward from Girdwood, with breathtaking views of glaciers, jagged mountaintops and remnants of long-gone gold mining e orts.
Girdwood’s dining options are impressively plentiful. Begin at a local icon, e Bake Shop (194 Olympic Mountain Loop), open as of press time ursday through Monday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. A morning-time staple for 40-plus years, e Bake Shop features home-style favorites like sourdough pancakes and sweet rolls. For lunch, the shop switches to homemade soups and sandwiches on fresh-baked bread.
For a special dinner experience, try Jack Sprat (165 Olympic Mountain Loop). Its regional cuisine with an Alaska touch is truly special, highlighting seasonal fresh produce and locally sourced protein such as halibut. Its tall chalet windows o er romantic views of the mountainside. Check the restaurant’s website for hours.
Nearby, stalwart Double Musky Inn (Mile 0.3 Crow Creek Road) is a tucked-away steakhouse known for colorful French Quarter decor, a
Independence Day ﬁreworks in Seward shortly after midnight.
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
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a world-class wine cellar and spot-on Creole classics with Alaskan air. Its lively elegance has delighted locals and tourists alike for decades. ere will be a wait many nights, but it’s worth it.
For a fun, laid-back vibe, pop by Girdwood Brewing Co. With indoor tables and outdoor seating around gas-fed re pits, sip pints or smaller tasters while ordering from one or more local food trucks that rotate on site; the truck schedule is updated on the brewery’s website. ey also sell trendy hoodies, hats and stickers to remember your sudsy Girdwood detour.
Like Girdwood, Portage once sat alongside the Seward Highway, but a er the ‘64 quake, Portage faded away, with little remaining today but the remains of cabins overtaken by aggressive brush. In Portage’s place, visitors today will nd the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Mile 79 Seward Highway), a sprawling sanctuary that provides large-enclosure spaces for orphaned and rehabilitating Alaska animals.
View animals by either driving, walking the 1.5-mile loop encircling the center, or booking a tour with one of the sta naturalists. Hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. May through August; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 1-15; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 15 to Oct. 31. Check the website for additional hours.
An eastern turn at Portage down Portage Valley Road delivers motorists to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, and beyond that, the end-of-the-road town of Whittier.
e Begich, Boggs Visitor Center (Portage Lake Loop) opens from late May to early September and sits about 5 miles east of the Seward Highway, a at, pretty, quick drive. Named in honor of U.S. Reps. Nick Begich and Hale Boggs, whose ight in Alaska disappeared in 1972, the center is built on the edge of a lake on the moraine le by
the receding Portage Glacier. e glacier is visible via boat trips to its front. e center itself o ers science-geared educational opportunities for adults and kids alike.
Drive farther and travelers will encounter a truly di erent experience by way of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. e 2.5-milelong, one-way toll highway tunnel is the longest in North America, a dark and moody viaduct through the formidable mountains. It was originally a train tunnel connecting the western side of Turnagain Arm to the military port town of Whittier. Find tunnel schedules online to time your visit accordingly.
Whittier exists as a critical deep-water port. In this unusual community, most residents call one of two large buildings home due to the lack of housing and buildable land. For activities, there are glacier-viewing boats, regular cruise ship stops, a ne harbor-view hotel called e Inn at Whittier (5A Harbor Loop Road), hiking and shing, plus camping and RV options.
e one-way toll tunnel is strange enough to warrant a one-hour side trip. If you have time, visit the small but surprisingly comprehensive Prince William Sound Museum (743 Whittier St.). An impressive number of exhibits ll its snug space, capturing the story of Whittier’s very original history.
Arriving in Seward is a show-stopper, as the highway ends at last and the view opens up to this special place, surrounded by the dramatic mountains ringing Resurrection Bay. Seward is home to an amiable community with a hodgepodge economy built on shing out ts, kayak companies, sightseeing excursions, shops, restaurants and bars, plus there’s a beautiful boat harbor where visitors can walk the docks. About 2,800 people live here yearround, and summer cruise ships can deliver thousands of visitors a day.
Highlights of Seward include the Alaska SeaLife Center (301 Railway Ave.), a hands-on
aquarium and working science facility that boasts opportunities to ogle diving pu ns and swimming sea lions, peer at octopus up close and learn about the special place that is Resurrection Bay.
From the SeaLife Center, a leisurely walk up Fourth Avenue provides a serene sense of Seward’s long-ago frontier culture, with Old West storefronts, historical murals, steepled churches, and commemorative plaques and historical markers. A paved footpath that runs from the SeaLife Center along the waterfront toward the harbor is a pleasant way to enjoy the mountain scenery.
Seward has plenty of hotels and motels, home rentals, hostel beds, camping and RV options for those overnighting it.
Beyond the roadways, day cruises through Kenai Fjords National Park are a popular way to soak up the glorious waters of Resurrection Bay. Otters, seals, pu ns, orcas and various migrating whales all may make cameos on these charters, some of which include island stopovers for meals.
To see a glacier by foot, carve out a couple of hours for a stop at Exit Glacier. Located just inside Kenai Fjords National Park, this glacier at the edge of Harding Ice eld recedes annually, to the sadness of many fans. But a moderately graded walking path leads to overlooks where the glacier is still easily visible and photographable.
Seward is synonymous with shing, and there are a bounty of half- or full-day charters that sh for halibut, salmon or both. Charters typically provide all shing gear, and in town, there are options for having sh lleted and ash-frozen for shipping a er your excursion ends. ese trips depart early and return late and make for a full Alaskan experience. Play your cards right, and you will enjoy the scenery of a wildlife-viewing trip while returning home with a freezer’s worth of sh to commemorate your unique and unforgettable Alaska vacation long a er it’s over.
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KENAI PENINSULA: BIG FISH, GORGEOUS VISTAS, SMALL-TOWN CHARM
By BAILEY BERG
Accessible wilderness, heaps of trails and enough trophy sh to spawn “it was THIS big” stories for years to come, it’s easy to see why the Kenai Peninsula is o en referred to as “Alaska’s playground.” While there are oodles of worthwhile spots to visit, here are just a few to get you started.
Impossibly charming, Hope is a worthwhile detour for those zipping down to conquer the Kenai Peninsula. e atmospheric downtown with stunning views of Turnagain Arm o ers a good jumping-o point for a variety of hikes. Gull Rock Trail, an old wagon road, is a local favorite — it’s 5 miles one way with negligible elevation gain. Hope Point is a strenuous climb following an alpine ridge that o ers incredible views (and serious bragging rights). ose looking for an adrenaline rush can book a ra ing trip down Six Mile Creek. For those seeking a more relaxing trip, there are heaps of cabins with cozy porches ideal for cracking into a book, the Dirty Skillet makes for a solid dinner spot, and the Seaview Cafe and Creekbend Co. attract some of the better Alaska bands for nighttime entertainment.
Fishermen clean their catch at Miller’s Landing outside of Seward.
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
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Just over 120 miles away, Seward could make a nice day trip from Anchorage. But why rush? It has all the Alaska elements: water, mountains, forests, shing and quirky local charm. Want to see a glacier up close? Access some by water in Kenai Fjords National Park or by land at Exit Glacier. Want to see sweeping views of Resurrection Bay? Meet Mount Marathon and marvel at how local and international athletes get to the top, and back again, in one of Alaska’s most iconic footraces each year (traditionally held on the Fourth of July). Looking for something the whole family will enjoy? Don’t miss the touch pool at the Alaska SeaLife Center and look for vessels with pun-inspired names in the harbor. Complement your adventures with a meal at one of the local eateries, many of which are housed in historic buildings.
SOLDOTNA AND KENAI
Drive through these towns in the height of summer and you’ll notice many cars laden with big, round dipnets, rods and reels with all the bells and whistles, coolers and muddy Xtratuf boots. e salmon that return en masse to the Kenai River are legendary. (Be advised: e area’s dipnet shery is deservedly famous but open to state residents only. See our shing guide for an overview of other great options, and always make sure you have the correct permits; the Department of Fish and Game’s We Fish AK site is a good place to start, or call 907-267-2218.)
If shing doesn’t call to you, there are breweries with airy patios, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitors Center o ers naturalist-led outdoor
programs, and Soldotna’s Homestead Museum showcases homesteaders’ cabins with free guided tours.
Visitors to Homer nd there are many ways to explore “the end of the road.” Just 220 miles
from Anchorage, the town sits between the water and the mountains and extends out onto a skinny, 4.5-mile-long spit. It’s a town where shermen, artists, beer lovers, foodies, musicians, adventurers and beachcombers all feel at home.
It’s easy to while away a few days — tramp
Sea otters bob along the surface of Kachemak Bay offshore from Homer.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 A LASK A 65 WELCOME TO SOLDOTNA,ALASKA! 907.262.9814 WWW visitsoldotna .COM 200+Riverside Campsites onthe World FamousKenai River. Stop by the Visitor Center at44790 Sterling Hwy. forinformationand brochures onthe area,and viewavarietyof exhibits, includingthe worldrecord KingSalmon. OutdoorMarket & FREEconcertsinSoldotnaCreek Park Every Wednesday,fromJune-August
PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
along the beautiful trail systems, check out the tide pools, eat at rst-rate restaurants, pick through the various art galleries and handicra stores. You can learn a bit more about the 49th state’s local ecosystem at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies or the Exxon oil spill at the Pratt Museum.
If time and budget allow, tick o some bucket-list experiences: Get a bird’s-eye view of nearby glaciers and wildlife on a ightseeing tour; cruise around on a water taxi looking for sea creatures; try your hand at reeling in a “barn door”-sized halibut on a charter; or take a water taxi across the bay to Halibut Cove, an artist enclave known for divine dishes at e Saltry Restaurant and stunning scenery.
An angler ﬂy-ﬁshes for red salmon on the upper Kenai River.
66 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023 907-235-9055 makoswatertaxi.com DiscoverKachemakBay! Locatedon theHomerSpit VisityourfriendsandﬁndyourﬂoweratUncleHerb’s 6511ARCTICSPURRD (907)561-4372 360BONIFACEPKWY,SUITEA5 (907)332-4372 1213OCEANDR,HOMER (907)235-4372 (907)243-4372 uncleherbs.com risksassociatedwithconsumptionofmarijuana.Foruseonlybyadultstwenty-oneorolder.Keepoutofreach ofchildren.Marijuanashouldnotbeusedbywomenwhoarepregnantorbreastfeeding. #10648,#10647,#20865,#12866,#30153 ”Friendsarelikeflowers. Theyfillthe worldwithbeauty.” Friendsarelikeflowe A5 209KINGCIRCLE AlaskaAdventure venture Cabins Homer,Alaska 907-715-2745 www.AlaskaAdventureCabins.com 2525SterlingHighway•Homer,AK99603 DeluxeHomes ConvenientLocation FullKitchens•Decks•PanoramicViews Internet•UpscaleAlaskanDecor
PHOTO BY DARON DEAN
68 A LASK A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2023