2024 Alaska Visitors' Guide

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DENALI

NATIONAL PARK

PG.10 SOAR ABOVE IT ALL IN A FLIGHTSEEING TOUR PG.31 TASTE ANCHORAGE’S WORLD-CLASS SEAFOOD PG.47 A RICH LANDSCAPE OF ARTS AND CULTURE PG.7 UP CLOSE WITH GLACIERS IN SOUTHCENTRAL VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024
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VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024

WELCOME TO ALASKA

WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU CHASE THAT LARGER-THAN-LIFE

ADVENTURE — AND HELP MAKE LIFE PLEASANT ALONG THE WAY

DEAR READER,

The state of Alaska has a larger-than-life reputation, so we tend to talk about it in superlatives. It’s the biggest state with the most massive bears and the tallest mountains. It’s got the most glaciers, miles of coastline, volcanoes and acres of wilderness, the longest summer days, coldest winter nights and the brightest northern lights.

It’s these qualities that attract visitors every year. They’re coming for bucket-list, print-and-frame-the-photo, once-in-alifetime experiences, and that’s exactly what they get. Cruise past calving glaciers and breaching whales, ride a dogsled on an ice field, watch grizzly bears feasting on salmon, or fly past the highest peaks in North America. It’s a superlative opportunity at every turn.

If you live in Alaska any longer than a handful of months, you develop a different perspective. We appreciate a soaring mountain range and cracking glacier as much as — or more than — any avid traveler. Some of us even get into the outdoors like it’s a full-time job.

But a person cannot subsist on outdoor adventure alone. And who would want to? There’s a great local beer out there to be enjoyed at the end of that big hike, and some key gear will make getting there comfier. An epic day on the water deserves to be kicked off with a serious cup of coffee, and a long summer evening is even better with a really good meal and a great view.

Discovering the excellent creature comforts of Alaska is an adventure in itself, and honing an insider’s map of the best coffeeshops, public-use cabins, Thai restaurants and local breweries is the delightful work of years. Tapping into that insider’s knowledge of Alaska and combining it with all the information you need for your bucket-list adventure is the goal of this Visitors’ Guide.

The joy of being a local is that you can get the best of both worlds; through these pages, that’s what we hope to share with you.

CONTENTS

7 / GLACIERS

Get close to some ice

10 / FLIGHTSEEING

Alaska by air

12 / WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS

Explore Kennecott Mines and more 14 / BOAT TRIPS

Alaska by water

17 / TRAILS

Great hikes near Anchorage

ANCHORAGE

31 / Find the best seafood in the city

34 / Downtown Anchorage nightlife, shopping and more

37 / Get a taste of Anchorage’s coffee culture

41 / Exploring Anchorage’s terrific trail system

44 / A guide to Alaska breweries

47 / Museums, galleries and cultural centers

KODIAK • SOUTHEAST

50 / Life on the water’s edge

VALDEZ

53 / Endless options await

PUBLISHER Andy Pennington

PRODUCTION

COORDINATOR Nina Wladkowski

AD OPERATIONS Lisa McGuire

SPECIAL PROJECTS

DIRECTOR Brandi Nelson

AD DESIGN Michael Oldroyd

SALES Ryan Estrada, Adam Garrigus, Victoria Hansen, Joleesa Stepetin

19 / DENALI

Seeking out the Great One

21 / WILDLIFE

See animals up close — safely

23 / HIKING

Tips, etiquette and safety

25 / FISHING

Where fishing dreams come true

29 / MARIJUANA

A guide to legal cannabis in Alaska

JUNEAU

55 / Visiting is a capital idea

FAIRBANKS

57 / Land of spectacular extremes

MAT-SU • EAGLE RIVER

59 / There’s magic in the Valley

GIRDWOOD • WHITTIER • SEWARD

62 / Tips for an epic road trip down the famed Seward Highway

KENAI PENINSULA

64 / Explore Hope, Seward, Soldotna, Kenai and Homer

VISITORS’ GUIDE

EDITOR Victoria Barber

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 Loren Holmes

CONTRIBUTORS Laurel Andrews, Mollie Barnes, Bailey Berg, Fran Durner, Bob Hallinen, Alli Harvey, Erik Hill, Loren Holmes, Zachariah Hughes, David James, Jim Lavrakas, Marc Lester, Emily Mesner, Richard J. Murphy, Josh Niva, Katie Pesznecker, Anne Raup, Bill Roth, Mara Severin

INTRODUCTION & CONTENTS
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A guide leads hikers on a tour of

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HERE’S HOW TO GET UP CLOSE TO GLACIERS IN SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA

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 offers 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 briefly about glacier safety.

HOW TO ENJOY GLACIERS AND STAY SAFE

All visitors to glacial areas will benefit from bringing warm, layered clothes, sturdy shoes or boots, and a windbreak layer. Glaciers are colder than surrounding areas and often breezy.

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 aren’t 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. The 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 stuff.

DISCLAIMER: This list explores some of the most popular glaciers, but for brevity’s sake does not include many of the tour operators offering hikes, boat trips, scenic flights, 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. The 1.4-mile trail to the glacier is a flat, easy walk. The first half is well-maintained with a wide path. The

second half is rocky, and to get closer to the glacier, visitors must cross boulders and small streams. The trail can get especially buggy in the summer, so be prepared.

Then there’s Portage Glacier. The glacier has receded out of view from the visitor center, but in the summer there’s a daily cruise and a pull-off 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. There are no park rangers around in case of emergency, though, so traverse the ice at your own risk.

According to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center website, the center will open in May 2024. Be sure to check ahead for current information about operating 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 five-hour drive from Anchorage.)

Columbia, Meares and Blackstone glaciers are just three of the oft-visited glaciers in the

Matanuska Glacier. The glacier one of the most accessible in Southcentral Alaska. PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
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area. There are many different 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 25 through Sept. 15 in 2024.

Visitors enjoy a scenic ride from Anchorage, getting off 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.

The route then continues past Spencer Glacier to Grandview, revealing views of Bartlett Glacier and Trail Glacier. After 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 can be reserved

via recreation.gov, but spots fill up fast. Tour operators offer guided kayaking, ice climbing or trips down the Placer River.

EKLUTNA GLACIER AND LAKE CAMPGROUND

About an hour northeast of Anchorage is Eklutna Lake, 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 Eklutna Glacier.

Glacier access is a bit of a journey — to get up close, take the Eklutna Lakeside Trail, 12.9 miles one way. The 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. The glacier itself is

gigantic — about 26 miles long and 4 miles wide at its terminus.

The Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area has 12 campsites, and it’s a 20-minute walk to glacier-viewing platforms, but there’s no direct access to the glacier.

The only road-accessible route direct to the glacier face is through property owned by Matanuska Glacier Park LLC. Tours are sold out of a gift shop and information center. Then, it’s a short drive and hike to reach the glacier.

Glacier Park only allows access via guided tours. The 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

The South Fork Valley Trail is an easy- to moderate-level hike to Eagle and Symphony Lakes in Eagle River, about half an hour northeast of Anchorage. The 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.

GLACIERS
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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 flightseeing options for those who want to bask in the splendor of North America’s tallest peak without climbing it.

There are hundreds of unnamed glaciers on Denali, and 40 named ones, according to the National Park Service. The longest ones — Ruth, Kahiltna and Muldrow — each span more than 30 miles.

Multiple Talkeetna air taxi operators offer 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.

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The Exit Glacier Nature Center is the starting point for a system of trails leading to the glacier. Those wanting more can make the strenuous 8.2-mile round-trip hike up the Harding Icefield Trail for spectacular views of the massive ice field.

There’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.

Then, there’s the rest of Kenai Fjords National Park. The 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. There’s an 8-mile trail starting from Knik Glacier Tours that requires river crossings. Biking and boating are common. Tours are offered through nearby lodges.

There’s also flightseeing available to Knik Glacier and Colony Glacier.

CROW PASS TRAIL: A HIKE TO RAVEN GLACIER

Raven Glacier can be seen along 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). This 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 on 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.

The 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. There’s also good glacier viewing — and traversing — on the multiday MintBomber Traverse for more advanced outdoor explorers.

GLACIERS
Passengers the Klondike Express take photos of Surprise Glacier during their Prince William Sound cruise.
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FOR THE BEST VIEWS OF ALASKA, SOAR ABOVE IT ALL ON A FLIGHTSEEING TOUR

Special to the Anchorage Daily News

Ina large state literally covered with spectacular sights and wild wonders, one of the most exciting and convenient ways to view Alaska’s biggest and best attractions is from rarefied air, high in the sky.

Flightseeing excursions are popular, unique and thrilling for visitors and Alaskans alike, with outings ranging from a few hours to a full day or longer. Destinations are as diverse and iconic as Denali, backcountry lodges, bear and wildlife viewing areas, glacier landings, wilderness fishing spots and national parks.

From a window seat in a small Alaska bush plane or a helicopter, passengers get a proverbial bird’s-eye view and VIP access to parts of the state that most only dream about. This is truly traveling in Alaska fashion. Imagine taking a few circles around the peak of Denali and its massive neighboring mountains in the Alaska Range, sometimes close enough to see mountain climbers. Soar over the epic glaciers, forests and marine magnificence of Kenai Fjords National Park or coast above the endless mass of jagged mountains and sparkling glaciers in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Or take the ultimate high road over the untouched landscapes and rugged beauty of the deep wilderness in Gates of the Arctic National Park.

With so many options available, there’s a wide price range for hopping onboard, from around $250 to $1,000 and up depending on the length of the trip, departure point and destination, whether the tour includes a landing along the way and what excursions are part of that landing.

For those dreaming of seeing Alaska highlights and exploring the wildest of wildernesses, flightseeing delivers big-time bang for that travel buck. Most flightseeing companies are longtime Alaska operators, with savvy, safe, experienced pilots who love flying and showing off our state as much as the passengers love taking it all in. A bonus for passengers is headgear that allows them to communicate with the pilot, and hear stories of flying and the landmarks below. Shop around and you’ll likely find a perfect trip that hits your adventure checklist. Don’t see what you want? Call the flightseeing operators and ask: Some will customize their trips as taxis for their passengers to find remote fishing, land at a lodge or whatever you can dream of.

In fact, wherever your travel itinerary leads you, there’s likely a flightseeing business nearby. Among the locales where tours are offered are travel hubs like Anchorage and Fairbanks, along with Kenai, Soldotna, Tok, McCarthy, Homer, Girdwood, King Salmon, Talkeetna, Juneau, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, Skagway, Kantishna and more. Once in the air, you can fly over a seemingly endless ocean of glaciers, blankets of forest and tundra, sunlit lakes and waterways, remote Alaska Native villages, mountains and volcanoes, and even the occasional bear, moose or caribou.

On some flightseeing trips, landing is also a big part of the thrill and journey. Many flightseeing planes are outfitted with traditional landing gear, tires, for beach, gravel bar and rustic runway approaches. Others have floats, allowing pilots to take off from and set down smoothly on

inlets and rivers. Some also land on glaciers, where a dog sled team and its driver awaits. Some land on a beach, where bear viewing makes the heart race even more! Others land on lakes that lead to luxurious wilderness lodges, world-class fishing, cool kayaking, backcountry camping and more.

These flights are so much fun, you’ll have your head in the clouds for days. Here are some of the state’s most popular, unique and fascinating flightseeing destinations, tours and packages:

DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE

Alaska’s most towering presence is also its most popular travel destination and most-frequented flightseeing tour. Denali National Park is an Alaska treasure, with its namesake standing at 20,310 feet as North America’s tallest peak. The park surrounding it is packed with mountains, wildlife, tundra, glaciers and a range of ecosystems. It is located in the state’s Interior, just off the Parks Highway, a few hours’ drive south of Fairbanks and four hours north of Anchorage — on a clear day, you can see Denali from both cities.

A Denali flightseeing trip is thrilling and humbling; it’s easy to feel small when surrounded by so many mountains, especially one that is so incredibly tall. The trip is perfect for those who don’t have days to explore the park, or for those who crave the most intimate perspective of the peak. Every moment of a flight is exciting, including taking off and the flight there, as Denali gets larger and larger on the approach.

Most outfitters’ flights will include views of Denali’s summit (weather permitting), as well as other notable natural wonders of the park like Ruth Glacier, the Wickersham Wall and the climbers’ Kantishna Glacier basecamp. Some operators land on a glacier, usually Ruth with its well-marked runway. Passengers don’t just stretch their legs here — they get to breathe in the alpine air, feel the chill of the glacier below, and enjoy a snack in the most unique setting. Oh, and take the coolest photos ever.

Some companies fly out of Anchorage, though many operate a few hours’ drive north of Anchorage in Talkeetna, a small, quirky town that has tempting views of Denali in the distance. A few even take off from Denali National Park, of course. Helicopter flightseeing offers an alternative. Enclosed in Plexiglas with no wings to peer over, even trips as short as 30 minutes provide exciting and exceptional views.

BEAR VIEWING

You won’t believe how quickly a small plane can get you from Alaska’s largest urban setting, Anchorage, to some of the world’s

Journey above glaciers, gorges and peaks on a flightseeing tour for unique views of Alaska’s landscape.
10 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN

wildest bear viewing experiences. At only 290 miles, the relatively short but pretty flight across Cook Inlet gets passengers to Katmai National Park and Preserve. (Other flights leave from Homer, Kodiak, Dillingham, King Salmon and other locations.) These are big bear hot spots, where the famous grizzly/brown bears romp and roam around, mostly hunting salmon, chomping on salmon, sleeping or jostling for fishing positions.

Each location has different, but safe, viewing experiences. Katmai’s Brooks River, Brooks Falls and Brooks Camp are well-known and popular — a series of viewing platforms are strategically set for the best viewing and safest experience, keeping visitors as close as 50 feet from the bruins. Day trips out of Anchorage run between May and September, with passengers on the ground for around 10 hours, plenty of time to gaze in wonder at these big bears. Katmai has lodging as well for folks who want more time in this most special of places.

Lake Clark also has numerous areas for bear viewing, and operators that fly folks to get the best views: Chinitna Bay is the most popular with humans and bears, though Crescent Lake is a place where humans and bears both chase some world-class salmon fishing. Same with Silver Salmon Creek.

Flights from Kodiak Island take passengers to see the island’s famous bears at the Kodiak Brown Bear Center & Lodge, complete with lake landing. Other flights out of Kodiak reach different areas and different bear viewing experiences in Katmai National Park: Frazer Lake along the Katmai Coast, Hallo Bay or Geographic Bay. Whatever you’re hoping for, there’s a flight time and bear tour that will work with your itinerary, from day trips to multiday stays.

GLACIER LANDINGS WITH DOGSLEDDING

As if flying around the state isn’t exciting enough, imagine taking a pit stop on one of Alaska’s grand and glamourous glaciers. Then, after landing, meeting a team of sweet sled dogs and their musher, and hopping into their sled basket or grabbing the sled handle for a cruise around the glacier. That’s a lot of iconic action in one trip, and there are many opportunities to make it happen.

Knik Glacier in the Chugach Mountains is among the most popular and convenient places to do it all. It’s a short drive from Anchorage to the Mat-Su, where most passengers take off in a helicopter for the full flight-and-dog experience.

Similar trips to different glaciers are available across the state, from Skagway and Juneau in Southeast Alaska, to the skiing hamlet of Girdwood an hour south of Anchorage, to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. Each route has its own take on the trip, but the one constant is that you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty, the magnitude of the glaciers and the speed (and cuteness) of the dogs.

WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the nation’s largest national park at 13 million acres, and it’s home to 14 of North America’s 20 tallest peaks. For mountain lovers or those looking for a dramatic landscape, this is the trip for you. On and around the mountains, you’ll see glaciers and raging rivers and maybe even some park wildlife (bears, caribou, migratory birds and sheep, of course), as well as remnants of the area’s copper-mining past.

KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK

While the area around Seward is best known for its boat trips to see glaciers and marine wildlife, a flightseeing tour of the area covers more mileage and fjord fun. The area is jam-packed with glaciers, including the incredible Harding Icefield, which you really have to see to appreciate.

“Flightseeing is one of the best ways to get a sense of the vastness of the Harding Icefield. Soaring over this expanse of ice broken only by isolated mountain peaks, or nunataks, is like traveling back, over 12,000 years ago, to the Pleistocene,” the National Park Service writes on their site. Some outfitters even land on the ice field. And be ready to also see the famous fjords’ wildlife, coves and more.

COLUMBIA GLACIER

The Valdez area is a backcountry haven for skiers and snowboarders, with its steep peaks and deep snow coverage. It’s also visually epic for visitors, who will see those mountains, as well as impressive waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife and pretty Prince William Sound. The sound’s Columbia tidewater glacier is the top attraction for flightseers, complete with glacier overflights or landings and exploration on the glacier.

JUNEAU

Alaska’s capital city is a scenic gem. Several companies offer helicopter tours that fly around or land on a certain glacier (Mendenhall, Taku, Norris and Herbert Glacier) for different adventures, including dogsledding, rafting and glacier exploring. This is also a unique flightseeing trip that gives you some Southeast sights like a view of cute Juneau, the Tongass National Forest, the Mount Roberts Tramway, the cruise ship port and more.

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DISCOVER GLACIERS, PEAKS AND MINES INSIDE WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK

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 difficult not to talk about the area in superlatives, because that 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, fishing and camping to rafting, 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 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

A guides leads a tour of the Kennecott mill at the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark.
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gorge. The 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 offers biweekly flights from Anchorage to Glennallen and Glennallen and May Creek to McCarthy. Wrangell Mountain Air does three daily flights from Chitina into the park.

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. Then, in 1998, 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. The tour is worth it for the glaciers and mountain view from the top floors and the opportunity to check out the massive, nearly 100-year-old machinery. There’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 wagonred 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 & Outfitters and St. Elias Alpine Guides offer hiking, ice climbing, packrafting and multiday trips through the spruce forests, alpine tundra, glacier fields and canyons of the park.

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SEEING SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA BY KAYAK, RAFT, PADDLEBOARD OR GLACIER CRUISE

For many people, being near or out on water is at once deeply soothing and thrilling. If that’s true for you, Southcentral Alaska has world-class water adventure opportunities for every ability level.

UP CLOSE WITH THE GLACIERS

Picture an ice slab the size of a house cleaving in slow motion from a massive blue and white glacier, sending up sparkling spray as it slips into the water beneath. You’re witnessing this in real time from a boat, at a safe distance but still close enough to hear.

While seeing a glacial calving event isn’t guaranteed, getting a firsthand look at a glacier is reliably awesome. Bonus: You don’t need a perfect sunny day to get the best views. The beautiful glacial blues are actually more prominent when it’s overcast.

Several outfits offer boat tours less than a day’s drive from Anchorage.

If you’re based in Anchorage and have limited time, check out the M/V Ptarmigan to Portage Glacier. Only an hour’s drive from Anchorage, you’ll spend about an hour on Portage Lake cruising right up to the face of the ice. Tickets run $49 per adult and $29 per child.

For those with more time, the 26 Glacier Tour run by Phillips Cruises & Tours says it all in the name. The nearly six-hour, narrated cruise covers 150 miles of Prince William Sound, and includes breathtaking views across College Fjord and Blackstone Bay. Tickets are $189 per adult, $125 per child, and include a meal.

WILDLIFE VIEWING

Alaska isn’t just about pretty, old ice: You’re here to see the incredibly diverse and often charismatic wildlife! Whales, sea otters, puffins and Steller sea lions abound. Many day cruise operators focus on wildlife viewing (and you’ll likely get some glaciers in there too).

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Major Marine Tours, based in Seward, cruises to Kenai Fjords National Park, where the whale-watching is world class — but then, like so much in Alaska, so is the rest. Running from $109 for an adult/$54 per child for an early spring tour, to an 8.5-hour cruise at $289 per adult, there’s an array of day tours to choose from, including private charters.

Also based in Seward, Kenai Fjords Tours ventures into Resurrection Bay and beyond, offering options for different interests and food on every tour. Choose between a wildlife vs. glacier emphasis, or calmer water tours for those with concerns. Pricing ranges from $50 per person in the early season to $238 for a full day tour.

Want to get really close to the action? Little compares to paddling at eye-level in calm blue saltwater near a wild and forested shore, watching shorebirds wheel overhead, spotting eagles on their perch, and seeing otters floating on their backs nearby. Homer provides

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Recreators negotiate Portage Creek on stand-up paddleboards in the Chugach National Forest.
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a stunning starting point for outfitters such as True North Kayak Adventures, which runs kayak trips in gorgeous Kachemak Bay in the $150-perperson range.

Finally, while you’re out on the water, why not catch some dinner? There are myriad salmon and halibut fishing charter options in both Seward and Homer, and easy pack/flashfreeze/ship outfitters back on land to get your catch conveniently and safely processed. Check out Alaska Northern Outfitters in Seward and Homer Charter Fishing in Homer as starting points. Trips run roughly $400 per person.

RIVER RAFTING

Your view of Alaska is going to change the closer you are to the water. Guided rafting trips provide a family-friendly experience with more of an adventurous edge than cruises, yet still appropriate for a wide range of mobility levels.

If you choose a guided rafting tour on the fabled Kenai Peninsula, you’ll experience an otherworldly green-blue river moving your raft along surprisingly swiftly as you scan the shoreline for bears feeding on fish. This region is teeming with life. One outfitter is Alaska River Adventures, offering half- and full-day float trips beginning at $64 per adult and $29.50 for kids.

For those looking for adventure, NOVA tours based in the Matanuska Valley offer a glimpse of a more rugged, exposed, grand Alaska that makes you feel like you truly are as far north as you traveled. The light hits differently up there across an expanse of glacially fed river and jagged mountain peaks. Their Matanuska River overnight tour is customizable for different experience levels, and starts at $550 per adult and $350 per child. Up for a spicier ride? Try a guided trip with Chugach Outdoor Center or NOVA to Sixmile Creek, near Hope.

This fabled local whitewater destination is considered intermediate to advanced and not for the faint of heart (or for those who can’t swim). Choose between a Class IV, two-canyon itinerary, or three canyons including IV and V rapids, $139-$215.

Another option for experienced and intrepid explorers is the versatile and increasingly popular packrafting. For the uninitiated, packrafts are highly portable personal inflatables designed to compress into a backpack, enabling you to flex your backpacking skills while accessing more remote, wild water. You get to hike in and paddle out! Alaska Packraft School guides an overnight packraft trip through fabled Crow Pass, which includes 15 miles of hiking and 8 miles of rafting on Eagle River, for $600.

LAKES OF THE GREAT LAND

Alaska has over 3 million lakes, and some beautiful ones are only a stone’s throw from Anchorage.

Eklutna Lake sits 12 winding road miles away from the Glenn Highway. It’s tucked back into the Chugach Mountains but, at 7 miles long, is the largest lake in the region. On a clear day, it glows an ethereal blue-green. Lifetime Adventures at the lake’s edge provides day-rental kayaks starting at $50 per rental.

Craving even more adventure and an “only in Alaska” experience? Hardy travelers can try paddleboarding on an icy blue glacial lake at Knik Glacier with Alaska Sundog Guiding, for $999 per person.

The options for witnessing Southcentral Alaska from its many waterways are as numerous as there are bodies of water. You could spend a lifetime trying to see every one. Instead, why not pick one or two out of the best the region has to offer, and enjoy yourself fully while you’re there? It’s as sure of a bet you can make on creating an unforgettable life experience.

The toe of the tidewater Surprise Glacier in Prince William Sound.
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It’s no secret that hiking opportunities in Alaska are world-class. But while the state is geographically massive, it doesn’t mean all the good stuff 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 difficulty, that epitomize the beauty and majesty of Alaska, all within a 30-minute drive of downtown.

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 final 1,280 over the course of a mile and a half. The 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 round-trip; runs May 24 to Sept. 8, 12:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 907-279-3334). It departs from downtown and arrives at the Glen Alps Trailhead within 45 minutes.

The 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. The 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 coffee 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 final 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 off 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 payoff 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 first half cuts through brush as it runs parallel to the Flattop ridgeline before emerging into an open valley for the final 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!

FROM 3-HOUR JAUNTS TO OVERNIGHT ADVENTURES, HERE ARE SOME GREAT HIKES NEAR ANCHORAGE VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 17 Special Tours,AnimalEncounters andMemberships Available Downtown Seward,Alaska www.alaskasealife.org Seward, Alaska scan TICKETS me BUYTICKET S INADVANCE FOR LOWER RATES A uniqueopportunityto getupclose to the rare animalsthat live in Alaska’swaters

EAGLE AND SYMPHONY LAKES: Just northeast of Anchorage near Eagle River, this 12-mile round-trip hike is outrageously photogenic from start to finish. 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 field that you really need to watch your step (this part can be challenging for small kids and dogs). But the finale, 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 effort worth it.

FULL DAY OR 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 field” (also called the “ballfield”) for a workout that’ll make your legs burn but offers the most awe-inspiring views of the valley. Whichever way you choose, you’ll almost certainly see moose or Dall sheep.

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. The 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 swift), 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 trafficked as others in the Chugach. Make sure to arrange for transport back to town from the end of the trail in Eagle River, though: The hike back to Girdwood is uphill.

HIKES
Racers in the Crow Pass Crossing make their way over the 3,500-foot pass and begin their descent down Raven Creek valley toward Eagle River.
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AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE

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.

GETTING THERE

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 — after 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, a passenger van company that can transport up to 16 passengers. They 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, one option is The Park Connection, where travelers can either book tickets from Anchorage or Seward. Another is the Alaska Shuttle, which runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks, allowing passengers to get out at any point along the journey and rejoin via a later bus.

TRAIN: Taking the train (the Alaska Railroad turns 101 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 dome cars with sweeping views of the mountains and valleys along the way. The 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.

GETTING AROUND

The 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 first 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 flexible bus tour that allows you to get off and on and explore on your own, or you can take a narrated bus tour with a driver who crafts an itinerary for you. There are also courtesy buses that serve the portion of the park road that is publicly drivable, which includes stops at the sled dog kennel and Visitors Center.

For summer 2024, the road will only be open to Mile 43 due to rock slides (the road is expected to reopen in 2026). Be sure to check the National Park Service site for updates.

‘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 out only 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 first chances of spotting it, the latter spot having a pullout and interpretive waysides with information about the cliff. There are many other spots along the road that allow for peeks of the peak. While the most iconic view of Denali is at Reflection Pond, near Mile 85, the road to that view is closed in 2024, unless you’re staying at one of the fly-in-only accommodations in Kantishna.

FOR SURE OPEN IN 2024

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 different duties: educating tourists, posing for pictures and getting belly rubs. Their kennel is free to visit, and their handlers are available to chat about what goes into making a sled dog. (Bonus: There’s usually a litter of puppies there training to become full-fledged sled dogs.)

DENALI NATIONAL PARK VISITORS CENTER: If you come in by train, the visitors center will be one of the first 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. There 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 half-mile stretch of road near the park entrance. Activities range from ATV rides and ziplining near the park to rafting down the Nenana River

A visit to Denali National Park includes the drama of nature taken to new heights.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 19
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN

or flightseeing around the mountain. Shop around to find an itinerary that matches your interest and budget.

WONDER LAKE: This 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. However, because it’s located at Mile 85 of the Denali Park Road, it’s only accessible to those staying in Kantishna this season.

REOPENING IN 2026

The National Park Service has announced that the road will remain closed at Mile 43 through the 2026 season. If you’re planning ahead for a later summer, however, you can add Eielson Visitor Center to your list. Located at Mile 66, you can reach the Eielson Visitor Center by shuttle. On a clear day, the views of Denali are stunning. Three maintained trails spider out from the center, though hikers are welcome to go off path.

Inside the center is also a small art gallery with works depicting the wilderness of Denali.

WHERE TO STAY

There are four campgrounds in Denali National Park that will be accessible in 2024: Riley Creek (at the park entrance), Savage River (13 miles in), Sanctuary River (23 miles) and Teklanika River (29 miles).

The 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.

There 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. During the 2024 season, these accommodations are fly-in only.

Outside the park, your options vary widely. Crow’s Nest is made up of terraced rows of cozy cabins tucked up on a hillside, offering 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 National Park on a fall day.
20 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
FROM

TINY CRITTERS TO BIG BEARS, HERE’S HOW TO SEE ALASKA’S FAMOUS ANIMALS SAFELY

The 49th state is home to an astounding variety of wildlife: Some species are present at the highest density anywhere in the world. These animals have the power to captivate locals and visitors alike; you’ll often 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 often show up where you’d least expect them — perusing a backyard garden, browsing shrubs in a store parking lot or enjoying the grass on the side of the highway. They’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 Alaska’s bear species, 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 through 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. Then there’s the Arctic-dwelling 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 traffic hazard. They’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

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
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 21

return from the sea to the waters where they were hatched. Their 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. There you can watch kings, coho and pink salmon charging upstream and eager anglers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, trying to fill their freezers. Kings start running in late May through July and cohos claim the river from August through mid-September.

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. An estimated 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 other kinds of whales in Alaska: belugas found in Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm; bowheads, which come close to North Slope villages during their migration; and orcas, found in the Glacier Bay area through to 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 after being orphaned. They’ve all found a lifelong home at the sanctuary, which is dedicated to animal care, conservation, research and education. The center has over 200 acres of habitat for the animals — including moose, wood bison, deer, elk, birds of prey, coyotes and reindeer. (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): The only coldwater marine science facility in the Western Hemisphere, the SeaLife Center is where to go if you want to see Steller sea lions, seals, puffins and other coastal birds, salmon, octopus, crabs, starfish and sea urchins. A big part of the center’s mission is rehabilitating injured or abandoned animals from across 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): The 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. The fibers, called qiviut, are said to be softer than cashmere and warmer than wool when spun into yarn, which you can purchase in the farm’s gift 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: These same reindeer participate in the 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): This research station is mostly devoted to studying musk oxen — which gives students at the nearby University of Alaska Fairbanks experience maintaining colonies of large animals — but reindeer and cattle 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)

WILDLIFE
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One of the namesake residents of the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer. PHOTO BY BILL ROTH

Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park overlooks Anchorage.

TIPS FOR TACKLING ALASKA’S WORLD-RENOWNED TRAILS

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.

GEAR

GOOD SHOES: If you’re doing a fairly flat 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 waterproofing 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 filter or purifying tablets to cleanse the water you find along the way. Clear flowing 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 gift 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 off the map) or pick one up at stores like Alaska Geographic and REI.

TRAIL ETIQUETTE

Consider these nature’s rules of the road.

DON’T CUT SWITCHBACKS: When done repeatedly in high-traffic 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: They’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. That 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, 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.

PHOTO BY MARC LESTER
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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 off 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 fight 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: “The Essentials for Traveling in Alaska’s Bear Country.” Regarding situations where you might have to fight 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 fight back. Concentrate on the bear’s face or muzzle with anything you have on hand.”

Bicyclists wait on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to pass by a bull moose that drew a crowd of onlookers as he grazed on fresh grass at Point Woronzof in West Anchorage.
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CASTING CALL: URBAN AND REMOTE ALASKA ARE WHERE FISHING DREAMS COME TRUE

Sensational silvers and killer kings. Trophy-worthy trout and fantastically finned grayling. Hearty halibut and rewarding reds. It’s a lineup of Alaska’s finest fishing action, and these spectacular species — and many more — are all within casting distance, driving distance and short-flight distance of Anchorage.

Yes, Alaska’s largest, busiest and most populated urban hub is also a sport fishing fantasy … and that isn’t a fishing tale. Even the most secretive fisherman brags about this fishery, 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 fisheries,” said Jay Baumer in a 2022 interview. Baumer is a sports fisheries manager biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who manages the Anchorage, Prince William Sound and North Gulf Coast regions. He added: “You can go fishing for a wide variety of species and have different 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 fishing just about anywhere in Anchorage,” Dan Bosch said in a 2018 interview. Bosch is a passionate fisherman, 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 fishing around. And the accessibility — it’s so easy. Right at your doorstep.”

For Anchorage visitors, that includes the doorsteps of local lodging. The community is covered in streams, creeks and lakes that are packed and stocked with tens of thousands of fun, fighting fish. And there are seemingly endless fishing options in areas around Southcentral Alaska.

Sportfishing is a year-round activity in Anchorage and Alaska, but the action surges in summer. From May to September, the fish counts are generally high, the midnight sun is warm and bright, and fishermen are giddy.

And after a tenuous 2023 fishing season that saw unprecedented restrictions and closures on sport and personal-use fishing of king salmon around the state’s Cook Inlet region, 2024 angling appears to be back to business as usual. And for fishermen in Alaska, that’s a big catch.

Where should you wet a line? Around Anchorage, practically anywhere there’s water, there are fish. Many of these fishing holes also offer 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 fishing holes is set in one of the city’s most popular hospitality hot spots — downtown. Ship Creek carves across Anchorage’s northern side, passing by the William Jack

Hernandez Hatchery before depositing downtown into picturesque Cook Inlet. It’s a fishing oasis on the edge of Anchorage’s cityscape. Its waters are home to regular runs of summer salmon — kings early in the season, silvers (coho) later — and its banks are usually bustling with fishermen.

“Right downtown you can fish for king salmon and coho salmon,” said Bosch, himself a Ship Creek regular who has worked and fished the Anchorage area for decades. “If you haven’t fished there before, just watch what everyone is doing, if they’re using eggs or spinners, and where they are setting up along the creek.”

In its 2023 Season Summary, Fish and Game noted that “King salmon fishing in Ship Creek was good,” and added that “an estimated 1,326 king salmon were counted in Ship Creek for viewing and natural reproduction below the hatchery.” Coho, or silver, salmon fishing was especially hot, as the area’s bag limit was increased to six in August.

OTHER URBAN HOT SPOTS

Ship Creek might be the most visible venue, but incredible fishing 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 jamming with an array of fish: from several freshwater and landlocked salmon species to Dolly Varden/ Arctic char and awesome Arctic grayling. Chester Creek runs through 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-off point for fishing 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 next-level groundfish and salmon fishing, drive south for an hour (Prince William Sound out of Whittier) or two (Resurrection Bay out of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula) or five (Kachemak Bay out of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula), or drive north for 30 minutes to two

Anglers fish during the Coho Rodeo Derby at Ship Creek in Anchorage.
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PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
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hours (Matanuska-Susitna Borough).

Some of Alaska’s — and the world’s — most exciting salmon fishing goes down on the Kenai Peninsula, a few hours’ drive south of Anchorage, where the Kenai, Russian, Anchor and Kasilof rivers flow flush with fish. This is action-packed angling for Alaska’s salmon species. It can also be combat fishing at its gnarliest. When the fish are running, anglers line the banks, practically shoulder to shoulder, while locals and guides motor boats up and down the rivers, homing in on hot spots. For most, that work is worth it when they land one of Alaska’s bright and hard-fighting salmon, creating photo-worthy onlyin-Alaska moments that can be social media profile shots for years.

The fishing is also sweet in port towns like Whittier, Seward and Homer, which are all beautiful drives south of Anchorage. You can cast from their banks for salmon, but improve the odds and options by jumping aboard charter boats to chase the big, 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 different kind of fish fight. Instead of running and splashing like salmon, these flat lunkers are more likely to turn into dead weight as you slowly reel them up from the dark ocean bottom. They sometimes freak when nearing the surface and daylight, but handy deckhands are ready with a net and/or a gaff to snatch the flopping fish.

The 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 fishing around Port Valdez and Prince William Sound is equally impressive.

Point your vehicle north from Anchorage and you’ll soon have aweinspiring Denali looming large in your windshield, guiding you toward the glacier-carved and fish-filled Matanuska-Susitna Borough. You’ll find exciting fishing all around the Mat-Su, some less than an hour from Anchorage, some a little farther. When the salmon are running, the region’s rivers are slamming with fish and fishermen, especially the Deshka River, Willow Creek, Susitna Rivers, 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 evening sun and the peace of Alaska’s outdoors.

OUTSIDE ANCHORAGE ACTION: FLYING FISHING

If you’ve come all the way to Alaska to chase fish, you might as well dial up the fun to a once-in-a-lifetime experience by booking a fly-in fishing adventure. From Anchorage, floatplanes, skilled pilots and savvy guides will get you to the fish in high-flying fashion.

You’ll typically take off in a floatplane from Anchorage’s Lake Hood, which buzzes with around-the-clock activity during Southcentral’s warm, bright summers. If you think the lake takeoff 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 fly commercial to great fishing towns like Kenai, Cordova, Ketchikan, Homer, Juneau, Valdez and more.)

What do you want to catch? A fighting 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, full-day and multiday trips are available. Want to go really big? Hook up with an outfit that will get you to a remote, fly-in lodge, where you can spend your days fishing until you can’t stop smiling, and your nights recovering like royalty in massive cabins or lodges. This is the ultimate in Alaska fishing experiences.

FISHING FACTOIDS

Overwhelmed by the options? Too excited to think clearly? Contact Fish and Game in person, on their Sport Fish Information Center phone line (907-267-2218) or online (adfg.license@alaska.gov or the

Fishing section of adfg.alaska.gov) for questions about fishing, licenses, regulations or anything else Anchorage or Alaska fishing related. Fish and Game’s We Fish AK and Go Fish AK sport fishing websites are especially helpful and informative for ambitious anglers and families looking for fishing fun.

Fish and Game now has a smartphone mobile app that provides information about licenses, permits, tags and regulations, allows fishermen to record their catches, and even has a sport fish species identifier. It’s available for free download at popular app stores.

The Sport Fish Information Center (333 Raspberry Road) provides up-to-date information on all the fisheries. You can even borrow fishing gear! There are also area fishing blogs and message boards, and friendly fishermen 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 fishermen (residents 18 or older and nonresidents age 16 or older) must carry: a sport fishing license. Nonresidents have many sport fishing license options, from one day ($15) to a week ($45) to 14-day ($75) to annual ($100), and other 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 a year, with 3-, 7- and 14-day stamps also available. For residents, there are numerous license options, including special rates for military, low income, senior citizens, disabled and elderly, so do your research. Savvy shoppers will note that these are great deals, as many license prices dropped from prior seasons following a dip in sales during the pandemic.

NOTE: You might hear about and see Alaskans dipnetting for salmon to fill their freezers. Yes, it can be an awesome and fruitful fishing experience, but only Alaska residents are legally allowed to do it.

FISHING VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 27

FISHING

Alaska sport fishing licenses are available at most sporting goods shops, and even grocery and convenience stores, and online, of course. It’s also a fisherman’s responsibility to know regulations, which are easily available in print in most places you can buy fishing licenses or gear, and online. Bosch said the key to figuring it out is to read the general regulations for each region (example: the Anchorage area), then look for site-specific regulations for streams (example: Ship Creek). In other words, know where you are fishing and what you are fishing for. Oh, and always be bear aware — clean your fish and dispose of fish waste responsibly.

If you’re plotting a chartered or guided fishing experience, whether by road, boat or plane, shop around. Most reputable charter companies have years of experience, tout their safety and fun, and are easy to study up on via their websites and social media. Find a perfect fishing fit by being specific about what you want to catch, how long you want to fish, and how much you want to spend.

One charter fishing bonus: It often comes with sightseeing in some of Alaska’s most incredible landscapes and wildlife, including water wonders like whales, orcas, porpoises and countless seabirds. Charter fishing out of Seward is practically overwhelming with the natural and wild wonders of Kenai Fjords National Park.

And don’t forget the bevy of fishing derbies that take place all summer in regions across Alaska. Catching a trophy fish in Alaska is memory making; neglecting to buy a derby ticket and then landing a potentially winning fish is bittersweet, if not heartbreaking.

Baumer recommended that visitors and residents alike spend time on the sport fishing section of Fish and Game’s website — adfg. alaska.gov — for updates on everything from hot fishing spots to places to borrow, rent or buy gear.

“Nothing really different or changed over the past seasons, but it is always good to remind people to check for most recent regulations and emergency orders, which are all posted online,” he said, noting the recent COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on tourism and fishing around Alaska, which began a big rebound in 2021. “From the old-time fisherman or someone going for the first time, it’s always good to refresh your memory on that.

“And we’re always here to help with questions, whether they’re planning their trip or there’s a specific detail they’ve got a question about,” he added. “And we’re ready to get people here to go fishing. You can come up and fish, be careful and, like always, do it safely.”

Fish on!

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A GUIDE TO CANNABIS IN ALASKA,

WHETHER YOU’RE AN OLD HAND OR SEEKING

UNIQUE LOCAL OFFERINGS

So, you’re visiting Alaska and wondering about weed.

You’ve come to the right place for a short introduction to the 49th state’s unique legal cannabis industry.

We’ll go over where you can find 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 offering during your vacation, pot shops in Alaska are likely to have whatever you’re looking for.

THE BASICS

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. That includes tourists, as long as you can provide a valid government ID. Cannabis is regulated more or less like alcohol, so if you’re wondering whether something is legal or not, ask yourself: “Would I get in trouble doing this with an open beer or spiked seltzer in my hand?”

The big caveat is that Alaska has almost no equivalent to bars or restaurants 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.

This 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 like an Airbnb or lodge, check the rules or with your host. As with alcohol, it technically remains unlawful to

consume in public parks and greenbelts.

This all gets especially confusing given that federally governed entities like planes, marine ferries and national parks within Alaska still have full prohibitions on cannabis.

WHERE TO BUY

Most cities and towns in Alaska have cannabis retail shops, and they are rarely hard to locate. The 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 finding a number of reputable, high-quality retailers. Even smaller towns that tend to see lots of summer tourists and cruiseship passengers have multiple well-stocked businesses with a full range of products.

This is not the case in small, rural, primarily Indigenous communities, some of which have bans on cannabis commerce as they do with alcohol. Most of those remote towns and villages do not have pot shops, and may explicitly prohibit bringing such substances in.

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. They also deal primarily in cash, though businesses will typically have an ATM on site for withdrawals.

Once inside, “budtenders” are there to help you find what you need, and they’re generally exceptionally well versed in the attributes of the products on hand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The industry is still relatively new, and staff, especially budtenders, are accustomed to helping customers find what they’re 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.

Budtenders at cannabis retail shops around the state are a resource for information about local marijuana varieties. PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
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WHAT TO BUY

Owing to a number of factors, Alaska has a unique cannabis industry relative to other states that have legalized recreational use. Though 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 financed conglomerates that have begun to dominate in the Lower 48. At least so far.

The cannabis scene here is creative, collegial and comprehensive. You’ll find most of the same products you’d encounter in bigger, more sophisticated markets. The catch, though, is that the range of options, particularly for more cutting-edge and highly refined products, is narrower.

And a bit more costly. Everything is more expensive in Alaska, from energy costs to cultivation equipment to labor, and that’s reflected at the point of sale. Businesses work hard to keep costs low for consumers, but you’re still likely to find products a bit pricier than if you were buying them in Oregon or Washington, for example.

Bud flower remains the most popular product in retail shops across the state, with plenty of strains to choose from. Alaskan customers have tended to prefer higher THC strains, which are generally what’s most prevalent at product counters.

There 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 fireweed 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 specific edible product in mind, so check the menu online or look up an edible manufacturer’s website and see where they sell their products. Better to

go in with an open mind than a shopping list, basically.

As far as more avant-garde concentrate products go, from THC cartridges to sugar wax to live rosin offerings, Alaska lags a little behind what’s happening in major markets. Again, it’s best to query a particular store or company in advance if you have a specific product you’re intent on purchasing.

Whatever your level of interest in cannabis, spending a little cash while you’re visiting (even if it’s just on a shop T-shirt or hat) supports local businesses and chips in a bit of tax money to our state and local budgets, which are things to generally feel good about.

And lastly: Always, always tip your budtenders.

CANNABIS
Like most commodities, you’re likely to find that familiar cannabis products are a bit pricier in Alaska than in the Lower 48.
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Ilike to explore a new place fork first. A destination’s culinary landscape is often as interesting as its topographical one. And Alaska is no different. If you want to break the ice with a local, ask them about their favorite pizza. Or burger. Or bowl of pho. You’ll definitely 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-to-noodle soup ratios at oldschool 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 fixes for decades. Landlubbers, quit reading here.

For most visitors to Alaska, fork-first travel means seafood. Fish is at the top of our gourmet (and recreational) food chain. Many residents love to fish, 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 finagle a dinner invitation from a wellstocked local, never fear. The 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.

SPECTACULAR SALMON

Salmon, in Alaska, is both a luxury and a staple. Flaky, fatty (the

Altura Bistro chef and owner Nathan Bentley pours bone marrow dashi tableside for a black cod dish served with ginger-nori butter, pork dumplings, bok choy and fresno chili. Bentley is a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist. PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
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good kind of fat) and full-flavored, salmon stands up to a wide range of preparations, including the smokiness and heat of an open flame. There are five salmon species found in Alaska, but the king variety is, well, king.

If you 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 “Sleeping Lady”). At the Crow’s Nest atop the elegant Hotel Captain Cook, it might be served with forbidden rice and wild mushrooms with a saffron beurre blanc. Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill offers sweeping views of the mountains of the Alaska Range as well as a full range of Alaska’s finest seafood — black cod, halibut and both sockeye and king varieties of salmon prepared your way, whether that’s grilled, baked, pan-seared or blackened.

For similarly beautiful views with a more relaxed vibe, check out 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 fishermen, 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 classic European plating, the chefs at Southside Bistro serve king salmon simply with a tomato-olive-caper vinaigrette. At Jens’ Restaurant, it’s served over Nicoise-style potatoes simmered with olives, roasted garlic, tomatoes and Pernod, with chopped eggs and a charred lemon.

Or you can get your seafood fix at the most important meal of the day by hitting up Snow City Cafe for a Ship Creek Benedict made with smoked salmon cakes. This laid-back local favorite also offers a fantastic salmon BLT and a snow crab Benedict (Oscar style). When it comes to breakfast in Alaska, it’s go big or go home.

HEAVENLY HALIBUT

Considering the size of this behemoth catch (some exceed 400 pounds), Alaska halibut is prized for its delicate, buttery flavor. Its name derivation comes from half (holy) and butte (flat fish), and a beautifully prepared fillet can indeed be a spiritual experience. Its immaculate white flesh, firm textured and clean tasting, lends itself to a wide variety of flavor profiles.

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 fillet at Glacier Brewhouse is coated with basil pesto and spent-grain breadcrumbs and will pair nicely with one of their housemade beers.

Tent City Taphouse offers a halibut Olympia with braised fennel, lemon crème fraiche and a smoked lemon pan jus, but it also has a more casual fish and chips preparation with traditional mushy peas and a less traditional gluten-free batter and their own raspberry and blackberry tartar sauce.

The always-inventive Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar serves halibut pan-roasted with an edamame and wakame mash, baby bok choy, miso cream and a house xo sauce, for a Japanese take on your fish. In Midtown, the refined but relaxed Kinley’s Restaurant also offers 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 everpopular halibut tacos that many 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 fish tacos with either halibut or salmon. The White Spot Cafe, established in 1946, is an old-school 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 fixings and one of the best onion rings in town. Their 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 flavor 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. The Crow’s Nest, 49th State Brewing Co., Simon & Seafort’s and Tent City Taphouse all offer 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.

DINING IN ANCHORAGE
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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, crawfish, 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 offering 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. While you’re there, do not — I repeat, do not — pass up a bowl of their sweet prawn bisque.

SCALLOPS

A fine-dining destination with low-key charm is The Marx Bros. Cafe, located in a diminutive, freestanding, historic house on Third 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-truffle velouté, roasted morel mushrooms, Perigord truffle and house-made pasta. Marx Bros. also boasts one of the best wine cellars in the state and will be happy to help you find 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 finished with truffle oil and fresh basil. This is not your grandma’s mac and cheese.

after my family has stuffed 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. They’re that good.

If you aren’t lucky enough to be in town during the Alaska State Fair, you’ll just have to suck it up (so to speak) and get your fix 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 yuzu plum wine foam and micro shiso 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.

That said, the cold saltwater of Alaska’s coast produce the most delicious oysters in the world — plump, sweet and briny — so after 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.

Jens’, a longstanding white-tablecloth favorite, serves sophisticated versions of Alaska’s finest, including grilled Kodiak scallops with citrus and pistachio quinoa, whipped feta and a sugar snap pea and red bell pepper salad.

OUT-OF-THE-ORDINARY OYSTERS

As my family will tell you, I love oysters. Every year, I dutifully bring my family to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. 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 finest while watching the pros shuck the next plateful. At the end of the day,

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DINING IN ANCHORAGE
King crab legs and bluecheese-stuffed filet at Club Paris in downtown Anchorage.
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EXPLORE DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE’S ABUNDANCE OF RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, MUSEUMS AND NIGHTLIFE

Anchorage’s downtown has many enjoyable experiences to offer, and it’s conveniently compact and centralized for visitors to explore on foot.

Of the roughly 732,673 people who live in Alaska, nearly 288,121 people call Anchorage home. While town proper sprawls across 1,706 square miles, Anchorage’s downtown is neatly compressed and easy to navigate. It’s the oldest developed part of the city and its sensible street grids render it pleasantly walkable for tourists lodging downtown or with an Anchorage stop in their itineraries.

Start your urban adventure at the central Log Cabin Visitor Information Center at the corner of F Street and Fourth Avenue. Staffed year-round by well-versed hosts, the center offers loads of information about the city’s history, general visitor guides and access to out-of-town excursions and city tours.

For the historically curious, pay attention while roaming downtown streets; interpretive signs dot the sidewalks and share photos and stories of Anchorage’s earliest days, pointing out important landmarks and significant buildings.

While the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake destroyed many of Anchorage’s older buildings, significant historic structures remain. Next to the visitor center sits the two-story cast concrete Historic City

Flowers around the Visitor Information Center at Fourth Avenue and F Street in Anchorage are tended to by city gardeners. PHOTO BY FRAN DURNER
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Hall, which first opened in 1936. Its lawn is often fronted by summer vendors selling everpopular reindeer hot dogs and sometimes hosts free outdoor public concerts.

Nearby, a handful of charming circa-1915 cottages on Third 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.

The circa-1915 Oscar Anderson House Museum today is surrounded by a charming park, a quiet corner of downtown where kids can burn off some energy. The house, which in past summers opened to tourists, was donated by Anderson’s widow in 1976. It was closed in summer 2023 for renovations and repairs. Updates to its accessibility will be shared on the museum’s website.

Other downtown stops for the historically curious include the Anchorage Museum, 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.

The Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery was established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson. Just south of Sixth Avenue and west of Cordova Street, it’s the final resting place for some of Anchorage’s most significant pioneers and historical figures, including Alaska Native leaders, politicians and artists. The 22-acre cemetery covers a nine-block area and offers contemplative space for walking along its footpaths.

Downtown’s shopping helps pass the time, too. The Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall has lost many retailers in recent years, though it still has local and chain stores of interest, such as Sephora, Bath and Body Works, Lush, Canada Goose, Eddie Bauer and JCPenney. A food court offers affordable daytime dining options.

For authentic Alaska treasures, wander downtown’s streets. Tourist shops sell reasonably priced T-shirts, hats and other trinkets. More valuable and individualized Alaska mementos like crafted jewelry, fur items, ivory figurines, pottery and Alaska Native art are sold at higher-end boutiques.

Sevigny Studio sells locally crafted jewelry, pottery and artwork, including originals and prints by its namesake Katie Sevigny. The Kobuk is a charming shop selling locally made collectibles and global crafts, foreign foods, gourmet candies and a wide range of tea.

ANCHORAGE DINING AND NIGHTLIFE

Anchorage’s nightlife options span dives, cocktail bars and beer-forward pubs. During

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our long-lit summer days, score a patio or deck seat to soak in the novelty of late-day sunshine and gorgeous views.

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. The 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, featuring a laid-back urban vibe.

Across the street, Williwaw Social boasts a rooftop bar that opens on nice summer days and is unparalleled for views of Anchorage’s Town Square Park. A second open-air option is 49th State Brewing Co. Its deck overlooks Cook Inlet, and you can even glimpse the tiptop of Denali during favorably clear conditions.

For a fancier evening, several fine-dining restaurants downtown have clever craft cocktail creations and extensive wine selections.

Ginger serves Pacific Rim-influenced cuisine with a modern, warm aesthetic and a chic bar. Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar features wine flights from an impressive cellar presented by knowledgeable staff, alongside shareable small plates and seasonally sourced entrees.

For unexpectedly great Cajun cooking, check out Gumbo House Now located on Sixth Avenue, the nearly 20-year-old restaurant features jambalaya, po’boys, gumbo and a full bar. Live music is performed some nights as well.

For a fantastic view, visit Simon & Seafort’s, and enjoy craft cocktails and Alaska seafood while staring out across pretty Cook Inlet with mountain Sleeping Lady in the distance. A second option is found on the top floor of the Hotel Captain Cook at the Crow’s Nest The venerable fine dining restaurant also has a bar area, with fantastic cocktails and a deep wine list.

For a laid-back dive-bar experience, mingle with friendly locals at

Darwin’s Theory or Pioneer Bar. Both share commonalities: long legacies, personable bartenders, and affordable drinks and Alaskabrewed beers and ciders.

Mad Myrna’s 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 high-energy vibe and a long tradition of inclusive entertainment in the Last Frontier. It’s also a sleeper hit on the foodie scene with some truly delicious menu items.

DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE
Darwin’s Theory owner Darwin Biwer Jr. puts on his coat to leave the downtown bar.
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PHOTO BY MARC LESTER

FROM SIMPLE TO ELABORATE BREWS, ANCHORAGE’S COFFEE CULTURE HAS ROOM FOR ALL TASTES

Even the hardiest Alaskans need a coping mechanism or two to help them through the long winter: 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 coffee? One thing most Alaskans rely on is year-round coffee-therapy.

A hot, frothy cappuccino sipped in a cozy cafe can be the perfect cure for the low-winter-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 coffee carts. Sip smugly in your warm car.

Caffeinated pick-me-ups are no less valuable in summer, when Alaskans are burning the candle at both ends. After all, if the sun never goes down, is it ever really bedtime?

Which is why Alaska’s coffee roasters are household names to the locals. There’s Kaladi Brothers, which grew from a lone espresso cart in 1984 to a burgeoning business with cafes around the state. There is SteamDot Coffee Co., whose Midtown cafe features a “slow bar” with a rotating menu of origin coffees, where your coffee is ground and brewed fresh to order. Or try “The Lab,” which they describe as the mothership of their operation. Here you can enjoy your favorite hand-crafted 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 Coffee — they serve a full menu of espresso drinks but their motto, as their name implies, is: “Extraordinary coffee best served black.” Undecided? Head over to Sip Coffee Lounge, where you can order a rotating flight of coffees featuring both Kaladi Brothers and Black Cup brews. The flight as of this writing is chocolate con panna with strawberry whip,

white chocolate raspberry mocha and a coconut cream latte. (Sip is also known to do other unusual flights — pickle and beer flight, anyone?)

It’s a friendly battle of the beans. Everyone has their favorite, but each of these coffee purveyors enjoys a well-earned popularity. But coffee can be as much about cafe culture as it is about beans. A good coffeehouse is part community center, part extended office, 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.

That Feeling Co. (logo: “Plants, Coffee, and All the Feels), located in Midtown and downtown, is an eclectic houseplant, gift and coffee shop. The downtown location shares its space with Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop and Johnny’s Produce, making this a one-stop shopping, can’t-miss experience, and a shrine to the Alaska hygge lifestyle. Fire Island makes some of the best breads, pastries, sandwiches and cookies in town, and we all know that pastries get lonely without a cup of coffee

A barista prepares a latte at Black Cup in Midtown Anchorage.
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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 afternoon of mochas and croissants carrying a bag of local carrots, you can say you’ve been “doing errands.”

Another cozy spot is Moose A’La Mode, featuring expertly made coffee drinks, fantastic hot dogs (really!), lunch specials and some of the best cupcakes in town — inventive flavors include s’mores, blueberry lemonade and cinnamon toast crunch. Another spot that specializes in sweet treats and brew is Gelatte (located downtown and at 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 affogato, if you want a grown-up sip that pleases your inner child. Another local favorite is Dark Horse Coffee, a cozy, slightly out-of-the-way spot with a reputation for great coffee, avocado toast and warm welcomes. Bonus points for their inviting little porch, where you can sit and sip on sunny days. One of the newer entries on the list is Kaffee Klatsch, an artisanal German-style pastry and coffee shop with top-notch European pastries.

Kobuk Coffee, in the historic Kimball Building by Town Square Park, is a charming little gift shop that retains some of its original fixtures and flooring. 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 coffee room without doing some impromptu browsing (and, if you’re like me, buying). Kobuk offers 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.

The Cubby, the spacious and comfortable coffee shop in Anchorage’s most elegant hotel, the Captain Cook, serves delicious Kaladi Brothers coffee 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 coffee spots, they now offer wine and beer if you’re needing a different kind of pick-me-up.

If you require an American breakfast alongside your Americano, Kaladi Brothers coffee is served up at the friendly Snow City Cafe A favorite with locals, this funky, vibrant spot features rotating local art, an impressive variety of eggs Benedict and well-crafted espresso drinks. I’m particularly partial to their use of tall, sleeved pint glasses to serve large lattes and mochas. Hot drinks taste better served this way. It’s just science.

Originale is an authentic Italian deli downtown that serves a variety of traditional specialty Italian coffee drinks. And if you can resist their incredible sandwiches stuffed with imported Italian salumi — like my favorite, the “Don Quixote” with ham, homemade garlic mousse and manchego cheese — then I bow to your superior willpower. You can also purchase vacuum-sealed sandwiches that are perfect for road trips, camping, or your plane ride home. Picking up your morning coffee and your afternoon lunch in one stop is a delicious way to multitask.

For a unique coffeehouse experience with a bohemian vibe, hit up Spenard Joe’s (motto: Not Your Average Joe) for some of the most unique coffee 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.

In East Anchorage, Cafecito Bonito is a warm, community-spirited coffee spot that serves espresso drinks with a Latin flair. Try a Spanish latte with sweetened condensed milk, a cafe de Olla featuring piloncillo (unrefined sugar, which lends a caramel flavor to drinks), or horchata, which features rice milk and cinnamon. They also host popular and unique events like drag loteria and brunches. The baked goods are

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unique and delicious, such as scones with flavors like strawberry basil, maple bacon and lavender.

If you’re looking to head south and fuel up for out-of-town adventures, or you just feel like a quick jaunt on one of the most beautiful stretches of road in America, head to Indian, Alaska, for a coffee and a bite at Birch and Alder. Their specialty drinks are crafted with house-made syrups and their brunch menu is made with undiluted love (don’t miss The Bagel Experience). As of this writing, their dining room is not yet open for service, but the view of Turnagain Arm as you eat and sip will make your car the best seat in town.

One of the best places to soak up local color and read up on local lore is The Writer’s Block, a cozy book shop with an excellent cafe featuring local coffee, beer and wine and an eclectic food menu (I’m partial to the currydusted pelmeni).

The 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 named Adult Book Store) into a welcome and inclusive cultural hub. With comforting food, expertly concocted 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.

The cafe took a hit in the 2018 earthquake. Glasses shattered, books scattered and a heavy filing cabinet took a dive. But when the doors opened that morning, they were not the only ones who got to work. “Our first customers walked in and asked for brooms,” recalls Vered Mares, one of the bookstore’s founders. “They said, ‘We’ll sweep up. You make the coffee.’”

It’s a reminder that a cup of coffee can invigorate, but a cafe can inspire.

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Toenjoy Anchorage life like a local, look to the city’s longstanding and lengthy trail system. This awardwinning network of woodsy paths, lakeside trails and coastal routes connects Anchorage’s various neighborhoods and takes sightseers to epic lookouts.

The trail system encompasses 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. These trails help connect 11,000 acres of parkland, 226 parks and 86 playgrounds.

Many trails are multiuse, available for walking, jogging, skiing, biking, horseback riding, roller blading, dog mushing, snowshoeing and skijoring. Seasonal makeshift routes wander from main routes into woodsy stands within neighborhoods. Some trails ramble beyond and connect to Chugach State Park, with its scenic alpine tundra and access to about 495,000 acres of jaw-dropping scenery. Pedestrian tunnels beneath arterial roadways allow travelers to avoid busy streets; wood-planked bridges span trickling creeks and streams.

This 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.

The crown jewel of the system is the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which connects downtown’s historic Second Avenue sector to the multiuse chalet at Kincaid Park, a favorite

locale for moose-watching and cross country skiing. The generally flat grade and smooth pavement allows for easy access and use for all ages and abilities. There are multiple places to access the picturesque Coastal Trail, making it a scalable and customizable experience.

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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. VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 41
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the fault line of the epic 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, enjoy views of the downtown skyline and Denali, and possibly see some wildlife.

Along the Coastal Trail route is Westchester Lagoon, just 1.6 miles from downtown. There’s plenty of parking available and an updated playground for kids. From here, enjoy Chugach Mountain views on the horizon, reflected in the lake water, and take advantage of picnic tables and benches for contemplative breaks. Birders will appreciate waterfowl, migrating shorebirds, mallards, grebes, swallows and more. The lagoon sets the stage for a splashy summer paddle. When frozen over in winter, it’s a popular spot for ice skating and hockey.

From Westchester, travel 9 miles on the Coastal Trail to Kincaid Park, or hop on the eastbound 6.1-mile-long Chester Creek Trail, which connects the lagoon first to Goose Lake, then to University Lake. Chester Creek Trail is paved, flat and fun, following its namesake creek for 4 miles as it tumbles and burbles over rocky shallows and carves meandering braided paths across silty riverbeds. A popular point of interest on Chester Creek is 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-Medical District. If you’re not ready for your walk to end, follow the 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 away to the sea below the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the park today is a spacious

parking lot and viewpoint with interpretive signs pointing out significant peaks like Denali and its companion mountains, Hunter and Foraker. It’s also a vantage point for striking views of downtown Anchorage, backdropped by the Chugach Mountains.

If you want to go big, consider tying all these trails together and attempting the growing-in-popularity Moose Loop. The Moose Loop is an inventive hodge-podge of existing routes and imaginative links that, creatively, might be viewed as almost-kind-of, sort-of looking like the shape of a moose head. The route is 32 miles, traveling from parks

Runners and bikers enjoy a warm spring day along the trail next to Westchester Lagoon with the Chugach Mountains in the distance.
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to schools, trails to neighborhood streets, past businesses and homes, into quiet woodsy areas and across highway overpasses. The major trails that cover the Moose Loop don’t 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 by the hour, day or even week. Downtown Bicycle Rental offers all kinds of options and accessories, including complimentary bear spray and electric bikes. Reservations are rarely needed and walk-ins are welcome, but renters who want assurance can text 907-250-1170 to reserve same-day or next-day bikes. Another option is Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals, which is also open year-round with plenty of wheels for rent.

SAFETY TIPS

Anchorage’s trails are busy on most summer days, enjoyed by recreationists on foot, on wheels, with dogs, and more. People of varying skills and abilities recreate differently, so it’s important to follow basic safety and courtesy guidelines for the protection of all users. The municipality reminds users that trails are usually multiuse and not intended for racing, so be aware of surroundings, traverse 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 left!”

All pets must be leashed. The 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, including moose.

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, often show up on or near the trails.

When traveling in bear country, be mindful of making noise. Travel with one or more people whenever possible, and stay observant. It’s smart to carry water and make sure someone knows your route plan. Applying bug spray and carrying bear spray is also a good idea. Sunscreen shouldn’t be forgotten in the long summer daylight hours,

even if temperatures are moderate.

Of note: Camps where unhoused people reside are present along some of the Anchorage greenbelts off 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.

Cyclists ride down the Chester Creek Trail in Anchorage on Bike-to-Work Day.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 43 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.” A5 209KINGCIRCLE
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WHILE IN ALASKA, DRINK LIKE ALASKANS DO AND ENJOY LOCAL BEERS, MEADS

AND CIDERS

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 chasing the aurora borealis. In other words, we often have to make our own fun. And by “fun” I mean “beer.” Those 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 stuffiest of sommeliers. We throw it parties like the First Tap events at Broken Tooth Brewing Co. (otherwise known as Bear Tooth Theatrepub and Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria), complete with national musical acts. We even occasionally do yoga with it (at downtown bar and eatery Williwaw Social). In other words, we take it everywhere and we take it seriously.

Beers from the state’s biggest brewery, Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Co., might already be in your refrigerator if you live in one of the 26 states where it’s available. Alaskan Brewing has a steady line of signature brews and seasonal specialties that incorporate ingredients like cranberries, raspberries, locally roasted coffee, locally grown white wheat from the Mat-Su area and even Alaska spruce tips. 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). While almost half of them are in Anchorage or within a short drive of the city, some of Alaska’s most remote and tiny towns are also emphatically in on the brewing action (I’m looking at you, Gakona

Brewery in Gakona, population 218).

The ever-expanding Denali Brewing Co. in Talkeetna (population 876) may be a smalltown hero, but it’s anything but small. Their four signature beers — Mother Ale, Chuli Stout, Single Engine Red and the ever-popular Twister Creek IPA — as well as seasonal brews like Slow Down Brown and Flag Stop Milepost #3 are mainstays of summer barbecues and winter bonfires around the state.

This brewery is also home to the more

recently established Alaska Cider Works, Alaska Meadery (featuring “Razzery,” a mead made with raspberries, sour cherries and apples) and Denali Spirits (featuring vodka, gin, whiskey and “smoke” whiskey), because when you’ve fermented one, why not ferment them all?

Denali Spirits’ canned cocktails, especially their blueberry mojito, are so popular in Anchorage that at one time there was a Facebook page largely dedicated to tracking

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A bartender pours a beer for a customer at Ship Creek Brewing Company in Midtown Anchorage.
44 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024
PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
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up with demand.

Some breweries are even more remote. Ports of call and island hopping can be one way to get your fill of hops. Breweries can be found in Ketchikan (Bawden Street Brewing Co.), Kodiak (Kodiak Island Brewing Company, Double Shovel Kodiak Cidery and Olds River Inn), 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.). In Homer, there’s Homer Brewing and Grace Ridge Brewing for beer, and you can also check out Sweetgale Meadworks for hard cider and locally sourced meads.

Of course, many trips to Alaska begin and end in Anchorage. And if, during your travels, you’ve foolishly left 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 craft breweries.

Downtown’s Glacier Brewhouse specializes in oak-aged English and American WestCoast style beers, 13 of them, from blondes to stouts. Beneath the floor of the Brewhouse is a “Wall of Wood,” composed of casks of specialrelease beers that are conditioned in oak barrels once used to age wine and bourbon. The history of the oak imparts “mother tongue” flavor characteristics, like vanilla and coconut, into these limited-edition brews. Opt for one of these unique beers or choose from their flagship choices like raspberry wheat, oatmeal stout, imperial blonde, Bavarian hefeweizen or a flight that includes them all.

Down the street is 49th State Brewing Co. If you were unable to visit their flagship location in Healy, at the edge of Denali National Park and Preserve, you can catch up with them here. There are unique year-round choices like Smok, their smoked lager, as well

as seasonal offerings like the Oktoberfest lager described as a “majestically malty marzen” or the creamy, slightly briny Thundershuck Alaska Oyster Stout, brewed with over two bushels of oysters from Naukati Bay. This location also boasts some of the best views in town and an expansive outdoor rooftop 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, both international and local. Tent City Taphouse offers a diverse and carefully curated list of rotating local brews including their house beer, Tent City Tangerine IPA, brewed by Glacier Brewhouse. Tent City regularly hosts “Taste of the North” beer dinners featuring Alaska brewers. One, in collaboration with 49th State Brewing,

A beer flight at King Street Brewing Co.
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featured rare beer pairings like Neon Antler DIPA served with a truffle honey beet salad and the Cabin Fever spiced imperial brown ale served with creme brulee 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.

In Midtown, Onsite Brewing Co. has unique, small-batch brews in a funky, relaxed environment. And while not an actual brewery, the quaint Cafe Amsterdam offers an interesting range of local and international beers in a European-style tasting room adjacent to their dining room. (A further plug for this spot is that it shares strip-mall space with La Bodega , an excellent liquor store with a wide range of local offerings, as well as Wild Scoops, a fantastic ice cream shop — truly one-stop shopping.)

Farther south, King Street Brewing Co., Turnagain Brewing, Cynosure Brewing, Magnetic North Brewing Company, Brewerks and one of our newest, Ship Creek Brewing Co., 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 flights. Depending on the day, you might find reindeer sausages, pad Thai, cheesesteaks or pupusas. On the weekends, Anchorage Brewing Co. features a top-notch in-house pop-up restaurant, called Familia, with a rotating menu featuring local ingredients.

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 beers (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 home-grown adult

beverages include Alaskan Spirits Distillery, Anchorage Distillery, Zip Kombucha, Double Shovel Cidery, Hive Mind Meadery and Two Seasons Meadery

South of Anchorage in Girdwood, home to Alyeska Resort, Girdwood Brewing Co. is a worthwhile stop, with local art on the walls and a rotating food truck lineup.

If your travels are over and you still haven’t had your fill, check out the Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co. inside Terminal C at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on your way out of town. An offshoot of the flagship Silver Gulch brewery in Fox, Alaska (10 miles north of Fairbanks), this location has a bar, restaurant and retail shop carrying growlers of their brews as well as those of other Alaska 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 often have limited and varying hours, so always double-check before planning a visit.

Whether your travels take you to finedining 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.

BREWERIES
46 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024

ANCHORAGE MUSEUMS MAY BE EXPANSIVE OR NICHE, BUT THEY ARE ALWAYS INSPIRING

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 and treasures that offer insight into Alaska’s past, its contemporary landscape and the world beyond, as seen by artists, pioneers and others.

For many, exploration begins at the Anchorage Museum. The campus is within a short walking distance for downtowndwelling tourists.

Permanent installations include “Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First People of Alaska.” This interactive gallery showcases 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 from long-ago times, it’s an impressive collection highlighting the resiliency and unique beauty of Alaska Native cultures.

The Alaska Exhibition highlights the ingenuity, technology and connection to place that have allowed Alaskans to thrive. Exhibits delve into aviation exploration, the military’s history in Alaska and significant industries such as mining and oil. Nearby, the Art of the North exhibit unfolds across spacious gallery bays, with sculptures, videos, photography and paintings. This is where you’ll find the timeless works of Sydney Laurence, Alaska’s most iconic Romantic landscape artist.

Current exhibits include “How to Survive,” running through January 2025. It examines ideas of interconnectedness, caretaking and listening between humans, land, plants and animals. Displayed works invite reflection, encourage action and seek to cultivate

“Salmon Culture” is on display through Sept. 15, 2024. It celebrates the connections between salmon and Alaska Native peoples and honors salmon as a resource that has nourished communities physically and spiritually for thousands of years.

On display through Oct. 6, 2024, is “Lines of Sight: Comic Art and Storytelling in Alaska.” It features the work of artists and comic illustrators, celebrating visual storytelling and the enduring power of story to bring people together and foster inclusivity and imagination.

The museum store is a great gift shop for visitors seeking unique trinkets to bring home. Proceeds benefit educational and public programs and exhibitions. There’s also a cafe selling beverages and grab-and-go items and a coffee shop in the atrium.

On summer Wednesdays, the museum’s popular Lunch on the Lawn series features fun food trucks, live local music, science activities and family-friendly games in a beautiful green space.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers an encompassing celebration of the history and experience of Alaska Natives. It is a premier destination, devoted to understanding and sharing the ongoing legacy of Alaska’s Indigenous first peoples.

The Native Heritage Center is an indoor and outdoor facility that covers some scenic 26 acres, located northwest of the Glenn Highway and Muldoon Road. Its largely Alaska Native staff educates visitors about the enduring legacy of Alaska Natives, including their resiliency, unique traditions and shared experiences. It includes exhibits, demonstrations, a cafe and gift shop.

Many visitors will be surprised by Alaska’s

broad range of Native cultures and traditions, and the Heritage Center presents an extraordinary opportunity 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.

After renovations this past winter, the Heritage Center is scheduled to reopen May 12, 2024.

While the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center are the largest and best-known in the area, many other cultural centers and museums address both broad topics and niche interests.

In downtown Anchorage, visitors will find the Fraternal Order of the Alaska State Troopers Alaska Law Enforcement Museum. Admission is $5, or $3 for military, law enforcement, youth and seniors, and the museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekdays.

This specialty museum houses the state’s only collection of historical law enforcement memorabilia, including an authentically restored 1952 Hudson Hornet automobile. The troopers museum also sports antique radios, handcuffs 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. There’s even a gift shop with Alaska State Troopers memorabilia and souvenirs.

Also downtown is the Oscar Anderson House Museum, a 1915 home in storied Bootleggers Cove that was home to the 18th settler to arrive in “Tent City.” The charming cottage is now surrounded by a park and looks out across the waters west of Anchorage, and it’s acknowledged as a National Trust

optimism in the face of climate change. The Anchorage Museum has a compelling array of exhibits, as well as a great gift shop and cafe.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 47
PHOTO BY BILL ROTH

for Historic Preservation “Distinctive Destination.” This museum was closed during the 2023 summer season for repairs and restoration, and updates on opening hours will be shared on its website.

On Anchorage’s east side, the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature is a hidden gem. It showcases the special and specific science of Alaska, from prehistoric times to present. The museum is designed to take visitors of all ages on a learning adventure exploring Alaska’s geological, cultural and ecological background. The museum is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.

Another unique stop on Anchorage’s roster of museums is the Alaska Aviation Museum It’s located on the shores of the Lake Hood Seaplane Base, which is 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 to see landings and takeoffs and photograph colorful floatplanes.

The Aviation Museum is among Anchorage’s top attractions, with artifacts and relics of Alaska’s remarkable air travel history that will delight aviation buffs. There are more than two dozen vintage aircraft on display in four hangars and also outdoor exhibits. The Aviation Museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; entry is $18 for

adults, $15 for seniors and veterans, and $11 for children 3-13. The museum also offers a family rate of $48 for up to two adults and three children.

Before leaving Alaska, two final arts and culture experiences await at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

On the lower level is the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. This ever-growing exhibit celebrates Alaska athletes, sporting events and moments, paying homage to some of the state’s greats.

Some names may ring bells with visitors from the Lower 48, like cross-country skiing Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall and NBA player Mario Chalmers. Inductees offer

interesting peeks into Alaska’s unique sports culture and Arctic pursuits.

The Hall of Fame celebrates dog mushing feats, mountain climbing and other athletic advocacy, and the lovely hall of portraits includes compelling captions and context. Inductees in 2024 were NCAA All-American runner Allie Ostrander, musher and five-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race winner Dallas Seavey, and 10-time Special Olympics World Games medalist Bobby Hill.

The airport also has a life-size bronze statue of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, for whom the airport is named. The statue depicts “Uncle Ted,” as Alaskans called him, seated on a bench with an arm outstretched, as though mid-sentence. It’s a point of interest for fans of Alaska politics and history, in which Stevens was pivotal for decades.

Finally, the airport offers a collection of Alaska Native art. The “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 from the 49th state before their Last Frontier adventure draws to a close.

ANCHORAGE MUSEUMS
Alaska Aviation Museum.
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Just a taste of Kodiak’s island life or the summer hustle of the fishing towns of Southeast Alaska can leave most people wanting more. With busy fishing fleets, 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 first 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 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. There’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.

KODIAK

Famous for its sizable namesake brown bears, Kodiak should be just as well known to outsiders for its ever-so-green landscape — its

The City of Kodiak is the largest community on Kodiak Island, nicknamed “the Emerald Isle” for its vibrant green landscapes. PHOTO BY LOREN HOLMES
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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, often just as thrilling, puffins 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.

SITKA

It could be the mist or fog that often hugs Sitka. Or perhaps it’s the insane sunsets that take over the entire sky. Maybe it’s just the really good coffee 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 off Sitka. Walk the pathways and take time at each totem pole at Sitka National Historical Park. The park, where Russians invaded and fought the Tlingit people, offers 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 — first 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 28-June 23, 2024), 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 roughly two dozen of the town’s artists.

KETCHIKAN

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. The city’s best-known artist, Ray Troll, is the talent behind the punny T-shirts you’ll see everywhere from airport gift shops to festivals across the state. Check out Troll’s work, along with pieces by Evon Zerbetz and many of Ketchikan’s other fine 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 craftsmanship 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. Then, take a flight trip out to Misty Fjords National Monument for the chance to kayak among whales.

SKAGWAY

This is Klondike Gold Rush territory, flat out. Skagway has its modern bits — Glacial Smoothies & Espresso, the breweries Skagway Brewing Co. and Klondike Brewing Co., and gift shops that sell things that aren’t made in Alaska — but at its core, it’s a town-sized Gold Rush museum. As Skagway is home to 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 the 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, after a helicopter ride out, glaciers to dogsled 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. At

select times during the summer season,
the White Pass and Yukon Railroad will pick up hikers at Bennett at the northern terminus of the Chilkoot Trail and bring them back to Skagway.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 51 museums.alaska.gov CELEBR ATE ALASKANATIVECULTURES DISC OVER ALASKA’SHISTORY&ART JUNEAU |907-465-2901 lam.alaska.gov | 907-747voa.g museums.alask
PHOTO BY RICHARD J. MURPHY

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Alaska

ALASKA EXPERTS

THE

AT THE

END OF THE ROAD,

VALDEZ

IS AN IDEAL JUMPING-OFF POINT FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

Valdez is an end-of-the-road town teeming with endless adventure, a sure bet for summertime fun where visitors can fill up on great food, fishing and fun.

Located at the head of a deep fjord in eastern Prince William Sound, Valdez is a 300-mile drive from Anchorage, which is an adventure in itself. Motorists will enjoy endless views of mountains, glaciers, wildlife, waterfalls and more. Travelers can get to Valdez by the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry. Drive an hour south of Anchorage to Whittier, and enjoy front-row views of beautiful Prince William Sound.

Valdez delights with small-town charm and a unique place in Alaska history. In the early 1900s, Valdez enjoyed a prosperous Gold Rush era, 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 it was.

History buffs can visit the original Valdez townsite today. The old site is just a few miles east of modern Valdez, and it’s a quiet place of remembrance, marked with signage and a seaside pioneer cemetery. Salvageable buildings were moved to the town’s current location. Download information for a self-guided walking tour (valdezmuseum. org) to view those buildings that survived the quake.

The Valdez Museum and Historical Archive showcases the town’s vibrant history, from its earliest Alaska Native occupants to its

prospector days to its modern form. Nearby, the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum boasts one of the largest collections of Alaska Native art and artifacts in the world. Check their respective websites for operating hours.

While Valdez bursts to life in the summer, it’s home to nearly 4,000 people year-round. There’s one post office 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. The town is simply arranged and easy to navigate, with walkable, open roads and frequent, sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that beckon to backcountry adventurers.

Valdez visitors have endless opportunities to hike, bike, boat, kayak, fish and more. The Valdez vicinity serves as a jumping-off 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. offers an array of guided excursions, whether you want to paddle, ice climb, rock climb, hike, backpack or mountain bike. Valdez Stay and Play offers adventures like glacier tours and electric bike rentals. Kayak outfits Anadyr Adventures and Pangea are also reputable for safe, unforgettable, fully outfitted experiences.

For a more relaxing experience, try a sightseeing charter: Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises offers far-ranging day cruises aboard smooth-sailing catamarans. Ventures range from 6 to 7.5 hours. The comfortable ships are captained by knowledgeable crews who will delight passengers with information about the history, wildlife and landscapes of the area.

A whitewater kayaker paddles down Mineral Creek in Valdez. PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 53

VALDEZ

While a trip into Prince William Sound will stun, wildlife lovers have plenty of opportunity to see animals 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, though they’re known to stroll nonchalantly about town as well.

For souvenirs commemorating your Valdez visit, start at The Prospector. This outdoor outfitter remains the go-to spot for outerwear, fishing and hunting gear, and more. The Valdez Art Co-Op sells wares by local artists. And on the waterfront, The Painted Moose is an excellent spot for gifts 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 and often has a food truck parked close by. The second is Growler Bay Brewing Co. At press time, its more limited hours were 4-9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday.

Valdez boasts a satisfying assortment of restaurants. The Fat Mermaid on North Harbor Drive offers sensational pizza and a full bar with occasional live music and an outdoor dining area. Its salads and starters are great options too.

Fu Kung Chinese Restaurant, a local staple, has a big menu that includes plentiful vegetarian options. A cluster of food trucks also on North Harbor Drive offer delicious variety, including tacos and Thai cuisine.

Also by the harbor is The Roadside Potatohead, open May 1 to Sept. 15. This corner-spot restaurant has excellent beer and wine options and al fresco patio dining, plus fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and anglers returning with their daily catch.

Nasturtiums brighten the scene at Valdez harbor.
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PHOTO BY ERIK HILL

WITH MORE MILES OF TRAILS THAN ROAD, JUNEAU IS AN OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST’S DREAM

Juneau is flanked by white snowcapped mountains, fields of blue ice, verdant green forests and frigid turquoise waters. It’s the perfect destination for travelers who love cozy small-town vibes, as well as those who seek extreme outdoor adventures. 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. This waterfront community 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 city of 32,000 gets about 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, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”

The absolute must-see for most travelers is the Mendenhall Glacier. There are many ways to see the glacier, depending on your level of comfort. The 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 payoff is worth far more than it will cost you to get there. The trail is 3.5 miles out and back, growing slightly longer each year as the glacier melts, and brings you right up to the face of the glacier. Since the glacier is constantly receding, it’s no longer possible to get directly on the ice using this route without an experienced guide and equipment. For less experienced hikers, Above and Beyond Alaska offers guided hiking tours and Alaskan Binoculars offers rides to the trailhead.

For a more family-friendly or accessible option, Nugget Falls Trail brings you around the other side of Mendenhall Lake directly to a massive waterfall with views of the glacier from a bit farther away. (The short, informational video in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is the cheapest tour of Juneau you’ll get.)

Liquid Alaska offers canoe tours that go across the lake to bring you to the face of the glacier. Or, if you’re feeling flush, you can charter a helicopter through Northstar, Coastal or Temsco Helicopters for a flightseeing tour that will land you on the glacier (tours cost $379 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 want to dogsled on a glacier, Temsco and Northstar both offer tours, both over $600.

If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to get up close to a glacier, take a full-day boat trip to Tracy Arm Fjord with Allen Marine Tours. Starting at $234, this sevenhour tour is an exceptional value and unforgettable experience. Enjoy cruising through a steep fjord, usually seeing whales, bears, eagles, harbor seals along the way. The trip culminates at one of the Sawyer Glaciers, which are often 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 offer 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.

For an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, view brown bears up close and personal at Admiralty Island’s Pack Creek or

Low clouds hug the mountains at Mendenhall Lake near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center in Juneau.
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Waterfall Creek, where U.S. Forest Service rangers accompany you as you view the animals in their natural habitat. The Tlingit people call this island “Kootznoowoo,” meaning “Fortress of the Bear,” for a reason. Sightseers are flown to the island by Ward Air. Both Bear Creek Outfitters and a new operator, Wild Coast Excursions, offer all-inclusive options starting at a thousand dollars a person, which includes permits, flights and other necessities.

If you’re more of a plant lover than animal lover, check out the upside-down tree gardens at Glacier Gardens. They also offer tours up the mountain in small trams during the summer season. A good place to see fireweed is along Point Bridget Trail. The 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 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, some private cabins that can be rented are more accessible, such as those at the Shrine of St. Therese or on Airbnb. Nights at Eaglecrest Ski Resort’s 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. The Mount Roberts Tram usually runs during the summer cruise season, and recently started offering tours from an Alaska Native perspective, celebrating the resilience and perseverance of Alaska’s Native population. Families can rent strollers and other baby travel necessities like hiking backpacks, car seats and high chairs 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 has been a James Beard Award semifinalist multiple times)

BEST LIVE ENTERTAINMENT: Crystal Saloon (visit their website for full list of shows)

BEST FOOD ON DOUGLAS ISLAND: The

Island Pub (try the salmon dip)

BEST FAMILY DINING: The Hangar on the Wharf (can’t go wrong with anything with the halibut, and there are great views of seaplanes taking off 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.), The 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: The Grind Coffee Co.

BEST SHOPPING: Resolute Boutique,

Treetop Tees

BEST FREE SAMPLES: Free smoked salmon from Taku

BEST CHEAP SOUVENIRS: Alaska Shirt Co.

BEST INSTAGRAM PHOTO OPS: The Whale Project, against the flower 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, earrings from Kindred Post, whale tail salad tossers, Tlingit silver bracelets from Mt. Juneau Trading Post and others, kitschy matching shirts from the Alaska Shirt Co., Alaskan Brewing Co. sweatshirts, smoked salmon from Taku Store, a Ray Troll “Spawn Till You Die” shirt

BEST PLACE TO CATCH A SUNSET WHEN IT’S SUNNY: Bonfire 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

CHASE ENDLESS SUMMER DAYS OR WINTRY AURORAS — FAIRBANKS HAS

Located near the geographic center of the state, Fairbanks is known as Alaska’s Golden Heart City. Established along the Chena River in 1901, it originally served prospectors working outlying gold claims. It has since grown to include a university and two military bases and has become the commercial hub of Interior Alaska.

The Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau is the first stop for information and has welcome centers along the riverfront, both downtown and in the nearby Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. The Thompson 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. The Golden Heart Plaza is often brimming with activity on summer evenings. From there, it’s a short stroll to nearby Pioneer Park, which has playground equipment, historic buildings, a train ride, restaurants, gift shops, museums and more.

Fairbanks is the site of several summer festivals, where residents and visitors enjoy being outdoors during the long daylight hours. This year’s Midnight Sun Festival, hosted by the Downtown Association, takes place in the city’s downtown center on June 22. The large outdoor gathering includes live music, vendors and activities.

The weeklong Golden Days celebration, the largest summer event in Fairbanks, includes a variety of events and culminates downtown in a parade, street fair, rubber duckie race on the Chena River and more on July 20.

Finally, the Tanana Valley State Fair celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Running July 26 to Aug. 4, the annual event offers attendees a chance to watch livestock shows, take in live music, wander through commercial exhibits and let the kids go on some rides, all while keeping fueled on endless food options.

Museums are scattered throughout town, including the Museum of the North, which holds one of the state’s premier collections of Alaska and Arctic artifacts. The Fairbanks Community Museum focuses on city history. Car buffs will motor toward the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. Summer visitors wanting a taste of winter can experience minus 20 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. Those seeking a deeper knowledge of Alaska and its culture, people and history, will want to check out Forget-MeNot Books. This secondhand bookstore is operated by and benefits the Literacy Council of Alaska, and it always has a large selection of Alaska-related books — some of them quite rare — along with plenty of other volumes on all topics.

IT ALL
A paddler rides with the Chena River current through Fairbanks.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 57 MUSKOXFARM Openyear-round Guidededucationaltours Qiviut & curatedgifts Palmer,Alaska muskoxfarm.org 907.745.4151
PHOTO BY MARC LESTER

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, offers birding and wildlife viewing as well as miles of walking trails. The Large Animal Research Station on the north part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus allows visitors to get a close look at musk oxen.

Sportspersons looking to go fishing or hunting first need to obtain the proper license from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The department also has advice for obtaining a licensed and qualified guide to help arrange transportation, supplies and other needs to make the experience complete.

For outdoor recreation, hiking and 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. The Chena River winds through downtown and is popular with paddlers. Mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks can be rented from several establishments, many of which offer skis and fat bikes for rental in winter. The Fairbanks Hiking Club, Fairbanks Cycle Club, Fairbanks Paddlers and Running Club North can be contacted for further information on outdoor activities. All four welcome out-oftown 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 and Preserve is just a twohour drive south, and the Arctic Circle is about five hours north. The Riverboat Discovery Tour provides the opportunity to slip out of town and head down the Chena and Tanana Rivers via sternwheeler.

The 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 year-round, it’s popular in summer with paddlers, cyclists, walkers and swimmers, and overnight visitors can stay at one of 45 campsites. In winter, it’s a nearby destination for snowmachining, skiing, fat biking, ice fishing and more. Wildlife viewing can be enjoyed during any season.

Many races are available for those seeking a workout. This year’s Midnight Sun Run will happen June 22 at 10 p.m. Held annually on the Saturday night closest to summer solstice, the race often attracts as many as 3,000 participants for a 10K dash under the perpetual daylight of summer. In September, the Equinox Marathon, starting and finishing at the university, puts runners on one of the most grueling marathon courses in North America. With over 3,000 feet of climbing and descending along a route that is largely set on trails and dirt roads, the route offers 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. This year, the race is on Sept. 21 and there will be a full marathon as well as a half, but no relay.

After a full day of activities, it’s time to relax. Fortunately, restaurants for all tastes and budgets can be found in Fairbanks, including a remarkable number of very good Thai restaurants. And later, visitors can kick back at one of the growing number of breweries and distilleries.

FAIRBANKS IN WINTER

Winters bring icy conditions with temperatures dipping to minus 40 or lower, and visitors should come prepared. But usually it’s nowhere near that severe. And with the dry climate and minimal wind, zero

in Fairbanks can feel warmer than 30 above in Anchorage. Winter solstice brings just three 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. On Dec. 21 an evening festival culminates with a fireworks show welcoming back the light. Ten days later, on New Year’s Eve, fireworks 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 offers some of the best winter recreational opportunities in Alaska. Snowmobile tours are gaining in popularity, and several guides offer them, both near town and farther afield. Dogsled tours are available for those wanting to experience mushing.

For winter athletes, the Chena River to Ridge Race offers 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. Those 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. The 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
58 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 www.novalaska.com AlaskaGuides Guiding Thrills Since1975
JUST NORTH OF ANCHORAGE, YOU’LL FIND A TASTE OF EVERYTHING MAGIC ABOUT THE STATE IN MAT-SU

Drive less than an hour north of Anchorage and the landscape changes dramatically. As you enter the Matanuska-Susitna area, the view opens up to showcase dramatic peaks rising steeply from a vast, flat valley floor.

This is only the beginning. At 25,000 square miles, the Mat-Su Borough is nearly the size of West Virginia. The attractions in this region are varied and surprising; you’ll find everything from world-class and accessible wilderness to historic sites and delicious, uniquely Alaska eats.

The charms of Mat-Su start even before its official boundary — in Eagle River, which is part of the Municipality of Anchorage. Be like a local on a sunny Saturday and hike up Mount Baldy. It’s a short, steep climb to get above the treeline to terrific views. You’ll earn your lunch (and schooner-sized signature beer) at Pizza Man, chased by a quick pick-me-up from the adorable coffee 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 with its drinking water. Next stop: Palmer. You could spend an

A U.S. flag flutters in the breeze as a hiker summits Mount Baldy on a misty summer morning in Eagle River. PHOTO BY ERIK HILL Rental kayaks sit on the shore of Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park. The glacial-fed lake is the water reservoir for Anchorage — Alaska’s largest city.
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PHOTO BY BILL ROTH

afternoon or a lifetime here and have plenty to do. Downtown is postcard-picturesque, with breathtaking mountain views. Park the car and take a walk. You can check out the Palmer Museum of History and Art for a behind-the-scenes scoop on the area, duck into the well-loved Fireside Books, fuel up at delicious and often locally sourced Turkey Red restaurant, and top off your visit with a flight at 203 Kombucha, a modern and community-minded kombuchery. Need to stretch your legs? Options range from hiking up the well-loved Bodenburg Butte to more strenuous venture up Lazy Mountain. On your way out of town, pay a visit to the Musk Ox Farm to see this unique and iconic Arctic creature firsthand and learn from knowledgeable guides. Beer lovers: Don’t skip Bleeding Heart Brewery, right at the foot of the iconic Palmer water tower.

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 firsthand by visiting a unique museum set right in the alpine at Independence Mine State Historic Park. You can hike to the remnants of perilous gold mining operations amid jaw-dropping tundra scenery. If an afternoon visit isn’t enough, stay overnight at Hatcher Pass Lodge in one of the adorable, red A-frame cabins. Or, just grab a

bite in the cozy cafe with stellar views.

Wasilla gets a bad rap for one of its most prominent features: big box stores. Locals know there’s much more just off 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 off at Settlers Bay Golf Course. Back in the core of Wasilla, don’t miss a meal at the cozy gem of a Laotian eatery, Cafe Khao Neow, or opt for the fancier and equally delicious Grape Tap. 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. The walkable downtown is like a scene from the ‘90s TV show “Northern Exposure” (if it had actually been filmed in Alaska). The 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. is wonderful; ditto with Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, a standalone cabin tucked away in the forest. Alaska Wild Harvest offers tours and tastings in its birch syrup production facility and has a wonderful gift shop. Approaching town, the view of Denali on a clear day is worth the entire trip. A visit to Talkeetna Roadhouse is a must — either to stay

A vehicle travels the Hatcher Pass Road a few miles west of the pass itself. The scenic road stretches between Willow and the recreation area near Palmer.
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PHOTO BY MARC LESTER

overnight, to feast, or both. Visit Dancing Leaf Gallery for a flavor of well-curated local art and craft. Want to get a closer look at Denali? Check out K2 Aviation for flightseeing 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 The Mountain. But you’ll still experience thrilling and wild Alaska outdoors with an overnight stay at K’esugi Ken Campground and a hike up the Curry Ridge trail, where you’ll earn stellar and consistent Denali views.

If there’s one region in Alaska with a little taste of everything magic about the state, it’s the Mat-Su. Fuel up, power down, explore and enjoy all that you’ll find in this amazing corner of the world.

MAT-SU
Tourists pass by Nagley’s Store in Talkeetna. The store was previously named B & K Trading Company.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 61 GlacierCityRaftingandHiking 907-382-1050 45MinutesSouthfromAnchorage Memories thatwilllasta lifetime. Reserveonlinetodayatwww.sewardcampgrounds.com “MoreWhiskey!...AndFreshHorsesForMyMen!” 907-224-3063 2014thAvenue,Seward DJDanceParty Karaoke OpenMicNight CheckoutourFacebookandInstagrampagesforourlineup! LiveMusic HelicopterTours-Seward,Alaska MarathonHelicopters GlacierLandings-Wildlife-KenaiFjordsNationalPark 907-224-3616 www.MarathonHelicopters.com
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN

A SEWARD HIGHWAY ROAD TRIP PROMISES

EPIC ADVENTURES

Anchorage visitors venturing beyond city limits will find a scenic escape via the Seward Highway, a spectacular route with a surprising number of roadside diversions that culminates in a storied harbor town.

This renowned 125-mile roadway runs south from Anchorage to the town of Seward. The first portion follows alongside a narrow finger of water called Turnagain Arm. This historic waterway is named for British explorer Captain James Cook, who had to “turn again” when his ship reached its dead end.

Along the journey, the highway is framed by the dramatic Chugach and Kenai Mountains. Ancient glaciers peek through lush summertime greenery. Passing small communities, rustic roadhouses and pristine alpine lakes, the highway terminates in Seward on the edge of Resurrection Bay.

The time-pressed traveler could make it to Seward and back in one long, full day, logging five-plus road hours alone. But overnighting in Seward (or elsewhere) offers a more enjoyable and leisurely experience, and allows time to appreciate the Alaska scenery and character, along with the history, recreation and dining offered along the way.

GIRDWOOD

About 45 minutes south of Anchorage, Girdwood is a laid-back ski town that relocated inland a few miles from the Seward Highway after the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.

For Alaskans and visitors alike, Girdwood is a recreation mecca, with a charming collection of memorable restaurants, art galleries,

above New

ski chalets and condos. Winter slopes and ski lifts transform to host downhill mountain biking come summer. Paved paths thread through the town, offering an opportunity to take in scenery during a stroll.

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. The first few miles of the Girdwood end of the trail wind upward, with breathtaking views of glaciers, jagged mountaintops and remnants of long-gone gold mining efforts.

Girdwood’s dining options are impressively plentiful. Begin at a local icon, The Bake Shop, open as of press time Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. A morning-time staple for 40-plus years, The Bake Shop features homestyle 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. Its regional cuisine with an Alaska touch is truly special, highlighting seasonal fresh produce and locally sourced protein such as halibut. The tall chalet windows offer romantic views of the mountainside. Check the restaurant’s website for hours.

Nearby, stalwart Double Musky Inn is a tucked-away steakhouse known for colorful French Quarter decor, a world-class wine cellar and spot-on Creole classics with Alaska flair. Its lively elegance has delighted locals and tourists alike for decades. There will be a wait many nights, but it’s worth it.

For a fun, relaxed vibe, pop by Girdwood Brewing Co. With indoor tables and outdoor seating around gas-fed fire pits, sip pints or smallerpour taster glasses while ordering from one or more local food trucks that rotate on site; the truck schedule is updated on the brewery’s website. They also sell trendy hoodies, trucker hats and artsy stickers to remember your sudsy Girdwood detour.

The skybridge Year’s Chute is one of two Veilbreaker Skybridges that collectively span 600 feet and are suspended 2,500 feet above the valley floor, at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. PHOTO BY EMILY MESNER
62 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024

PORTAGE

Like Girdwood, Portage once sat alongside the Seward Highway, but after the 1964 quake, Portage faded away, with little remaining today but the remains of decrepit cabins overtaken by aggressive brush. In Portage’s place, visitors today will find the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Mile 79 Seward Highway), a sprawling sanctuary across 200 acres 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 staff naturalists. Hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. May 1 through Sept. 15. Check the website for additional hours.

WHITTIER

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.

As of this writing, the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center (Portage Lake Loop) is scheduled to open May 26, 2024. It sits about 5 miles east of the Seward Highway, a flat, pretty, quick drive. Named in honor of U.S. Reps. Nick Begich and Hale Boggs, whose flight in Alaska disappeared in 1972, the center is built on the edge of a lake on the moraine left by the receding Portage Glacier. The glacier is visible via boat trips to its front. The center itself offers science-geared educational opportunities for adults and kids alike.

Drive farther and travelers will encounter a truly different experience by way of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The 2.5-milelong, one-way toll highway tunnel is a dark and moody viaduct through the formidable mountains. The longest in North America, 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, hiking and fishing. The town’s single hotel, the lovely Inn at Whittier, was closed early in 2024 after flooding; reopening updates will be posted on their website. Camping and RV options exist as well.

The 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. An impressive number of exhibits fills its snug space, capturing the story of Whittier’s history.

SEWARD

Arriving in Seward is a show-stopper. As the highway ends at last, the view opens up to this special place that’s surrounded by the dramatic mountains ringing Resurrection Bay. Seward is home to an amiable community with a hodgepodge economy built on fishing outfits, kayak companies, sightseeing excursions, shops, restaurants and bars, plus there’s a beautiful boat harbor where visitors can walk the docks. About 2,625 people live here year-round, and summer cruise ships can deliver thousands of visitors a day.

Highlights of Seward include the Alaska SeaLife Center, a hands-on aquarium and working science facility that boasts opportunities to ogle diving puffins 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, puffins, 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 Icefield recedes annually, to the sadness of many fans. But a moderately graded walking path leads to overlooks where the glacier is still visible and can be photographed.

Seward is synonymous with fishing, and there are a bounty of half- or full-day charters that fish for halibut, salmon or both. Charters typically provide all fishing gear, and in town, there are options for having fish filleted and flash-frozen for shipping after your excursion ends. These trips depart early and return late and make for a full Alaska 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 fish to commemorate your unique and unforgettable Alaska vacation long after it’s over.

A Princess cruise ship is in port at Whittier as small boats make their way around Passage Canal behind the ship.
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PHOTO BY ANNE RAUP

FISHING TOWNS AND STAGGERING VIEWS ON THE KENAI PENINSULA

Accessible wilderness, heaps of trails and enough trophy fish to spawn “it was THIS big” stories for years to come: It’s easy to see why the Kenai Peninsula is sometimes referred to as “Alaska’s playground.” While there are oodles of worthwhile spots to visit, here are just a few to get you started.

HOPE

Impossibly charming, Hope is a worthwhile detour for those zipping down to conquer the Kenai Peninsula. The atmospheric downtown with stunning views of Turnagain Arm offers a good jumping-off 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 offers incredible views (and serious bragging rights). Those looking for an adrenaline rush can book a rafting trip down Sixmile 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 Creekbend Co.

attracts some of the better Alaska bands for nighttime entertainment.

SEWARD

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, fishing 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.

Anglers stand shoulder-toshoulder on the Kenai River as they try their luck catching first-run sockeye salmon heading to the Russian River. PHOTO BY BILL ROTH Rafters on a tour of Sixmile Creek near Hope laugh off the aftermath of a cold soaking they took as they paddle through a stretch of rapids.
64 A l A sk A VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024
PHOTO BY JIM LAVRAKAS

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. The salmon that return en masse to the Kenai River are legendary. (Be advised: The area’s dipnet fishery is deservedly famous but open to Alaska residents only. See our fishing guide for an overview of other great options, and always make sure you have the correct permits; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s We Fish AK site is a good place to start, or call 907-267-2218.)

If fishing doesn’t call to you, there are breweries with airy patios, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitors Center offers naturalist-led outdoor programs, and Soldotna’s Homestead Museum showcases homesteaders’ cabins with free guided tours.

HOMER

Visitors to Homer find 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 fishermen, artists, beer lovers, foodies, musicians, adventurers and beachcombers all feel at home.

It’s easy to while away a few days — tramp along the beautiful trail systems, check out the tide pools, eat at first-rate restaurants, pick through the various art galleries and handicraft 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 off some bucket-list experiences: Get a bird’s-eye view of nearby glaciers and wildlife on a flightseeing 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 The Saltry Restaurant and stunning scenery.

Sea otters bob along the surface of Kachemak Bay offshore from Homer. PHOTO BY ERIK HILL A father and his daughter watch a sea lion swim by at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.
VISITORS’ GUIDE • 2024 A l A sk A 65 AlaskaAdventure venture Cabins Homer,Alaska 907-715-2745 www.AlaskaAdventureCabins.com 2525SterlingHighway•Homer,AK99603 DeluxeHomes ConvenientLocation FullKitchens•Decks•PanoramicViews Internet•UpscaleAlaskanDecor
PHOTO BY BOB HALLINEN
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