Alaska is a popular destination for hikers, backpackers, wildlife enthusiasts and travelers of all kinds. The 49th state is renowned for its hiking trails with spectacular views of snow-capped mountain ranges, lush valleys and an abundance of fauna. An average of over 2 million visitors make the trip to Alaska annually, many to take a hiking trip and explore the wilderness views.
Learn all of the absolute best hikes in Alaska in this comprehensive guide, including routes accessible from major cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks and hikes for different experience levels. Here are the 30 best hikes in Alaska:
In This Article
- Best Hikes Near Fairbanks
- Best Hikes in Anchorage
- Best Hikes in Denali National Park
- Best Short Hikes in Alaska
- Best Multi-Day Hikes in Alaska
- Windstar Cruises Knows Hikes in Alaska
Best Hikes Near Fairbanks
Known as the Golden Heart of Alaska, Fairbanks has the second-largest population of any city in the state. From here, visitors can access Denali National Park, the Arctic and the Alaskan Interior. Check out some of the best trails within 100 miles of the city:
1. Angel Rocks
With high rocky outcroppings, spruce forests and bubbling streams, Angel Rocks is one of the most popular hikes near Fairbanks. This short but scenic trail is well worth the steep sections of moderate difficulty.
The Angel Rocks loop is 3.5 miles and takes two to three hours, making it one of the best day hikes for travelers to Fairbanks. At the top of the loop, an 8-mile hike to Chena Hot Springs branches off for travelers who want some more time on the trail. A dip in the hot springs is an excellent reward for your day of hiking.
2. Canwell Glacier and Rainbow Basin
Glaciers are fascinating geographical features of Alaska’s wilderness that offer unique challenges to experienced hikers. Canwell Glacier is a popular location for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and mountaineering. This glacier is about 10 miles long and located in the Eastern Alaska Range.
The 6-mile hiking trail is strenuous and appropriate for hikers with some navigational experience. Hikers should be prepared for swift weather changes, even in summer, and winter hiking requires avalanche preparedness training.
3. Granite Tors Trail
The views from Granite Tors Trail make up for the sometimes demanding hike. The famous tors are unusually-shaped granite towers. These formations came from molten rock surfacing from underground and still attract hikers, rock climbers and geologists alike. Much of the trail winds through beautiful birch and spruce forests.
This 15-mile loop is moderately difficult with a fair amount of underbrush during the warmer months. Be sure you allow yourself time to explore the tors and admire the sights of the Alaska Range!
4. Wickersham Dome Trail
Wickersham Dome Trail lies in the White Mountains Recreational Area, about an hour from Fairbanks. The moderate hike of fewer than 7 miles round-trip bends around ridges above tree level for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Popular activities include hiking, skiing, berry picking and cycling.
Wickersham Dome Trail is often less crowded than similar day hikes like Angel Rocks. This trail offers panoramic mountain sights and the chance to see wildlife like black bears, caribou, Dall sheep and moose. With long-range visibility, hikers have plenty of time to spot wildlife before it gets too close.
5. Table Top Mountain Trail
The White Mountains Recreational Area has plenty of scenic routes, and the Table Top Mountain Trail might just be one of its best hikes. The trail meanders through spruce forest, wildflowers and berry patches, with expansive views at the top.
The short loop is less than 4 miles with a 1-mile extension hike to the plateaued summit, perfect for hiking when you only have a couple of hours. The mountain’s mesa-like summit provides a clear sight of mountain vistas in every direction. Some loose spots on the plateau require caution, but the hike as a whole is suitable for nearly anyone.
6. Grapefruit Rocks
Grapefruit Rocks is a favorite spot for local rock climbers and offers short trails for hikers and backpackers. Grapefruit Rocks provides some of the best rock climbing in the state’s interior. Visitors can hike the rocky trails to watch climbers or strap into gear and tackle the rockface themselves if they have rock climbing experience.
The monumental limestone facades of Upper Grapefruit are the main attraction for rock climbers. Day hikers will also enjoy Lower Grapefruit and the Grapefruit Summit Trail. Getting to the trailhead takes you about 50 miles out of Fairbanks.
Best Hikes in Anchorage
The largest city in Alaska provides access to several hiking and backpacking trails to suit a range of experience levels. Take a look at the best hikes you can take from Anchorage:
1. Flattop Mountain Trail
Only 15 minutes from downtown, the Flattop Mountain Trail is one of Anchorage’s most popular day hikes. Flattop has well-developed routes for hikers of all ability levels and includes a wheelchair-accessible loop. This trail provides views of the mountains, Anchorage skyline and surrounding Cook Inlet.
At a little over 3 miles from the trailhead to Flattop, the trail is ideal for travelers with only a couple of hours. Most of the track is easy, with a moderate rise in steepness toward the peak. Hikers who want more challenges can follow the southeast ridge to climb Peak 2 and Peak 3.
2. Reed Lakes Trail
One of the most popular hikes from Anchorage is the Reed Lakes Trail. This hike includes boulder fields, so be prepared for moderate difficulty. The gorgeous route takes you in the shadows of some massive peaks, through alpine meadows, between mountain tarns and past several cascading waterfalls.
Some boulder-climbing is required as you make your way to turquoise lower Reed Lake, 3 miles from the trailhead. Stop and rest at the top of the falls before continuing another mile to the trail’s end at upper Reed Lake. After another mile of hiking, you’ll encounter Bomber Glacier, where there’s the wreckage of a B-29 bomber plane that crashed in the ’50s.
3. Rabbit Creek Trail
The Rabbit Creek Trail takes hikers up to Rabbit Lake over a moderately difficult 4.4-mile stretch. After a climb to the top of a high knoll, you’ll catch a view of broad Rabbit Lake a couple of miles down the trail. Despite potentially fast-changing weather conditions, the hike usually doesn’t take very long. Hikers have plenty of time to stop and enjoy the lake and Rabbit Creek.
4. Rendezvous Peak Trail
Rendezvous Peak Trail is a little-crowded trail providing expansive views from the summit. Three different paths to the peak offer different difficulty levels. The most popular route takes you past South Fork Eagle River before continuing up to the summit of Rendezvous Peak. Hikers enjoy the stunning blue waters of Eagle Lake and Symphony Lake, along with the rising bluffs of Triangle Peak and Eagle Peak.
From Rendezvous Peak, you can see a different mountain range in each cardinal direction, including Denali. Your view from the peak should be pretty solitary, as most hikers in the area travel to Flattop.
5. Williwaw Lakes Trail
A hiking trip to Williwaw Lakes Trail will take some effort, but the 14-mile loop is well worth it. Located in the Chugach Mountains, this 7-mile hike takes you to the Williwaw Lakes in a secluded valley. After several miles of hiking to reach the trailhead, you’ll find imposing Mount Williwaw.
Beyond Mount Williwaw lie the Williwaw Lakes with their emerald waters and wildflower meadows. In the summer, visitors can also observe several species of birds. This tranquil trail is moderately complex due to the amount of hiking.
6. Hidden Lake
The Hidden Lake Trail is 9.4 miles long and takes over five hours to complete. This fairly challenging route is popular with cyclers and backpackers. Hikers follow the Powerline Pass Trail for several miles before a steeper trek to Hidden Lake.
Many visitors bike the first part of the trail and lock their bikes at the Hidden Lake trailhead before continuing to the peak. You can expect to see relatively few people along this route. A hike to Hidden Lake also provides an opportunity to see moose and Dall sheep.
Best Hikes in Denali National Park
Denali National Park is a national treasure and Alaska’s most popular land attraction — around 600,000 visitors travel to the park every year. The 6-million-acre section of the Alaska Range is full of spectacular views from mountain peaks and meadows to taiga forest, glacial rivers and alpine tundra.
Check out the best hikes in Denali National Park to gain inspiration for your visit:
1. Horseshoe Lake Trail
To begin your excursion to Denali, take a short trek around Horseshoe Lake Trail. This hike starts about 2 miles from the Denali National Park Visitor Center and has three access routes. The quickest route is about 2 miles, while the longest is 4 miles round-trip.
Hikers take a short path to Horseshoe Lake and go in either direction in a loop around the lake. From the eastern side of the loop, you can take a detour to see a beaver dam. The western side stays close to the lake shoreline and is especially scenic.
2. Mount Healy Trail
The Mount Healy Trail is another hike you can finish relatively quickly after arriving in Denali. Mount Healy is a short mountain overlooking the park’s entrance. The 3.4-mile round trip hike goes partway up the mountain, and more adventurous hikers can choose to continue hiking the ridges further up, although they should exercise caution toward the summit.
This trail is one of the steepest in the park and has several switchbacks. The path is often windy, so visitors should be prepared with warm layers and ensure safe footing.
3. Savage Alpine Trail
Deeper into the park, hikers have many more options for trail hiking. The Savage River is located around Miles 13-15 of Denali Park Road and has many hiking trip options. Savage Alpine Trail is a demanding trek running over 4 miles one-way. This hike requires extra effort, with steep sections and many portions of the trail being no wider than 2 feet.
The trail connects the Savage River with the Savage River Campground. Hikers can use the free shuttle service to return to their vehicle or continue hiking back to the parking lot.
4. Savage River Loop
The Savage River Loop Trail is located at Mile 15 of Denali Park Road. This trail follows the river’s banks and carves a gorge between Healy Ridge and Mount Margaret. This loop is pretty easy as a 1.7-mile round-trip that takes most hikers around an hour to complete.
Near the middle of the loop is Savage River Canyon, where hikers can cross over a bridge that spans the Savage River before continuing back to the trailhead. Hikers should be aware of the steep sides of the canyon and potential encounters with wildlife in the area.
5. Triple Lakes Trail
Triple Lakes Trail is waiting for hikers ready to branch beyond the more accessible hikes. This trail is the longest in Denali at 9.5 miles one-way. The walk takes approximately eight to 10 hours round-trip.
Triple Lakes Trail begins less than a mile from Denali Visitor Center. Bridges on the trail cross two creeks, then the trail climbs to provide views of Riley Creek and snowcapped mountain peaks. Hikers can continue to the Triple Lakes before reaching the parking lot west of Highway 3.
This scenic forest hike gives visitors the chance to get a glimpse of a moose, bear, beaver or lynx.
6. Off-Trail Hiking
Like most national parks in the state, Denali National Park doesn’t have an extensive network of marked trails directing hikers to stay on the path. Instead, travelers are encouraged to hike off-trail. A topographic map and a compass can help you explore the Denali backcountry on your own.
To begin an off-trail hike, determine how far you’d like to go and plan a hiking trip. The options are nearly endless. The Denali National Park Service rangers also lead backpacking trips, which can be a good choice for beginner hikers who want to take a step off the beaten path.
Best Short Hikes in Alaska
For travelers looking for easy day hikes and relaxing trails across the state, these hikes are for you. These six short hikes are all less than 10 miles long and give hikers anywhere in the state a chance to stretch their legs and see some beautiful Alaskan sights.
1. West Glacier Trail
If you want to see a glacier and are limited on time, West Glacier Trail is a perfect day hike. Access to the trail begins minutes away from Juneau’s cruise ship terminals, making it a great spot for cruise travelers. This scenic trail is 3.5 miles one way and skirts a young forest.
West Glacier Trail’s first overlook provides a view of the glacier’s base and Nugget Creek Falls. The hike gets steeper later on, following cairns on rocky terrain. The trek ends at a rocky overlook on Mendenhall Glacier. After taking in the vibrant blue and white ice, hikers will curve back toward the trailhead.
2. Eielson Alpine Trail
The Eielson Visitor Center is located along the Eielson Bluffs and accessible from Mile 66 of Denali Park Road. From the Eielson Visitor Center, hikers can take the trailhead to the Eielson Alpine Trail. This 1.75-mile hike has steep grades and switchbacks curving through brush and meadows. It also provides some excellent opportunities for wildlife sightings.
On clear days, visitors get gorgeous views of Denali from this trail, although the scenery of the valleys below is gorgeous even with cloud cover. Ambitious hikers can go off-trail or continue east to Thoro Peak. Be sure to check the latest information on closures due to rockslides.
3. Teklanika Foothills Hike
The Teklanika River region has gentle hills and low shrubland with excellent views of Cathedral Mountain. The Teklanika Foothills provide plenty of opportunities for short hikes through alpine terrain.
The hike along the foothills is moderately difficult and over 5 miles round-trip. There’s no designated trail, so hikers should have experience hiking the backcountry. From the Teklanika Rest Stop, walk east and aim for the small hills on the tundra.
Hikers can explore these ridges, nooks and drainages and never run out of sights to see.
4. Kenai River Trail
The Kenai River Trail winds through Kenai Fjords National Park, one of the most photographed places in the world. The hike is 5.6 miles round-trip from the upper entrance and 4.6 miles round-trip from the lower entrance. With breathtaking views of the Kenai River Canyon, the Kenai River Trail is a must-see.
Steep canyon walls and the beautiful river below make this hike a favorite for many trail runners and backpackers. The trail is generally over easy terrain but sometimes becomes more challenging. Salmon spawn in the river during the summer months, so be on the lookout for bears.
5. Heney Ridge Trail
The Heney Ridge Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Cordova. This trail follows Hartney Bay for 4.1 miles, winding 8 miles round-trip. The beginning of the trail is relatively easy, with meandering paths turning into steeper sections within the next couple of miles. The views turn into beautiful forests and meadows.
Hikers who make it to the peak of Heney Ridge will be rewarded with a scene of Prince William Sound, Hartney Bay and surrounding islands. Birdwatching and wildlife spotting are popular activities here.
6. Ugadaga Bay Trail
Last on our list of short hikes is Ugadaga Bay Trail, an easy 4.5-mile hike through Beaver Inlet in the Aleutian Islands. This trail follows an ancient trading route used by the Unangan people for thousands of years and the U.S. military during WWII. Waterfalls and wildflowers dot the landscape and provide a view of eagle’s nests, foxes and a variety of birds.
The trail ends downhill at Ugadaga Bay, the perfect opportunity to walk along the sandy North Pacific shore. The trail’s highest point includes cairns, and in summer, look out for an abundance of berries.
Best Multi-Day Hikes in Alaska
A multi-day hike might be more up your alley if you’re backpacking Alaska. The walks in this list will take several days to complete, so hikers should be prepared with clothing layers, food, water, camping gear and any other equipment they need to spend several days in the backcountry.
1. Chilkoot Trail
The Chilkoot Trail is a 33-mile trail originating from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98. This route was a traditional trading passage before the gold rush, but it became a much-traveled highway during those years. Hikers and trail runners can still see artifacts from the people who hiked this trail searching for fortune.
Chilkoot Trail begins near Skagway and ends in British Columbia, with views of alpine terrain, fertile basins and coastal rainforest in between. You’ll need a permit and the necessary paperwork for crossing Canadian customs. Chilkoot Trail is strenuous and generally takes backpackers about five days to complete.
2. Perseverance Trail
Perseverance Trail, close to Juneau, is technically only a 3-mile out-and-back into the mining history that surrounds Juneau. However, the trail connects to two other routes, Mount Juneau Trail and Granite Creek Trail, which combine into an overnight mountain excursion. Perseverance Trail takes hikers past Gold Creek and old mine shafts.
The climb up Mount Juneau is strenuous and the Granite Creek Trail is a good bypass that brings you to the ridge east of Mount Juneau. Granite Creek’s headwater basin is a gorgeous place to pitch camp for the night, with wildflowers and berries abundant in the summer. From the summit of Mount Juneau, you can catch serene views of the valley below before rejoining Perseverance Trail.
3. Iditarod National Historic Trail
History lovers can experience even more of Alaska’s rich past on the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The entire trail is 1,000 miles between Seward and Nome, but backpackers can take a shorter route along Johnson Pass Trail and end their trek in Girdwood. This unique trail takes hikers through 23 miles of terrain that follows portions of the path sled dog mushers and gold miners took until 1918.
This route is known for its diverse scenery, climate and wildlife, making it a popular destination for travelers backpacking Alaska. With beautiful campsites along the way nestled among trees and overlooking mountain lakes, this backpacking trail isn’t one to miss.
4. Resurrection River Trail
Resurrection River Trail is a 17-mile hike to Russian Lakes Trail. Hikers begin at Exit Glacier Road and travel through dense forest most of the way. There are occasional views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, with sections of heavy brush. Hikers will also need to do some creek hopping on this strenuous trek. Travelers should be aware of washed-out areas, downed trees and challenging terrain.
5. Deer Mountain
This hike on the Deer Mountain Trail to Blue Lake is a popular route with views of southeast Alaska’s islands, fjords and basins. To get to Deer Mountain, hikers walk 2.5 miles through Sitka spruce forest and catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Another 4.5 miles takes you to Blue Lake, with several basins suitable for sleeping along the way.
This Ketchikan hiking tour takes about 12.5 miles for the full traverse, and hikers can choose to spend two or three days making the trip.
6. K’esugi Ridge Trail
K’esugi Ridge Trail is a 29-mile route through Denali State Park with options for trips between 15.3 and 37 miles. This multi-day hike provides spectacular views of Denali and alpine lakes. The hike takes most travelers between two and four days and ends at Byers Lake Campground.
The K’esugi Ridge Trail system is a moderate hike for travelers of all experience levels. There’s little shelter on the ridge and the area is known as bear country, so hikers should prepare for inclement weather and carry bear deterrents.
Windstar Cruises Knows Hikes in Alaska
The absolute best hikes in Alaska are worth the visit — and Windstar Cruises wants to help you get there. Leave crowded cruise ships behind on a Windstar cruise that holds around 300 travelers, making connecting with the passengers and crew easier. On a Windstar cruise to Alaska, you get closer to popular hikes and hidden trails through unique ports.
Windstar’s welcoming ambiance is the first step on your journey to take in the rugged and breathtaking sights of the Alaskan wild. Browse our Alaskan cruises today or contact a Vacation Planner to learn more.