Anchorage, Alaska is an urban epicenter of a lush wilderness awaiting exploration.

The city epitomizes modern convenience, offering access to the region’s major airport, highways and the Alaska Railroad.

Day trip and weekend getaway ideas include glacier tours, beaches, hiking, and immersive experiences with Alaskan wildlife.

1. Turnagain Arm

Turnagain Arm
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Over four miles of pristine shoreline span this section of the Seward Highway and Turnagain Arm is arguably the most gorgeous scenic road in America.

The expansive flat of Turnagain Arm stretches across to the mountains of Cook Inlet and, when driving south from Anchorage, the Chugach State Park 3000-foot mountain impresses on the left side of the drive.

The highway provides access to the mountains for hiking, ranging from recreational streamside walks to challenging ascents.

But of greater interest is the impressive rush of water, known as the bore tide, which produces a tidal wave of six feet with speeds up of to 20mph – a truly unforgettable sight.

2. Chugach National Forest

Chugach National Forest
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With over 5.4 million acres of spectacular scenery, visitors will need more than one day to take in the wonders of Chugach National Forest.

Driving along the Copper River Highway takes visitors through rainforests, wetlands leading to the impressive Childs Glacier.

Prince William Sound can be explored by sea or land, spanning 3 million acres of ocean and land.

Summer campgrounds and cabins should be reserved in advance, or visitors can take advantage of the innumerable hiking trails and cycling paths.

Fishing is also a popular pastime in his region, world-class for salmon, grayling, trout and bottomfish.

Supervisor’s Office: 161 E. 1st Ave., Door 8, Anchorage, AK 99501, Phone: 907-743-9500

3. Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park
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A significant historical habitat, Katmai protects and preserves rich wilderness, and has been a dynamic part of Novarupta and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes since the surrounding region was devastated by volcanic action in 1918. A vital habitat for thousands of brown bears and Bristol Bay sockeye salmon that spans more than four million acres, including miles of wild waters. Visitors can respectfully enjoy the living laboratory, bear watching, boating, and backcountry hiking in designated areas. Accessibility is limited to the Brooks Campgrounds, which has a maximum capacity of sixty people and has public facilities, although guests are required to be prepared to experience backcountry Alaska.

King Salmon, Anchorage, AK 99501, Phone: 907-246-3305

4. Portage Valley

Portage Valley
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An hour southeast of Anchorage, at the head of Turnagain Arm, is the adventure oasis of Portage Valley. Starting at the Moose Flats Day Use Area, visitors can hike or bike the five-mile Trail of Blue Ice through stunning forest.

Family friendly activities continue at Alder Pond, a popular fishing destination stocked with rainbow trout.

Whitewater sports can be enjoyed in the accessible Portage Creek, or paddling in the Portage Lake below Portage Pass, although the Gold Rush route can be prone to inclement weather.

A spectacular drive through glaciers and ice-covered mountains, visitors can enjoy the state-of-the-art educational exhibits at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center as the beginning of their Portage valley experience.

Portage Lake Loop, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2326

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5. Alaska Railroad

Alaska Railroad
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Offering day trips during the summer season, Alaska Railroad readily customizes to create the ultimate travel package.

The Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop can only be accessed by rail and is an opportunity to partake in a guided nature walk, climb ice or raft the glacial waters in backcountry Alaska.

Day trips to Talkeetna, Seward, Girdwood, Whittier, Portage, Spencer Glacier and Grandview can all be accessed from Anchorage.

Additional features include flightseeing Denali, cruising through Resurrection Bay or the Kenai Fjord National Park and a summer dog sled tour. Route maps, schedules, fares and bookings can all be accessed online.

Phone: 800-544-0552

6. Eagle River Nature Centre

Eagle River Nature Centre
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At the heart of the Eagle River Valley is the log cabin Nature Center, the gateway to the fluid landscape and its rich history since 1995.

The organization has, through generous donation and charitable community, revitalized the public facilities to better connect visitors to the natural world through opportunities for education, preservation and enhancement.

32750 Eagle River Road, Eagle River, AK 99577, Phone: 907-694-2108

7. Rendezvous Peak

Rendezvous Peak
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The close proximity to Anchorage makes this hike a popular attraction, especially with the family-friendly 3.1 mile loop route found on the Arctic Valley side.

The Arctic Valley trailhead is accessed via a military reservation and the trail is littered with lush wildflowers. In contrast, the Eagle River trailhead is a cardio workout with a relatively steep climb.

From Rendezvous Peak, stunning views of Anchorage and Eagle River Valley are seen, with the more challenging trail rewarding visitors with additional views of South Fork Valley, Sleeping Lady and the Alaska Range.

8. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park
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A pristine winter wonderland, Kenai Fjords is a thriving icy landscape, rich with wildlife. The National Park is open year-round, yet the effects of climate change are seen in the changes to accessible areas for visitors.

Historically, the Sugpiaq people relied on this abundant life source to survive – an educational experience awaits on a ranger-led hike.

The 8.2 mile Harding Icefield Trail is a rigorous, though spectacular hike and kayaking is another popular way to experience the amazing Fjords.

Visitor Center: 1212 4th Avenue, Seward, AK 99664, Phone: 907-422-0500

9. Alyeska Resort Aerial Tram

Alyeska Resort Aerial Tram
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The breathtaking panoramic views from the Alyeska Aerial Tram are unforgettable. Travelling from the Hotel Alyeska to the top of Mt Alyeska is a 2,300 foot elevation, with each of the two cars holding a maximum of 60 people; winter speeds are quicker so visitors can resume their time on the slopes; summer is a leisurely 7 minutes so the views of Turnagain Arm and seven hanging glaciers can be relished. The Upper Tram Terminal is the ideal location for a meal before a half-day hike.

1000 Arlberg Avenue, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-754-2111

Where to stay: Hotel Alyeska

10. Crow Creek Gold Mine

Crow Creek Gold Mine
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Established in 1896, Crow Creek Gold Mine continues to offer visitors a genuine gold mining experience. Historical buildings, including the oldest building in the Anchorage municipality, as well as antiques and access to the mines’ original claims make Crow Creek a community treasure. With experienced staff on offer to assist, as well as the provision of gold panning essentials, visitors with a range of experiences are catered to. Mining excursions are on offer for a more immersive experience and sluice boxes can be rented. General admissions to the grounds means enjoying the flower gardens and the restful atmosphere, while camping is also permitted on site.

601 Crow Creek Road, Girdwood, AK, Phone: 907-229-3105

11. Day Trips from Anchorage: Roundhouse Museum

Day Trips from Anchorage: Roundhouse Museum
© Roundhouse Museum

A museum on the mountaintop, the Roundhouse was built on an exposed ridge in 1960, 2,280 feet above sea level. Visitors can access the self-sustaining historical space by ski lift or aerial tram, taking in panoramic views of mountains, glaciers and Turnagain Arm. While opening hours are subject to change, the summer season sees the Museum and Interpretive Center open daily from 11am – 4pm. The preservation and celebration of the Girdwood Valley are evident in this unique historical space.

1000 Arlberg Avenue, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-382-3488

12. Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound
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In the pristine Chugach National Forest is the 2,700 miles of coastline belonging to Prince William Sound. The 10,000 square miles of protected marine wilderness is home to a rich variety of whales, including humpback and minke, Stellar sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters. Black and Brown Bears, moose and eagles populate the mainland – the abundance of wildlife make the opportunity for viewing excellent. Adventure tours and wildlife excursions are available to explore the glacier-studded landscape and can be accessed from Cordova, Whittier and Valdez, towns that are situated on the shoreline.

13. Matanuska Valley Glaciers

Matanuska Valley Glaciers
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These highway-accessible glaciers make for magnificent viewing. Situated just off the Glenn Highway is a large overlook boasting breath-taking views that can be capitalized on with a one-mile meander through aspen forest, which allows visitors to experience the extraordinary natural phenomenon. Additional adventures await - hiking the glacier, ice climbing, river rafting and kayaking.

610 S. Bailey Street (Suite 201), Palmer, AK 99645, Phone: 907-746-5000

14. Trail of Blue Ice

Trail of Blue Ice
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The five-mile trail stays on the floor of the Portage Valley, consists of a gravel path with boardwalks and bridges, which is completely accessible for hikers and bikers alike. A family-friendly day trip, visitors pass through spruce forests, cottonwood trees, willow thickets and cranberry bushes in various sections of the Trail. Wildlife thrives in the Valley and includes moose, migrating birds and salmon. The Trail can be accessed at Moose Flats Day Use Area or the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, as well as a host of other trailheads along the path.

Portage Lake Loop, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2326

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15. Williwaw Fish Viewing Site

Williwaw Fish Viewing Site
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Situated in the Williwaw Campground, visitors can enjoy the unique marine community found in crystal-clear Williwaw Creek. One of only a few anadromous tributaries, sockeye, chum and coho spawning salmon arrive in late summer and stay until early fall. Visitors to the Campground may also be privileged to experience twilight viewing of mink, otter, bald eagles or blacks and brown bears. Migratory birds are a treat for visitors in the spring and fall seasons, when inclement weather may require respite for unique species.

4660 Portage Glacier Road, Girdwood, AK 99515, Phone: 877-444-6777

16. Glacier View

Glacier View
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Visitors wanting to get a glimpse of the “real” Alaska, beyond the usual tourist areas, should consider a day trip or overnight getaway to Glacier View. Glacier view lies about 2 hours from Anchorage. Remote, wild and fabulous, Glacier view is one of the few places where you can get close to a glacier from the roadside. There are guides who will take you to explore the ice and in summer there are a plethora of outdoor activities on offer, including river rafting, zip-lining and endless hiking trails. However, there is no town as such and lodging is very scarce so you need to book in advance of your visit.

Glacier View, Half-way between Matanuska Valley and Copper River Basin, Alaska

17. Denali National Park and Reserve

Denali National Park and Reserve
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Home to Mount McKinley (6,200mt), North America’s highest mountain, the Denali National Park and Reserve can be found just north of Anchorage. Covering more than 2.4 million hectares, you would need a lifetime to fully explore this remote wilderness. Taking a plane or helicopter tour from Anchorage is the best way to admire the park. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground you can enjoy wonderful hiking and biking as well as fishing and camping in summer, when most people visit. Wildlife watching can be sensational - just a small example of the wildlife you could expect to see in the park includes bald eagle, grizzly bears, wolves and moose.

Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Reserve, Alaska, 907 683 9532

18. Homer

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Located approximately 2 hours south of Anchorage, the seaside town of Homer is a great destination for a day out or an overnight getaway. Homer is not only your gateway to a very beautiful wilderness but it is also a charm-filled town with a great atmosphere. Nestled on the shores of Kachemak Bay, Homer offers a wide variety of activities for active adventurers including wonderful Halibut fishing, harbor cruises, water taxi excursions and bay cruises. You can also try your hand at kayaking, paddle-boarding, kite surfing, cycling, horseback riding and more. Homer also offers great shopping and has a well-deserved reputation as a “foodie” destination, boasting interesting restaurants, wineries and craft breweries.

19. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
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Covering a staggering 13 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest national park in the US, and also one of the most spectacular wilderness areas you will every visit. However, the sheer size of the park means that adventurers will need time and plenty of energy to explore. You can drive through large areas of the park from 3 main access points. Most visitors come in via the Cooper Center Visitor’s Centre on the Richardson Highway. Adventure opportunities in the park include limitless back-country hiking, mountaineering and rafting. Other adventures include camping, rafting, glacier trekking and wild-life watching, as well as learning about Alaska’s mining history.

20. Fairbanks

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Located in the far north of Alaska, around 6 hours from Anchorage, Fairbanks is a very special place to visit. This is one of the best places on the planet to see the Northern Lights and to experience unbelievable sunrises and sunsets. In addition, Fairbanks is home to much natural beauty and is one of the last places where visitors can experience the peace and solitude of a true wilderness. However, if you are more interested in arts and culture activities, you will also find them here. The Aurora Season lasts from late August to April, when long nights give rise to dark, clear skies. If you visit in summer (April to August) you can enjoy almost 24 hours of daily sunshine.

21. Valdez

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Valdez is located at Prince William Sound, 5 hours from Anchorage, where it provides a stunning mix of natural beauty including glaciers, rainforests and mountains. The area is a joy to explore and promises an excellent chance of wildlife sightings and outdoor adventures. Nature-lovers flock to Valdez in the hope of catching sight of Orca and Humpback whales, sea-lions, otters and birds. Summer adventure activities include kayaking expeditions to explore ice caves and waterfalls or scenic helicopter tours. You can go fishing or cycling or opt for a leisurely wildlife or glacier cruise. There is plenty to see close to Valdez including the Chugach National Forest (great for hiking and wildlife watching) and the very scenic Cooper River Valley.

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