While there are many worthwhile experiences to have in Anchorage, it also provides a great opportunity to explore other Alaska attractions nearby. Not sure where to go for an interesting day trip? Here are some suggestions.
This charming community, located about two and a half hours north of Anchorage, is the base camp for climbers attempting to summit North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley (Denali). The mountain is 20,320 feet (6,194 meters) in elevation, and is the highlight of Alaska’s Denali National Park & Preserve, which also features over 650 species of flowering plants, 39 species of mammals, 169 species of birds, 14 species of fish, one species of amphibian, hiking trails, lakes, ponds and a unique glaciated landscape. Byers Lake is another highlight of Denali State Park, especially for those who want kayaking, canoeing or a scenic camping spot with views of Mount McKinley. To learn a bit about the area’s heritage, Talkeetna Historical Society Museum works to preserve the community’s historical buildings and trails. The museum itself showcases an array of artifacts, while the surrounding old railroad buildings hold exhibits and photographs. That being said, Talkeetna is a close-knit and proud community, and most local hotels and shops display historical artifacts and newspaper clippings for your enjoyment.
Chugach State Park
Only 20 minutes from Anchorage is Chugach State Park, showcasing 495,204 acres (200,402 hectares) of wildlife viewing, outdoor recreation and 27 designated hiking trails, mostly easy and moderate. For something easy try the Thunder Bird Falls Trail, a one mile (1.6 kilometers) each way trek across rolling terrain and man-made boardwalk to see a beautiful birch forest overhanging Eklunta Canyon and the 200-foot (61-meter) high Thunderbird Falls. For a moderate hike, Near Point Trail is three miles (five kilometers) one way with a steep section and glacial rock formations as well as views of the Alaska Range, Anchorage and Cook Inlet. If you’re looking for a challenge, the Flattop Mountain Trail is 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) one way and requires steep ascents through wild tundra and Mountain hemlock as well as a bit of scrambling; however, your efforts will be rewarded with views of the Alaska Range, Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm and Anchorage. Along with hiking, visitors come to the park to camp, photograph high alpine wildflowers, enjoy backcountry bushwhacking, whitewater raft and kayak on Eagle River, visit the Eagle River Nature Center, and view wildlife like moose, wolves, eagles, grizzly bears and local birds.
Independence Mine State Historical Park
For those interested in Alaska’s Gold Rush heritage, the 761-acre (308-hectare) Independence Mine State Historical Park is located in Wasilla, about an hour and 10 minutes away from Anchorage. In the park you’ll find an enormous and well-preserved abandoned gold mine. Until 1938, Independence Mine was actually two mines — the Alaska Free Gold Mine on Skyscraper Mountain and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain — and was the second most productive hard rock gold mine in Alaska. It was a successful operation until World War II made mining a nonessential activity, and although it opened briefly after the war, the mine shut down for good in 1951. Today, visitors can explore restored buildings and tunnels, the mine, old machinery, a museum and surrounding areas either on a self-guided or guided tour. To really help you travel back in time, recreational gold panning is also an option. In the area surrounding Independence Mine State Historical Park, visitors can hike and, in the winter, cross-country ski, sled and snowmobile.