The Ultimate Anchorage Itinerary: Plan your perfect trip

Meow, fellow explorers! Prepare for an extraordinary journey in the heart of the Last Frontier. As we build the perfect Anchorage itinerary, we’ll delve into the city that has captured the hearts of cats far and wide.

Anchorage, a coastal town with rugged beauty, offers a haven for cats that crave the perfect blend of urban living and untamed wilderness. What makes this city truly special? Well, it’s the extended daylight hours during summer that truly tickle my whiskers! As the sun graces Anchorage with its presence for what seems like an eternity, us cats revel in the extra hours of lounging in its warm embrace. But there’s so much more to Anchorage than endless sunshine. Join us as we uncover the hidden treasures of Anchorage, from national parks to cultural activities.

As we start to dive into options for your Anchorage itinerary, you’ll notice a good mix of activities based in Anchorage and short day trips to the surrounding area. Each activity we recommend is a unique mix of cost, time, location, and effort. We recommend combining activities in the same area and mixing and matching cost and effort so you don’t have to take too many cat naps. Without further adieu, here are the building blocks for your purr-fect Anchorage Itinerary!

Activities in the City Limits

Let’s start with a list of activities that can be accessed within the city limits. You may want to pair these with a quick trip just outside of town to maximize exploration.

Ride the Alaska Railroad

Cost: approximately $375 per adult, for a day trip to Seward, Time: an entire day, we recommend combining this activity with a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park, Effort: low, just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Anchorage Itinerary - scenic train ride through the Kenai Peninsula on the Alaska Railroad
Alaska Railroad

Embarking on a scenic train ride through Alaska is always a crowd-pleaser amongst visitors to Anchorage. With its rugged landscapes and abundant wildlife, this remarkable rail adventure offers a front-row seat to the breathtaking beauty of Alaska.

Offering a range of service levels, from standard to luxury, the Alaska Railroad allows passengers to tailor their experience to their preferences. Dining cars provide a chance to savor local cuisine, while dome cars with glass ceilings allow for unobstructed views of the surrounding scenery.

The Alaska Railroad is best known for its picturesque routes that traverse some of the most pristine and remote wilderness in the state. One of the most popular routes takes passengers from Anchorage to Denali National Park for an overnight stay. This is a great way to combine your scenic train ride with a trip to Denali! 

If you are looking for a day trip, the Coastal Classic is also a great choice. This train will take you to Seward and back, with a 7-hour layover. Combining this train ride with a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park is a popular option.

No matter which direction you travel, a ride on the Alaska Railroad provides an amazing opportunity for wildlife viewing. Spotting brown bears in their native habitat is a highlight for many passengers. Additionally, you may spot other well-known Alaskan fauna like bald eagles, moose, Dall sheep, and mountain goats. 

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Cost: $29 per adult, Time: 1-2 hours, Effort: medium, you’ll be walking or standing most of the time

The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a cultural gem nestled in the heart of Anchorage. This living museum is a testament to the rich and diverse heritage of Alaska’s indigenous peoples, showcasing their traditions, art, history, and way of life. 

The center’s 26-acre campus includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits, each providing immersive and educational experiences. Traditional Native dwellings, known as “dugout” or “barabara” houses, provide insights into the architectural resourcefulness of Alaska’s native communities. Visitors can explore these structures and gain a deeper appreciation of how the Indigenous people thrived in the challenging Alaskan environment.

One of the center’s most popular sections is the Dance Circle, where native performers share their ancestral stories through traditional dances, songs, and regalia. It’s a vibrant display of cultural expression that you will not want to miss.

Inside the main building, you’ll find even more exhibits. From indigenous artwork to historical artifacts and contemporary crafts, the center’s collections offer a comprehensive overview of Alaska’s native cultures. Depending on your timing you may also have the opportunity to interact with native artisans and elders or even try your hand at traditional crafts.

Take a Flightseeing Tour

Cost: $500+ per adult, Time: 5-6 hours, Effort: low to medium, you’ll be sitting most of the time

Flightseeing over southeastern Alaska
Flightseeing over southeastern Alaska

Taking a flightseeing tour from Anchorage is a unique adventure that offers a bird’s-eye view of some of the most breathtaking landscapes on Earth. Anchorage, nestled between the Chugach Mountains and the Cook Inlet, serves as an ideal starting point for an unforgettable aerial journey.

Due to its central location, departing from Anchorage allows for a variety of amazing tours. Flying over Denali National Park is a popular option, offering stunning views of the Chugach mountains, a glimpse at Denali’s untouched wilderness, and, of course, an up-close view of Mt Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. Other popular tours focus on glacier viewing and exploration of nearby Prince William Sound. 

Aside from breathtaking scenery, viewing Alaska by air also offers the chance to witness wildlife in their natural habitats. During these tours, it’s common to spot bears, moose, and Dall sheep, as well as, sealife like humpback whales.

The flights themselves are also an adventure. Many tours use small aircraft or seaplanes, allowing for intimate group sizes and personalized experiences. Knowledgeable pilots serve as guides, providing insights into the region’s geography, history, and wildlife. 

Most flightseeing tours offer at least one landing, often on a remote glacier or near a pristine lake. Passengers have the opportunity to step out of the aircraft onto untouched land, offering a unique and immersive experience of Alaska’s wilderness.

Chase the Northern Lights

Cost: $300+ per adult, Time: an entire evening, returning as late as 6 am, Effort: low, you’ll mostly be sitting in a van or heated viewing area

Witnessing the Northern Lights in Alaska is a bucket-list experience that leaves travelers in awe of nature’s most mesmerizing light show. For those seeking the perfect vantage point and expert insights, embarking on a guided tour is the surest way to make this dream a reality.

Alaska, with its vast, remote expanses and minimal light pollution, provides an ideal backdrop for observing the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. The display of colorful lights occurs when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth’s atmosphere, creating green, pink, and blue streaks across the night sky. 

While the Aurora Borealis is present year-round, your chances of seeing it increase greatly during the winter months (October – March). You can also view the aurora forecast at the University of Alaska website.

In chasing the Northern Lights, you have two main options: go in alone or book a tour. If seeing the lights is a priority for you it’s recommended to book a guided tour. The main reason is that when aurora activity is low it is fleeting and hard to see. An experienced guide knows where to look and the signs that activity is starting. They can direct your line of sight to just the right spot to catch a glimpse of activity on nights when it’s less active. 

Additionally, guides are familiar with the best locations and times to view the aurora, taking into account factors like weather conditions and solar activity. This knowledge greatly increases your chances of witnessing this unique phenomenon.

Moreover, guided tours often include amenities such as transportation to remote locations and access to heated viewing areas, ensuring that you’re comfortable and well-equipped for your adventure. Don’t forget that winter nights in Anchorage can easily drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit!

Downtown Anchorage

Cost: as low as $0, Time: 1-3 hours, Effort: medium, you’ll be walking or standing most of the time

Snake wearing a fur coat at Polar Bear Gifts in downtown Anchorage, Alaska
Polar Bear Gifts (not a real snake!)

Nestled between the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet, downtown Anchorage offers a vibrant urban experience, blending culture, history, and natural beauty. Get ready to explore an eclectic mix of boutiques, restaurants, and cultural attractions. 

The city’s diverse culinary scene includes an array of eateries offering everything from fresh seafood to international cuisine. Some crowd favorites include 49th State Brewing, Humpys, and Simon and Seafort’s. 

If shopping is your thing, make sure to check out historic Fourth Avenue, where you’ll encounter charming shops, galleries, and vibrant street art. Downtown Anchorage is also known for quirky souvenirs, like the ones sold at the Polar Bear gift shop. And finally, if you are looking for a truly Alaskan gift, stop by the Ulu Factory just north of downtown. This unique experience allows you to see how ulu knives are made, learn about their unique history and, of course, purchase one on your way out.

The Ulu Factory is right next to Ship Creek, which offers a great scenic walking trail. Here you can often witness locals fishing for their catch of the day. If you have never seen anyone catch a feisty salmon, this is definitely worth a stop!

Downtown Anchorage also hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating Alaskan culture and traditions. The Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Performing Arts Center are venues that regularly showcase local talent, from traditional dances to contemporary theater productions.

Anchorage Museum

Cost: $20 per adult, Time: 1-3 hours, Effort: medium, you’ll be walking or standing most of the time

Visiting the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center is a great way to learn about Alaska’s art, history, and culture. Located in the vibrant downtown district of Anchorage, this museum is a must-see destination for travelers and locals alike. Here you’ll find three main, permanent exhibits: the Alaska Exhibition, Art of the North, and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.

The Alaska Gallery focuses on the history of Alaska from its indigenous origins to its territorial days and eventual statehood. You’ll also take a deep dive into Alaska’s natural wonders, including its remarkable geology and wildlife. Each theme is enriched by interactive displays and multimedia presentations. 

Next, in the Art of the North exhibit, you’ll learn how art reflects Alaska’s unique culture and history. Predominantly focused on the land and people of the North, this art shows the unique relationship between Alaskan natives and the dramatic landscape on which they depend. 

Finally, the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center displays over 600 objects from the Smithsonian, which were hand-picked and interpreted by a group of Alaska Native Advisors. This represents the largest and longest loan from the Smithsonian.

The Anchorage Museum is also constantly hosting multiple rotating exhibits covering topics from contemporary art to pivotal historic events. 

Beyond exhibits, you’ll also find a variety of programs and events, including lectures, workshops, and family-friendly activities, making this museum a dynamic and engaging community hub. Visiting the Anchorage Museum is a great way to deepen your appreciation for the remarkable state of Alaska. 

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Cost: as low as $0, up to $100 per adult for bike rentals Time: 2-4 hours, Effort: medium to high, you’ll be walking or cycling on a mostly flat paved pathway

Anchorage Itinerary - view of Westchester Lagoon from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
View from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a local favorite, offering an accessible trail featuring some of the state’s most awe-inspiring natural beauty. Stretching for 11 miles along the city’s coastline, this trail is a great example of Alaska’s commitment to providing access to nature.

Named after former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles, this coastal trail is an urban escape like no other. Beginning in downtown Anchorage, the trail meanders along the shimmering waters of Cook Inlet, providing views of the Chugach Mountains, and the inlet itself.

One of the trail’s highlights is its accessibility. It’s a multi-use path that accommodates walkers, runners, cyclists, and even cross-country skiers in the winter months. The well-maintained surface and gentle slopes make it suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. One popular way to experience this trail is by renting a bike from Pablo’s Bicycles, located right by the trail’s starting point. 

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is also known for frequent wildlife encounters. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles soaring overhead, beluga whales frolicking in the inlet, and moose occasionally grazing along the trail’s edges.

The trail’s terminus at Kincaid Park offers additional outdoor opportunities, including hiking, mountain biking, and picnicking. Kincaid Park is the perfect place to relax before beginning your journey back into downtown Anchorage. 

Celebrate the Annual Salmon Run

Cost: as low as $0, Time: 1-2 hours, Effort: Medium, you’ll be walking or standing most of the time

One of the greatest things about Alaska is how natural phenomenon continues to play a role in local cultures across the state. One of the most obvious examples of this interaction is the annual salmon run. Near the end of each summer, around August, Alaskan salmon migrate from the ocean back to their freshwater spawning grounds. This annual event is a critical part of the salmon life cycle and plays an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems that support various wildlife.

Salmon are also a cornerstone of the Alaskan economy. Not only do they provide sustenance for many residents, but many commercial fisheries supply the rest of the world with well-loved salmon varietals like king, sockeye, and coho.  

Anchorage Itinerary - Visit a salmon fishery
Fish Ladder at an Alaskan Salmon Fishery

One great way to experience the annual salmon run is by visiting a local hatchery to see the salmon up close. Hatcheries are great places to learn about the fascinating lifecycle of salmon and how multiple ecosystems depend on their existence. You’ll also learn about the state’s strict laws to preserve local salmon populations. The Ship Creek Fishery Center is an excellent option and is located close to downtown Anchorage.

Finally, if you are looking to get out into nature, you can also visit some well-known creeks to engage in wildlife viewing. In fact, the annual salmon run is prime time for bear-watching as the brown bears feast in preparation for winter hibernation. This is also a great opportunity to observe the various techniques used by locals to catch these feisty fish.

Ship Creek, located just north of downtown Anchorage is the closest place to witness the annual salmon run. Bird Creek, located about 40 minutes south is also a popular location for fishing and wildlife viewing. 

Earthquake Park

Cost: $0, Time: 1-2 hours, Effort: Medium, you’ll be walking or standing most of the time

Earthquake Park in Anchorage, Alaska, is a place where history and nature converge to tell a compelling story about the region’s tumultuous past and its enduring spirit. This park, situated along the scenic Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, serves as both a memorial and a reminder of the devastating 1964 Alaska earthquake, one of the most powerful in recorded history.

The earthquake, which occurred on Good Friday in 1964, measured a staggering magnitude of 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted for approximately four minutes. The tremors and subsequent tsunamis caused widespread destruction throughout Southcentral Alaska, including Anchorage. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed, and the landscape was forever altered.

Earthquake Park stands on the land that was most dramatically impacted by the earthquake. Today, it offers a somber yet poignant experience for visitors. As you explore the park’s well-maintained trails and boardwalks, you’ll encounter interpretive signs and plaques that provide historical context and insights into the earthquake’s impact on Anchorage.

The park’s location along the coast provides breathtaking views of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains. It’s a testament to the resilience of both nature and the people of Alaska. The regrowth of vegetation and the return of wildlife to the area demonstrate the power of nature’s ability to heal itself

Must-see Attractions South of Anchorage

As you travel south of Anchorage you’ll hug the rugged coastline of Turnagain Arm, one of the most scenic areas in Alaska. Next, you’ll pass Prince William Sound and then eventually enter the Kenia Peninsula, an area loved by locals and visitors alike. If you only have time to day trip from Anchorage in one direction, we recommend going south.

Kenai Fjords National Park

Cost: $178 per adult for the boat tour, Time: an entire day, we recommend combining this activity with a train ride from Anchorage or a scenic drive on Seward Highway Effort: low, you’ll be sitting most of the time

Anchorage Itinerary - visit Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

Located 2.5 hours south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai Fjords National Park is another great travel experience to add to your itinerary. You can easily visit this beautiful park on a day trip from Anchorage, however, making it an overnight trip by staying in Seward would allow you the flexibility to explore the town after your tour of the park. 

The Kenai Fjords National Park is a park best seen by boat. In fact, the only area with defined hiking trails is the Exit Glacier area located about 20 minutes outside of Seward. With that said, if time permits, we recommend a stop at this easily accessible glacier. 

The best way to see the park is to book a boat tour from one of several tour operators in Seward. You can expect a comprehensive tour to run for approximately 6 hours. You may find tours that are shorter, but they generally stay within Resurrection Bay, missing out on some of the more dramatic tidewater glaciers. 

One main highlight of touring the Kenia Fjords is the possibility of wildlife spottings. During the tour, it’s common to see marine life such as humpback whales, sea otters, stellar sea lions, and an array of seabirds. Experienced tour guides will help spot wildlife and also provide information on the unique ecosystem of the fjords. 

Another reason for this park’s popularity is the opportunity to get close to some of Alaska’s most gigantic tidewater glaciers. If you are lucky, you may even witness calving, which is when chunks of the glacier fall into the frigid water below. 

Drive the Seward Highway

Cost: as low as $60-100 for gas Time: an entire day, we recommend combining this activity with a boat tour of Kenia Fjords National Park Effort: low, just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Taking a scenic drive along the Seward Highway in Alaska is one of the best ways to explore some of the most breathtaking views the Last Frontier has to offer. This iconic highway, stretching for 125 miles from Anchorage to the coastal town of Seward, is well known for its variety of landscapes and access to nature. 

Starting in Anchorage, the Seward Highway meanders alongside Turnagain Arm, one of the most iconic stretches of the Alaskan coastline. During low tide, you’ll find glistening mudflats that stretch for miles set against the Chugach Mountains which melt into the ocean. To the north, you’ll find dramatic cliffs that are often populated with Dall sheep and eagle’s nests. During the spring the melting ice provides rushing waterfalls in this area.  

During this portion of the drive, you’ll have the opportunity to stop by Girdwood, home to the Alyeska Resort. Here, you can take a scenic tram ride to the summit of Mount Alyeska, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains. The area also boasts hiking trails in the summer and world-class skiing in the winter. 

Just beyond Girdwood, you’ll hit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is a great stop to get up close and personal with some of Alaska’s best-known wildlife including bears, wolves, and bison. 

At this point the road diverges from the coast and meanders into the Kenai Mountains, providing a noticeable shift in flora and fauna. During this portion of the drive, keep an eye out for moose grazing along the side of the road. 

View from the scenic Seward Highway near Anchorage, Alaska
View from the scenic Seward Highway

If you are looking to get out and explore nature, Moose Pass is a great place to stop. This scenic mountain town has a population of 300 and is home to several scenic hiking trails that overlook stunning glacier-fed lakes. 

Finally, you’ll end up in the quaint town of Seward. Best known as home to the famous Kenia Fjords National Park, Seward also offers plenty of opportunities to explore. Take some time to walk along the shores of Resurrection Bay, visit the Alaska Sealife Center, and enjoy some fantastic seafood while you are in the area. 

Portage Glacier

Cost: up to $45 per adult, Time: half a day, we recommend combining this activity with a day trip to Whittier, Effort: medium to high for hiking, low for the glacier cruise

Located about 1.5 hours south of Anchorage, a day trip to Portage Glacier is an excellent addition to any Anchorage itinerary. Part of the larger Chugach State Park, this glacier is easily accessible, making it a popular destination for those staying in Anchorage.

One of the most popular ways to experience Portage Glacier is by taking a cruise on Portage Lake. These boat tours, operated by Greyline Alaska, leave 5 times a day in 1.5-hour intervals. Lasting 1 hour in total, taking a boat tour to the face of Portage Glacier is one of the easiest ways to see a glacier in Alaska.  

For those who prefer to keep their feet on solid ground, the Portage Pass Trail offers a moderate hike with breathtaking views. This 2-mile trail leads to an overlook where you can gaze upon the glacier from above, surrounded by the beauty of the Chugach Mountains and alpine landscapes. The entire journey is 4 miles, roundtrip. 

Additionally, the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center provides valuable insights into the region’s history, wildlife, and ecology. Interactive exhibits and informative displays offer a deeper understanding of the natural forces at play in this remarkable area. 

Please note that you can not see the glacier from the visitor center. You’ll need to board an hour-long cruise or take a hike on Portage Pass Trail (likely 1.5-2 hours, depending on your pace).

Day trip to Whittier

Cost: as low as $0, Time: full day, we recommend combining this with a day trip with a visit to Portage Glacier, Effort: medium to low, this excursion is a mix of walking, standing, and sitting

About 1.5 hours outside of Anchorage, visiting Whittier, Alaska, is like stepping into an enchanting world nestled between the Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound This small, picturesque town, only accessible through a one-lane tunnel (more on that later!), is a hidden gem that promises a unique Alaskan adventure.

One unusual fact about the town of Whittier is that it is only accessible through a one-lane tunnel shared by cars and trains. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America, running 2.5 miles in total. Needless to say, the entrance to the tunnel is timed on each side, so make sure you check the schedule when planning your trip.  

Anchorage Itinerary - view of Prince William Sound from Whittier, Alaska
View of Prince William Sound from Whittier, Alaska

Upon emerging from the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the first thing you’ll notice about Whittier is its dramatic setting. The town is nestled along the shores of Prince William Sound, a pristine and rugged coastal area where the mountains meet the sea. The towering peaks, hanging glaciers, and emerald waters create a breathtaking backdrop for your enjoyment.

Aside from unparalleled natural beauty, Whittier offers plenty of outdoor activities. Prince William Sound is a kayaker’s paradise, where you can paddle through calm waters and view hanging glaciers while enjoying close encounters with sea otters, seals, and even humpback whales. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck for salmon, halibut, and other prized catches in the Sound’s fertile waters.

The town also serves as a gateway to several wilderness adventures. The Chugach National Forest surrounding Whittier offers numerous hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging backcountry treks. 

Finally, Whittier boasts a unique history. During World War II, it served as a strategic military port, and remnants of that era, including the Begich Towers, still stand. The town’s year-round population resides in these towers, adding to the uniqueness of this little town.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Cost: $20 per adult, Time: 1-2 hours, we recommend combining this activity with a stop at Potter Marsh Effort: medium, you’ll be walking or standing most of the time

Located just one hour south of Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is a remarkable destination that offers an up-close and personal encounter with some of the state’s most iconic residents. 

If you are looking to return home with the coveted grizzly bear or black bear photograph, then you have found your place! At $20 for admission, the AWCC is well known as an alternative to expensive bear-viewing tours. Situated on the picturesque Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, the AWCC makes for a gorgeous setting for all your wildlife photography desires. 

Beyond bears, the AWCC is also home to a diverse array of other Alaskan wildlife, including moose, bison, elk, muskoxen, caribou, and a wolf pack. Each animal has its story of rescue and recovery, adding to the center’s compelling narrative of rehabilitation and preservation.

Black bear at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

In fact, the AWCC’s commitment to animal welfare and education is apparent throughout the facility. Visitors can learn about the unique challenges that Alaska’s bears face in the wild and the state’s efforts to protect them. Knowledgeable staff provide insight into the importance of coexisting with these magnificent creatures while promoting responsible wildlife conservation practices.

Bird Watching at Potter Marsh

Cost: $0 Time: 1 hour, we recommend combining this activity with a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Effort: medium to low, you’ll be standing or walking most of the time on a flat boardwalk

Potter Marsh, located just outside of Anchorage, Alaska, is a great place for wildlife viewing. This 564-acre freshwater marsh, surrounded by the picturesque Chugach Mountains, is best known as a critical stopover for migratory birds.  

Birdwatching at Potter Marsh is a rewarding experience throughout the year, but it truly shines during the spring and fall migrations. Over 130 bird species have been spotted here, including sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and a variety of waterfowl. The marsh’s network of boardwalks and observation points offers excellent vantage points to witness these majestic birds in their natural habitat.

Near the end of the summer, you can also catch bright red and pink salmon spawning in Rabbit Creek, which runs just underneath the main boardwalk about halfway into the marsh. 

One of the best things about Potter Marsh is its accessibility. Located just 20 minutes south of Anchorage, you’ll find a large parking area right next to the marsh. From there you can follow 1550 feet of winding boardwalks that offer different vantage points of the vast wilderness. 

Make sure to bring your binoculars so you can try to spot bald eagles, which often nest near the base of the bluff which flanks the backend of the marsh. 

Flattop Mountian

Cost: $0, Time: half a day, Effort: high, this is an extremely steep hike on rugged terrain

Hiking Flattop Mountain near Anchorage, Alaska, is a local favorite, featuring panoramic views and full immersion into some of Alaska’s greatest wilderness. Flattop offers a challenging yet rewarding experience for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels.

The trailhead, about 30 minutes outside of Anchorage, is located within Chugach State Park. The most popular route will take you on a 1.5-mile ascension, gaining 1350 feet. While this trail is short, it is also steep. Make sure to allow plenty of time so you can take some much-needed breaks. 

As you embark on the hike, you’ll immediately be immersed in pristine wilderness. The well-marked trail winds through dense forests of spruce and birch, gradually ascending towards the mountain’s summit. 

Sunset during summer in Alaska
Sunset during summer in Alaska

As you climb, the views become increasingly spectacular. The Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet stretch out in front of you, with Anchorage and the Alaska Range in the distance. On clear days, Denali, North America’s highest peak, can be spotted on the northern horizon. Flattop Mountain’s summit offers a rocky, windswept landscape with plenty of space to sit, relax, and savor the breathtaking vistas. 

Alyeska Resort

Cost: up to $48 per adult to ride the tram, Time: half a day, we recommend combining this with a stop at Crow Creek Mine, Effort: medium, this excursion is a mix of walking, standing, and sitting

About an hour outside of Anchorage, Alyeska Resort is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, skiers, and nature lovers alike. Nestled in the heart of the Chugach Mountains, this resort offers a captivating blend of rugged wilderness and luxury amenities.

Best known for world-class skiing, Alyeska has plenty to offer year-round. The aerial tramway is the most iconic feature, whisking visitors to the top of Mount Alyeska for panoramic vistas that stretch from the Turnagain Arm to the Chugach Mountains.

During the summer months, Alyeska provides endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring the great outdoors. For wildlife enthusiasts, the resort’s location in the Chugach Mountains offers opportunities to spot moose, bears, and a variety of birds. 

Finally, after a day in the great outdoors, make sure to check out the day spa and fine dining restaurants, located just steps away from all the action. 

Crow Creek Mine

Cost: $13 per adult, Time: half a day, we recommend combining this activity with a stop at Alyeska Resort, Effort: medium, you’ll be standing or walking most of the time

Crow Creek Mine, located an hour outside of Anchorage, near Alyeska resort is evidence of the state’s rich gold rush history. This historic gold mine offers a unique blend of education, adventure, and hands-on exploration, making it a must-visit attraction for your Anchorage Itinerary. 

Founded in the late 19th century, Crow Creek Mine played a pivotal role in the gold rush era that shaped Alaska’s identity. Today, the property still produces gold and maintains a beautiful property on which visitors can learn about history or simply appreciate the surrounding nature. 

Crow Creek Mine offers guided tours led by knowledgeable hosts who share the mine’s storied past and provide insights into gold mining techniques from the past and present. One highlight for many guests is the opportunity to try your hand at panning for gold.

Beyond the chance to strike gold, Crow Creek Mine offers scenic hiking trails that showcase the natural beauty of the Chugach Mountains. The surrounding forests, streams, and mountain landscapes are home to diverse wildlife, and lucky visitors might spot moose, bears, eagles, and other Alaskan fauna.

Going North into Interior Alaska

Just north of Anchorage, you’ll find the Mat-Su Valley, an area that refers to pristine wilderness between the Matunuska and Sustina Rivers. As you continue north you’ll wander into the Alaska Mountain Range, home to the beloved Denali National Park. This area is sparsely populated and much more rugged than the land south of Anchorage.

Denali National Park

Cost: $15 per adult, Time: a full day Effort: variable, available activities include hiking, scenic drives and bus tours

View of Mount Denali
Mount Denali

Located about 2 hours and 15 minutes north of Anchorage, visiting Denali National Park is a popular activity to add to your Anchorage Itinerary. While a trip to Denali can be completed in one full day, it is recommended to spend the night in the area so you can really take in the park’s splendor. 

Upon arrival at the park, visitors are encouraged to start their exploration at the Denali Visitor Center. Here, you can gather essential information about the park’s varied ecosystems and the multitude of activities it offers. The visitor center serves as an educational hub, offering insights into the park’s history, and the importance of conservation.

The park only has one road that runs for 92 miles, parallel to the Alaska mountain range. During the summer months, private vehicles may drive the first 15 miles of the road. Access beyond the first 15 miles requires a reservation on one of the park’s buses. 

Denali’s centerpiece is the towering Mount Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. If weather permits this gigantic behemoth can be viewed from multiple lookout points on Denali Park Rd. One of the most popular viewpoints is at mile 9. 

Aside from chasing the perfect photograph of the park’s namesake mountain, wildlife viewing is also a popular activity in the park. Denali is home to grizzly bears, moose, wolves, and a plethora of bird species, offering unparalleled opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography.

For those who like to get off the road to explore, there a plenty of hiking trails, starting at the visitor center. With that said, Denali is best known for its opportunities for trail-less hiking. In many parts of the park, the vegetation is so sparse that you can hike for miles while still keeping the main road in view. Even with the friendly terrain, however, you should always be prepared when entering the Alaskan backcountry. 

Hike on Matanuska Glacier

Cost: $150 per adult, Time: most of the day a day (6-8 hours), Effort: medium to high, you’ll be walking on flat but rugged terrain

About 2 hours outside of Anchorage you’ll find Matanuska Glacier, the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. This is one of the most accessible glaciers near Anchorage, with guided tours running throughout the day. 

Starting out, the journey from Anchorage to Matanuska Glacier is a scenic drive that traverses breathtaking landscapes. The drive itself, approximately 2 hours, follows the Matunuska River as it meanders through dense forests and stunning mountain passes. About halfway in between Anchorage and Matunuska, you’ll find the town of Palmer, which is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. 

Upon arrival at Matanuska Glacier, guided tours provide valuable information and safety gear for your journey. These tours typically last 1.5-2 hours and cost $150. Please note that the only way to hike on top of the glacier is via a guided tour. You are welcome to drive to the face of the glacier and hike around it free of charge, however. 

Matanuska Glacier in Alaska
Matanuska Glacier in Alaska

With that said, it’s highly recommended to get onto the glacier. At the start of your tour, you’ll be outfitted with crampons and other essential gear, ensuring secure footing on the glacier’s icy surface. Expert guides lead the way, choosing the best routes and pointing out unique features, such as crevasses, ice caves, and brilliant blue meltwater pools. Make sure to bring your camera as Matanuska Glacier’s immense size and dramatic ice formations are particularly photogenic. 

Putting it All Together

Now that you know the best options for activities in and around Anchorage, it’s time to build your perfect itinerary! As you can see this amazing town offers something for everyone. Factors like desired activity level, cost, time, and personal interests all play into how you’ll build your Anchorage itinerary.

Still need some inspiration? Don’t worry, we got you!

3-day Anchorage Itinerary – the best of the best

This sample itinerary focuses on hitting the main highlights in and around the city of Anchorage. This itinerary includes a scenic train ride through the Kenai Peninsula, overhead views of Mount Denali, exploration of multiple glaciers, an up-close view of Prince William Sound, and plenty of wildlife viewing.

  • Day 1: Take the Coastal Classic route on the Alaska Railroad for a day trip to Seward. Book the boat tour for the Kenai Fjords National Park during your 7-hour layover.
  • Day 2: Take a flightseeing tour of Denali in the morning, spend the early evening strolling along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and enjoy dinner with a view at 49th State Brewery in downtown Anchorage.
  • Day 3: Visit Portage Glacier in the morning, spend the afternoon in Whittier, and catch the early evening wildlife activity at Potter Marsh on the way back to Anchorage

3-day Anchorage Itinerary – focus on Denali

If your main priority is experiencing Denali National Park, then this itinerary is for you! This trip optimizes time exploring Denali National Park and provides the unique opportunity to hike on a glacier.

  • Day 1: Drive from Anchorage to Denali National Park. Spend the afternoon exploring the trails at the front of the park and visit the visitor’s center. Stay the night in or around the park.
  • Day 2: Take the guided bus tour into the park. Experienced hikers can take the hop-on, hop-off transit bus for the opportunity to do some backcountry hiking. Stay the night in or around the park.
  • Day 3: Drive to Matanuska Glacier and complete the guided hiking tour. Return to Anchorage and enjoy a nice seafood dinner downtown- you’ve earned it!

5-day Anchorage Itinerary – exploring nature

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary - Turnout on Portage Glacier Road
Scenic turnout near Portage Glacier

If you are lucky enough to have 5 days in the Anchorage area, here’s the itinerary for you. This agenda takes you to the main highlights of the area, while also providing some unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences! This itinerary includes a glacier hike, access to stunning sealife, a relaxing train ride, a coastal bike ride, wildlife photography, glacier viewing, an up-close view of the tallest peak in North America, and a chance to learn about Alaska’s unique history and culture.

  • Day 1: Take a guided hike on Matanuska Glacier in the morning, in the afternoon explore downtown Anchorage including Ship Creek, the Ulu Factory, and shopping on Fourth Avenue. Enjoy a nice seafood dinner downtown. 
  • Day 2: Take the Coastal Classic route on the Alaska Railroad for a day trip to Seward. Book the boat tour for the Kenai Fjords National Park during your 7-hour layover. 
  • Day 3: Bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in the morning, visit Crow Creek in the afternoon, and enjoy a nice dinner at Alyeska Resort.
  • Day 4: Start the day at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, do the glacier tour at Portage Glacier, and spend the afternoon and evening exploring the town of Whittier.
  • Day 5: Do a flightseeing tour of Denali in the morning, and enjoy the Anchorage Museum or Native Heritage Center in the afternoon. Check out some breweries downtown during the evening.

5-day Anchorage Itinerary – budget-friendly activities

Looking for the most budget-friendly options to explore Anchorage? Use this itinerary to do Anchorage like a local! Highlights of this itinerary include wildlife photography, glacier viewing, exploration of Prince William Sound, views of Mt. Denali, panning for gold, learning about the history and traditions of Alaskan Natives, and an evening stroll along the rugged Alaskan coastline.

  • Day 1: Start the day with a scenic drive down the Seward Highway, there are plenty of pullouts for landscape and wildlife photography. Around noon, head back to Anchorage, stopping at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center ($20 per adult) and Potter Marsh (free). Enjoy a picnic in Earthquake Park for dinner.
  • Day 2: Start the morning at Portage Glacier, take a hike around the area to get a view of the glacier from above (optional glacier cruise for $54 per adult). Drive to Whittier for the afternoon and enjoy a picnic on the beach set against incredible views of Prince William Sound.
  • Day 3: Take a day trip to Denali National Park ($15 per adult, park entrance fee). Enjoy the Visitor Center, a 15-mile scenic drive, and hike on the established trails near the front of the park. 
  • Day 4: Drive to Alyeska Resort and explore the nearby trails (optional scenic tram ride for $48 per adult). Visit Crow Creek Mine ($13 per adult) on the way back to Anchorage.
  • Day 5: Visit the Anchorage Museum in the morning ($20 per adult), and spend the afternoon exploring Ship Creek & its fishery. Enjoy an evening stroll on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

Conclusion on building your Anchorage Itinerary

View from the Glacier Discovery train route outside of Whittier, Alaska
View from the Alaska Railroad

In conclusion, creating the purr-fect Anchorage itinerary is a journey filled with endless possibilities. From national parks to wildlife viewing to natural phenomena, a visit to Anchorage is sure to be filled with beauty and adventure. 

If you are looking to explore national parks, make sure to add Denali and Kenai Fjords to the top of your lists. 

For wildlife viewing enthusiasts do not miss the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Potter Marsh, and participation in the annual salmon run. 

Adventure seekers should find time to chase the Northern Lights, hike on Flattop, and check out some of the area’s most famous glaciers. 

If you are looking to explore the unique landscape, make sure to book a sightseeing train, travel to Mt. Alyeska, take a scenic drive on the Seward Highway, and explore Prince William Sound. 

While you are in Anchorage take some time to really soak in the culture by exploring downtown and visiting great museums like the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum. Earthquake Park and Crow Creek Mine will also provide a unique flavor of history to your journey. 

In conclusion, Anchorage and its surrounding area offer a truly unique variety of activities. So, the question is, what will go on your perfect Anchorage itinerary?


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