Alaska is any nature lover’s paradise as it is a vast and beautiful wilderness filled with mountains, forests and wildlife. Hiking in Alaska is the perfect way to experience the sheer natural beauty of the state.
There are many hiking trails to choose from including guided tours, solo adventures and trails ranging from very easy to incredibly difficult.
So whether you’re a casual hiker looking to explore the outdoor wonders of the Alaskan wilderness or someone looking for a good hiking challenge, you can’t go wrong hiking in Alaska.
Here are the top trails and hiking spots in Alaska that you should explore on your next hiking adventure!
The Kenai River is renowned for its magnificent turquoise color and the Kenai River Trail follows its meandering shape so that you can see its pristine blue hue up close.
The river runs from the Kenai Lake through to the Cook Inlet of the Pacific Ocean. This 10 mile (16 km) trail is fairly difficult as you trek up the Kenai River Canyon. While the route is quite rugged and rocky, the view from the top will be worth every step.
The Kenai River Trail is a wonderfully scenic trail where you can enjoy wandering through the shady forest and get treated to spectacular views of the aquamarine water of the Kenai River and Lake below. There are a number of side trails that take you to the water’s edge where you can fish or camp.
Beware of bears on this trail! The Kenai River is a good source of fish so there are bears wandering around the area. Make sure to bring bear spray with you and make a lot of noise as you hike to avoid a close encounter.
The Portage Pass Trail is a 5.4 mile journey to the scenic Portage Lake. It is an easy, family-friendly trail that offers majestic views of the Portage Glacier. You’ll hike up to the Pass with an elevation gain of about 750 feet and then descend the other side to end up at the shores of the beautiful Portage Lake.
Opposite the lake lies the majestic Portage Glacier. You can spend some time on the gravel beach of the lake and enjoy your lunch while basking in the view of the blue glacier lying on the slopes of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
Exit Glacier is one of the most well-known and most visited glaciers in Alaska. This is because it is very accessible and one of the few that you can get right up close to.
The Lower Trail, or the Edge of the Glacier Trail, is located in the Kenai Fjords National Park and takes you to the Glacier View. This is where you will find magnificent views of the glacier coming down from the Harding Icefield.
The trail is well maintained and only 1.8 miles (2.9 km), so if you’re looking for more of a challenge, be sure to take the Upper Trail from the base of the glacier.
Also known as the Harding Icefield Trail, this route takes you up to an elevation of 3500 feet (1066 m) where you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the Exit Glacier and surrounding mountains. The Upper Trail is an additional 9 miles (14 km) there and back.
Barometer Mountain is a short, yet difficult hike that should not be underestimated. If you’re a more serious hiker, then you should definitely consider taking on this 4 mile (6.4 km) trail up the rugged mountain. Located in Kodiak, the hike up Barometer Mountain is quite popular and the trail is well-trodden except for a few sections that run through the bush.
While the trail is short, a decent amount of elevation is gained in those few miles - making for quite an intense mountain climb. With loose rocks, steep inclines and false summits, this trail takes you on quite a strenuous journey. The summit sits at almost 2500 feet (762 m) and rewards you with epic views of the surrounding land.
Make sure you bring plenty of water or a good water filtration system on this trail as you will need it! You can also choose to camp out for a night at the top to enjoy the alpine scenery a little longer.
Home to Denali (the highest peak in North America), Denali National Park is a must-see destination for everyone and anyone travelling to Alaska. Within this beautiful park is the Savage River Trail. This quick and easy trail is perfect for beginner hikers or if you’re hiking with children.
It follows the Savage River along a fairly flat and well-maintained trail. The trail showcases the natural beauty of the surrounding land and makes for a lovely day outing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike up the Savage Alpine Trail on Mount Healy for simply breathtaking views of the park and Denali in the distance.
Girdwood is a very different place to anywhere else in Alaska as it has a coastal rainforest ecosystem. While it is a popular place for skiing in the winter, it becomes a hiker’s paradise in the summer. From the Alyeska Resort, you can climb up Mount Alyeska with an elevation gain of about 2000 feet.
You could also opt to take the aerial tram up the mountain and then explore the various trails at the top. The climb up the mountain on foot is fairly strenuous, but the trails at the top have varying levels of difficulty so you can find a trail suited to anyone.
The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular. If you reach the top and are still looking for a challenge, the trail leading up to the ridge overlooking the mountain’s north face is a good option. The views from here are unmatched and worth the trek.
Resurrection Pass is the best way to truly immerse yourself in nature and experience the Kenai Mountains in all their glory. This trail is one of the most popular multi-day treks and is a favorite among the locals.
The trail is 38 miles (61 km) long and is moderately difficult. It takes about 5 days to complete and there are several cabins and many campsites along the way to stay the night at. The Resurrection Pass Trail is broken up into sections intended to be completed day by day, but feel free to hike at your own pace.
Not only does this trail showcase the beauty of the land, but there is also plenty of wildlife to see. Keep an eye out for bears and wolves as you trek through the mountains.
The best time to go hiking in Alaska is from about mid-May to September. The peak season is from June to August as these are the summer months where the days are longer and warmer. These months are the best for hiking as the weather is clear and pleasant, wildlife viewing is better and the land is green and lush.
While June is the best month to visit, it also comes with the highest costs with regard to accommodation and tours. If you're planning your trip on a budget, aim to go during the fringe months of the peak season (May, August, September).
Adie is a nature and wildlife lover living in Cape Town, South Africa. Growing up, she had many opportunities to explore the outdoors by hiking, going on safaris and venturing into the karoo with her family. This led to her love of animals, the environment and discovering new places to explore.