Anchorage is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore some of the best Alaska has to offer but don’t necessarily want to give up amenities.
Thanks to its ideal location, Alaska’s most populated city offers plenty of options when it comes to incredible day trips. Be it a small town filled with heritage to some of the best state and national parks in the Frontier State, options abound for places you can easily explore in just a day.
If you’re looking for great spots to explore in Alaska that are close to the city, here is a list of some of the best day trips from Anchorage.
Incredible Day Trips From Anchorage
1. Spencer Glacier
Spencer Glacier is one of the most striking glaciers in Alaska. Set inside the alluring Chugach National Forest, this colossal glacier rises from a lake dotted by icebergs, creating a landscape that looks out of this world.
Aside from getting to see the glacier itself, the way there is also an absolute treat. The only way to reach Spencer Glacier is by hopping on the Glacier Discovery Train, a short but incredibly exciting ride that provides some insanely scenic views of Alaska.
Set on the way from Anchorage to Denali National Park, Talkeetna is a charming little town that provides visitors the unique opportunity to blend in a day filled with culture and Alaskan nature.
Here, you’ll find a quaint downtown area dotted with historical buildings, charming coffee shops, plenty of cozy restaurants, breweries local art galleries, and old-school saloons. During your visit, make sure not to miss out on touring the Denali Brewing Company, where you’ll get to taste and learn all about Alaska’s favorite craft beer.
Something else that makes Talkeetna wonderful is that thanks to its location close to Denali National Park, its gorgeous downtown is towered by Denali, the highest mountain in the United States!
Another favorite activity for visitors is joining a Talkeetna Sled Dog Kennel Tour, where you’ll get to meet the dog athletes that partake in dog mushing races, a sport unique to the Frontier State.
3. Kenai Fjords National Park
Set just over a hundred miles away from Anchorage, Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska’s most iconic places and a pretty easy day trip from Anchorage.
Kenai Fjords is an incredible glacial park that encompasses over 600,000 acres of icy landscapes. Aside from gawking at the glaciers in the park, Kenai Fjords is also a wonderful place to spot Alaskan wildlife, including whales, orcas, seals, puffins, and more.
A few of the best things to do at Kenai Fjords include hiking the Exit Glacier Trail to Glacier Overlook for the best views, kayaking or boating around the glacier, and taking a cruise around the area to observe marine life from a close distance.
If high-end dining and skiing are your jam, Girdwood is one of the best day trips from Anchorage.
Girdwood is home to a popular ski resort, making it a go-to for skiing during the winter months. If you’re visiting Alaska during the summer, though, you’ll also find plenty on the menu. Some of the best things to do in Girdwood aside from skiing include riding the town’s tram for gorgeous views of the valley, hiking in the forest, and touring the Crow Creek Mine’s historical buildings (you can also go on a scavenger hunt for leftover gold!)
5. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
If you want to visit a place that is lesser known to tourists, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a great option.
This rather unknown national park sees less than 20,000 visitors every year, making it a perfect destination to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness in solitude. Here, you’ll find a gorgeous lake enveloped by mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, coastal views, and even two active volcanoes.
There’s plenty to do at Lake Clark, but if you only have a day, we recommend focusing your efforts on spotting brown bears. There are over 200 of them residing inside the park as well as other creatures, including caribou, moose, Dall sheep, black bears, Beluga whales, harbor seals, sea otters, wolves, and Stellar Sea Lions. Go on a hike or rent a kayak and see how many of these species you can spot during your day trip to this hidden gem!
6. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
If getting close and personal with Alaska’s wildlife is on your bucket list, a day trip from Anchorage to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a must on your itinerary.
Located in the Portage Valley, this humongous conservation center was opened with the aim of rehabilitating orphaned and injured animals. Here, you’ll be able to see plenty of species, be it on a walk, on a scenic drive, or on a bike. Guided tours around the sanctuary are also available for those who want to get more personal with the animals, learn their stories, and even get to care for a few of them!
As if the chance of seeing animals like reindeer, gray wolves, moose, bears, and muskox wasn’t enough, the conservation center is also surrounded by the alluring Chugach Mountains and the Turnagain Arm Inlet, making the entire way here an absolute visual treat.
7. Eklutna Lake
Eklutna is a lake that was formed when a massive glacier retreated and streams from the mountains filled the valley with water.
Set only 26 miles away from Anchorage, a visit to this gorgeous lake makes for a very easy day trip from the city. If you visit during the summer, you’ll be able to make the most out of the lake, with activities like canoeing, fishing, and kayaking being favorites.
Come winter, Eklutna Lake becomes a mecca for cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking, and even Aurora Borealis viewing. Hiking is also a popular year-round activity.
8. Moose Pass
Set only two hours away, Moose Pass is another of the best day trips from Anchorage for those looking to experience glorious Alaskan nature.
Located in a sub-polar setting, Moose Pass is a haven for gorgeous scenery, with hiking trails available that will have you stumbling across mountain views, crystal-clear lakes, spruce tree forests, and berry patches.
9. Matanuska Glacier
Located along the National Scenic Glenn Highway, the Matanuska Glacier is a colossal glacier that is a whopping 27 miles and 4 miles wide, making it the largest glacier that is accessible by car in the country.
Simply gawking at this glacier is an experience unlike any other, but this day trip has even more to offer in case you want to linger a while longer. Within the state park, you’ll also get the chance to try your hand at river rafting and ziplining if you’re feeling adventurous, but if you want more mellow activities, you can also choose from a variety of activities like berry picking, hiking, and wildlife spotting during the summer months.
10. Chugach National Forest
Boasting over 6 million acres of untouched nature (that’s bigger than New Hampshire!), Chugach National Forest is a wonderland of quintessential Alaskan scenery than can be visited on a day trip from Anchorage.
Due to its massive size, most people opt to spend a few days within the park, but it can very well be treated as a day trip if you’re willing to endure an early wake-up call. Chugach is home to a range of landscapes that include rain forests, boreal woods, humongous wetlands, and coastal inlets. Moreover, you’ll find over 20 tidewater glaciers here!
One of the best things to do in order to cover as much ground as possible is driving the Copper River Highway, which will take you through a variety of terrains within the park. Other activities visitors love include hiking and biking, taking the Glacier Discovery Train to Spencer Glacier, viewing wildlife, paddling over tributaries, and checking out a few glaciers.
11. Portage Valley
Set an hour’s drive southeast of Anchorage, Portage Valley is a wonderful day trip to take if what you’re after is a day spent enjoying the outdoors.
Most people visit Portage Valley to complete the Trail of Blue Ice, a 5-mile biking and hiking route connecting most of the developed stops along the road and providing spectacular vistas. This is a pretty flat route, so it can easily be completed in a day without much effort!
Aside from hiking and biking, another favorite thing to do at Portage Valley is paddling around a few of the lakes in the area. Trout fishing is spectacular here as well!
12. Crow Creek Gold Mine
If a little history sounds like your jam, make sure to add Crow Creek Gold Mine to your list of day trips from Anchorage to take.
Established in the late 19th century, this mine provides a window to the past into the Gold Rush of Alaska. During your visit, you’ll be able to admire historical buildings, see a wide array of antiques, admire the oldest building in the Anchorage municipality, and go on a guided and extremely immersive tour in order to learn about gold in Alaska. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, you can even join in and try your hand at finding gold!
13. Denali National Park
Denali National Park is one of Alaska’s most visited parks thanks to the fact that it can be accessed by road, unlike most of the rest.
Home to the tallest mountain in the United States, Denali boasts a whopping 6 million acres of the Alaskan wilderness, which encompasses different ecosystems such as taiga, tundra, and glaciers.
For the ultimate adventure and to cover as much of the park as possible in a short time, a flightseeing tour is a great option. Along the ride, you’ll be able to truly get a perspective of how vast Denali is, all while getting to spot wildlife and see mountains from above. Another option is traveling by helicopter, which allows you the unique chance to land on a glacier!
If you’re not too keen on flying, you can also opt to drive the park’s 92-mile scenic road. This scenic drive will give you the chance to stop and plenty of viewpoints as well as several trailheads in case you want to explore further afield on foot!
14. Prince William Sound
Tucked away inside the Chugach National Forest, Prince William Sound boasts over 3,000 miles of beautiful coastline, making it a humongous protected marine area.
Here, you’ll be able to witness marine life in Alaska in its full splendor, with Stellar sea lions, humpback whales, harbor seals, and sea otters being just a few of the species you may be able to spot on a marine expedition.
Aside from that, many more animals are on the ground, including Black and Brown bears, eagles, moose, and plenty more. Aside from seeing wildlife galore, other incredible things to do in the region include hiking across several trails, going jet skiing amid glaciers, seeing waterfalls, and so much more.
Prince William Sound is so vast that it can be accessed from different sides. Since this is a day trip, the easiest way to do so is by entering through the town of Whittier, which is located 60 miles from Anchorage.
This quaint town is located a 4-hour drive away from Anchorage, but if you start the day early enough, Homer can very well be done as a day trip.
The drive itself is part of the adventure, especially as you start getting close to Homer, with a few of the views of the repertoire being the Kenai Mountains, plenty of volcanic crests, and Kachemak Bay.
On a day trip, the best things to do include strolling around Homer’s adorable streets to take in that small-town Alaska charm, hopping on a helicopter tour to enjoy the scenery around, or going fishing (Homer is known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World!)
Are you currently planning a trip to Anchorage? Which of these day trips are you most excited to do? Let us know all about your plans in the comment section below!
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