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Best Hiking Trails in Alaska – USA

Overview

The far flung US state of Alaska is one of the most beautiful for mountain hiking.  There are millions of square miles in protected wilderness. Some of the popular areas for hiking include Denali National Park, the Mat-Su Valley (including Hatcher Pass area), Chugach State Park, Kenai Peninsula, and lots of towns from which to hike including Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Valdez and Anchorage. The best months to hike in Alaska are June to September. Read on for more information on where and when to go hiking in Alaska. 

Capital: Juneau

When To Hike in Alaska – USA?

June – September
October – May: Cold/snow

There are various climates in Alaska but the Arctic climate – short, cool summers (where it never gets too warm) and long, cold winters – dominates. The  Southeast is very rainy whereas the interior is less rainy.  Wind is an issue in some areas. 

 

Alaska Monthly Weather

Accessibility of Hiking

Easy – Hard: There are areas (such as in some national and state parks) where there are established trails and maps and it is easy to hike independently, but for many other places, you would need to go with a guide.  As well, large parts of Alaska are wild and difficult to access by car.  Roads/services to Denali NP are open mid-May to mid-Sept. 

Transportation required: Mostly need a car.

Where to stay in Alaska for hiking:

  • Anchorage
  • Ketchikan
  • Juneau
  • Palmer
  • Wasilla
  • Whittier
  • Valdez
  • Seward
  • Sitka

 

Top Places to Hike in Alaska – USA

While there are mountainous areas throughout the state, the most visited and accessible are in the Southcentral area, which includes around Anchorage and the Chugach Mountains (and is a popular spot for cruise ships). As well, the southeast has the cities/towns of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, from which hiking trails can be accessed. Denali National Park, containing the highest peak, Denali at 6190 m, is also a much visited area.

Filter out hiking places of Alaska – USA by month

Click on the red map pointers to see more info.

North – Arctic

  • July – Aug
  • Areas for hiking in the northern part of Alaska are difficult to access
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve – vast, remote, trail-less wilderness; Fairbanks would be the base Gates of the Arctic National Park 
  • Noatak National Preserve
  • Kobuk Valley National Park

Aleutian Islands

  • String of islands off the tip of the peninsula that are all volcanic/mountainous but most of them are uninhabited; can only reach islands by sea or fly-in – Unalaska is the only one developed; there are hiking trails here – Unalaska Hiking

Lake and Peninsula

  • Long, narrow peninsula from southern coast of the mainland; Dillingham, King Salmon, Katmai are bases for this area
  • Lake Clark National Park and Preserve – a few established trails, others are accessible by flying in Lake Clark National Park
  • Katmai National Park and Preserve – not really any maintained trails, fly in; Katmai National Park
  • Valley of 10,000 Smokes
  • Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve – hiking here

 

Around Juneau

Around Wrangell

  • Hiking trails around this town

Around Sitka

  • Numerous trails from here, including Mount Verstovia (2550 ft elevation gain); www.sitkatrailworks.org (non profit that looks after trails)

Around Ketchikan

  •  There are some trails close to town, including Deer Mountain Trail which is popular (gains 3000 ft)

Misty Fjords National Monument

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

  • Large national park with established trails (many are fairly easy; experienced hikers can go backcountry hiking); Glacier Bay National Park

Kenai Peninsula

  • Kenai Fjords National Park – only the Harding Icefield Trail is strenuous, rest are easy strolls; Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Seward is the gateway town and there are a few hikes around here 
  • Around Cooper’s Landing – hiking around here
  • Kachemak Bay State Park – there’s 25 miles of trails; https://www.friendsofkachemakbay.org/ 

Valdez

  • Hiking trails around this town

Whittier

  • Hikes around here

Matanuska-Susitna Valley

  • Also known as Mat-Su Valley or ‘the Valley’ – just north of Anchorage,
  • Palmer and Wasilla are two of the main towns here
  • Hatcher Pass (road doesn’t open until July) – Hatcher Pass 
  • Lots of hikes in this area

Chugach State Park

  • Has some of the most accessible hiking in Alaska, very close to Anchorage; lots of trails such as Twin Peaks Trail

Chugach National Forest

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park  and Preserve

  • Very large national park, there are various sections, but you need to fly in or take a very long rough road to one of the few little towns nearby – Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Chena River State Recreation Area

Denali National Park and Preserve

  • Home of state and continent’s highest peak; very few marked trails, one of the missions of this park is to have unmarked wilderness to explore – Denali National Park

Alaska – USA's Long Distance Trails

  • Alaska Long Trail – Alaska Long Trail
  • Chilkoot Trail – 33 mile trail between Alaska and BC – Chilkoot Trail 
  • Kanatak National Recreational Trail – very challenging, only for experienced backpackers
  • Many others

Alaska – USA's Walking & Hiking Resources

Alaska Hiking Books: 

  • Hiking Alaska: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, 3rd Edition, by Mollie Foster, 2017, Falcon Guides
  • 50 Hikes Around Anchorage, 2nd Edition, by Lisa Maloney, 2019, W.W. Norton Inc. 
  • Best Hikes Anchorage: The Greatest Views, Wildlife and Forest Strolls, by John Tyson, 2019, Falcon Guides
  • Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska: Anchorage Area, Kenai Peninsula, Mat-Su Valley, by Lisa Maloney, 2019, Mountaineers Books
  • 50 Hikes in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, by Taz Tally, 2016, Countryman Press
  • Moon Alaska: Scenic Drives, National Parks, Best Hikes, by Lisa Maloney, 2020, Avalon Publishing
  • Hiking Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: From Day Hikes to Backcountry Treks, by Greg Fensterman, 2008, Falcon Guides 
  • Best Hikes Near Anchorage, by John Tyson, 2009, Falcon Guides
  • 50 Hikes in Chugach State Park, by Shane Shepard and Owen Wozniak, 2001, Mountaineers Books
  • Walk About Guide To Alaska: The Front Range and the Anchorage Bowl, by Shawn Lyons, 2018, Publication Consultants
  • Alaska Adventure 55 Ways: Southcentral Wilderness Explorations, by John Wolfe, Jr., Rebecca Wolfe, 2022, Mountaineers Books

 

Alaska Hiking Associations:

 

Best Hiking Trails in Alaska:

You can find more details on hiking these trails from hiking guidebooks, official park websites, trail maps/apps, other websites, and tourist offices:

  • Chilkoot Trail
  • Reed Lakes Trail – Palmer
  • Deer Mountain – Ketchikan
  • Flattop Mountain – Chugach State Park
  • Mount Healy Overlook – Denali National Park
  • Harding Icefield Trail – Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Portage Pass Trail – Chugach National Forest
  • Bird Ridge Trail – Chugach State Park
  • Lazy Mountain Trail – Palmer
  • Mount Verstovia – Sitka

Easy Hiking Trails in Alaska:

  • Edge of the Glacier trail – Seward
  • Eielson Alpine Trail – Denali National Park
  • Thunderbird Falls Trail – Chugach State Park
  • April Bowl Trail – Hatcher Pass area

 

Alaska Hiking Websites:

 

Alaska Weather Website: 

 

Alaska Official Tourism Site:  

 

Alaska Hiking Apps: 

 

Alaska Hiking Maps: 

What Else To Do

  • Northern lights
  • Gold rush stuff
  • Wildlife viewing

Other Important Points