Frank Flavin

Aerial Anchorage Adventures

You don’t need to wait until after arrival to sightsee. Your introduction aloft begins on the flight to Anchorage. The approach often features beautiful views of the mountains and city side-by-side, so you might want to book a window seat.

Day 1: Winged Wildlife


Flying to Anchorage isn’t just for airline passengers. Feather in some time with Alaska’s bird life. The city’s coastal wildlife preserve is a destination for many species. Potter Marsh is a stopover or nesting spot for arctic terns, gulls, yellowlegs, trumpeter swans, grebes, harriers, and countless other birds. Or head to Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, another special spot for birdwatching – particularly sandhill cranes – near Anchorage’s coast. In either case, the pathways and secluded wooden blinds are the perfect vantage points to check out birds without interrupting their natural rhythms.


For a more nuanced look at animals, the Alaska Zoo serves as home for owls, eagles, magpies, and other birds, not to mention musk oxen, moose, bears, and wolves. The wooded reserve in south Anchorage is a great place to contemplate wildlife and appreciate animal features from closer than you could in the wild.

Pop into F Street Station for a meal. The spot draws pilots of all stripes. Many of the military aviators have peppered the bar and surrounding walls with stickers, photos, and other militaria.

Day 2: Alaska's Ascents


Getting airborne doesn’t always demand wings. Alyeska’s Tramway is a perfect way to get above it all. The tram rises from the valley floor, up over the town of Girdwood, and into Chugach National Forest. Spot kettle ponds and alpine glaciers on the ride 2,000 feet up Mount Alyeska.

If you prefer self-powered mountain ascents, there are many options in between Anchorage and Girdwood. Bird Ridge rises 3,000 feet in a little over 2 miles. The strenuous hike is well worth the caloric burn; the route rewards hikers with views of Cook Inlet and the Chugach backcountry from above tree line.


The days are just flying by…get a hint of tomorrow’s adventures from the Flying Machine Restaurant. Overlooking Lake Spenard, the restaurant is a great spot for plane spotting, and one of the best sun-soaked decks in the neighborhood.

Day 3: You Can't Take the Sky From Me


Powered flight has a deep, rich history in Alaska. Beyond the reach of road or rails, flying is the ideal way from A to B. As a result, Anchorage is home to the majority of Alaska’s pilots.

Flightseeing – sightseeing by airplane – is an excellent way to see the landscape and explore secluded natural wonders. Lake Hood buzzes with planes coming and going from all over the region, making it the busiest seaplane base in the world. Start your exploration by boarding a floatplane. Denali flights are a top draw, but focus instead on incredible destinations hidden closer. Linger above the Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound. The area is home to the majority of the region’s 60-plus glaciers, and the sharp ridgelines of the mountains stretch out to the horizon. In these vast vistas, look for wildlife; white Dall sheep are easy to spot against rocky outcroppings and lush valleys.


When you return from the flight, the nearby Alaska Aviation Museum is a great spot to hear the stories of pioneering pilots and legendary aircraft. Many of the planes in the collection aren’t just museum pieces, they’ve been restored to airworthy condition. Drop in on the next project; there is always someone tinkering in the adjacent hangars. The museum’s refurbished control tower is a special vantage point to watch planes come and go, and features a live feed of radio traffic as pilots takeoff, land, and taxi.