Accessible by road, rail, and air, the areas north of Anchorage are rich with historical and cultural sites, vast scenic wilderness, and family-friendly roadside activities and attractions. Spend a few days exploring to enjoy a different perspective on the city.
Stretch out with a stroll or ski at Arctic Valley, featuring expansive views of Anchorage, popular hiking trails, lush crops of berries in late summer, and skiable alpine slopes in the winter. A quick drive north of downtown, the trailheads offer stunning views of the sunrise over the Chugach Mountains or the sunset over Cook Inlet and the Anchorage Bowl. Pullouts partway up the 7-mile Arctic Valley Road provide the perfect Anchorage photo op.
Refuel with lunch in Eagle River before heading back toward town. At the northeast edge of the city, stop for a visit at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, an ideal place for an introduction to Alaska’s multiple distinct Indigenous cultures, including the Anchorage area’s Dena’ina Athabascan heritage.
Head north to Eklutna for a visit to the Eklutna Historical Park. Learn more about the region’s Dena’ina Athabascan history, culture, customs, and Russian Orthodox tradition. The historical park includes traditional Spirit Houses and the split-log Old St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Then follow the winding Eklutna Lake Road, featuring 10 miles of expansive valley views and breathtaking mountain scenery. The road ends at Eklutna Lake: soak up the mountain views, then get out on the water with a kayak (rentals and guides are available), or walk or bike along the scenic Eklutna Lakeside Trail.
Explore Chugach State Park from a trailhead at the Eagle River Nature Center (pictured above). The nature center offers interpretive material and a variety of educational programs, and the surrounding trail system gives a glimpse at some of the best views the Eagle River Valley has to offer.
Continue north along the Glenn Highway to Thunderbird Falls: A mile-long hike from the parking lot takes visitors to the 200-foot waterfall, and a refurbished observation platform offers a close-up view of the cascade (and impressive ice formations in the winter).
For a cool retreat when summer temperatures start to rise, stop at Mirror Lake. The popular local oasis is an ideal stop for a picnic while traveling the Glenn Highway. The adjacent singletrack mountain bike course carves five miles of tree-lined track through the forest — fast-paced fun for riders of all abilities.
Head to Lake Hood to catch a small plane: Denali, the tallest peak in North America, is a 40-minute flight north of Anchorage, and flightseeing tours offering lake and glacier landings make for unforgettable Alaska memories.
Make tracks to the Alaska Railroad’s downtown depot and head north: With towering Denali views and plentiful wildlife sightings, the wintertime Hurricane Turn train returns passengers to the Anchorage depot by evening. In the summer, the Denali Star makes stops in Wasilla and Talkeetna before continuing on to Denali National Park and Fairbanks.