Ultimate Anchorage Alaska Itinerary
Do you want to visit Alaska but want to do more than the typical cruises and sight seeing tours? You came to the right place! When I set out to plan for my trip I wasn't against doing some of the classic tours, they are the classic tours for a reason. But I definitely wanted to find more adventurous tours and am excited to share that list with you!
First and most important is establishing base camp for all of your adventures to come. Our home base was in downtown Anchorage, which worked out even better than I could have imagined. There are a number of great things about setting up downtown. It's a very central location for heading north towards Denali and other surrounding areas, but also great for heading east towards Whittier which we did twice. It's also great because of the great lodging and food options.
We stayed in a small airbnb which was perfect, cheaper than most hotels and was nice and quiet while still being just minutes from downtown for hanging out or grabbing food. And that's the other great thing about Anchorage, it's the surprisingly huge list of delicious places to eat!
But lets get into the trip! The way I'm going to write this will be in a chronological order of how we planned our trip to hopefully help with yours. So be sure to read all the way through to see all that we did, we enjoyed some great adventures and I would really love to share them all with you.
No day is complete without a great breakfast to start on. So we hit up Snow City Cafe downtown, this is definitely one of the more popular breakfast spots so get there early and expect a little bit of a wait to get a table, but it's worth the wait for sure. I chose to get a delicious scramble that included a local special of reindeer sausage and it was delicious!
HIKE - FLATTOP MOUNTAIN
After breakfast we decided to do our first hike of the trip. We decided on doing one of the classics Flattop mountain. This hike is 3.3 miles round trip with about 1400' gained. One great part about this hike is that you can choose to drive to the trailhead yourself or take a shuttle if you don't have a car.
The first half of this hike is pretty tame and great for all ages and hiking abilities and still offers a good view if that's all you choose to do. The second half gets a bit tougher as that's where most of the gain is and is a mix of steep switch backs and some class 3 scrambling but is absolutely worth it for the view overlooking the city and sound below along with the peaks that surround the backside of the mountain. This hike in total took us about 4 hours.
BIKE THE COASTAL TRAIL
After our hike we decided to head back to our house to clean up a bit and then decided to rent some E-bikes and take them down the coastal trail in hopes to maybe see some wildlife, which is a common thing on this trail in downtown Anchorage. We rented our bikes from Pablos Bicycle Rentals. They have a variety of bikes to fit many different types from E-bikes of different types to standard bikes and tandem bikes.
This trail offers some great views looking back over the city and is a very easy paved trail.
At about 6 miles in we came across a moose and her two calfs, we quickly stopped to give her plenty of space as they had a snack. After a few minutes they walked back into the trees and were gone and we continued our ride, but this was an absolute highlight of our trip and is a pretty common occurrence! But definitely be sure to always give wildlife a lot of space and absolutely never feed them or approach them.
This trail is such a beautiful and peaceful ride and was a great way to spend the afternoon. After this we finished the day enjoying dinner at Sullivans with a nice steak dinner.
This is the day I had been waiting for from the moment we started planning this trip! We would head out to the Knik River Lodge and take a Heli flight with Alaska Helicopter Tours to the glacier where we'd land and then paddle board on the glacier rivers guided by Alaska Sundog LLC. Unfortunately the weather had different plans and we had to scrap the idea of paddle boarding because it was way too windy. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because we ended up going on one of the most epic hikes I've ever done!
After landing on the glacier which was an experience on it's own, we unloaded all the gear and then watched as the Heli flew away leaving us completely alone on the glacier, which was also a crazy feeling, ha!
The weather again was not great to put it simply, so we quickly put on our dry suits which made all the difference in the world! After the suit was on the only part of us to get wet was our head and hands and we were honestly pretty comfy at this point even if we looked funny!
What's funny about this photo is that I had just taken my phone out of my inner pants pocket which requires unzipping the pee hole of the suit but then forgot to close it before taking this photo ha ha!
We started hiking and quickly came across this pool, and at the end of it there appeared to be a canyon that the water was draining through. Our guide checked it out to make sure it was safe and as soon as he deemed it so, we decided to hike through it! Now, I've hiked through slot canyons in the southwest many times and have always loved the way they look and the feeling of going through them, but never once considered the possibility of hiking through a slot canyon made entirely of ice!
The feeling of moving through this slot canyon with water rushing at knee level was something else. The sound was so peaceful but at the same point knew that this is all moving and changing constantly! It was a wild and extremely unique thing to experience and something we won't soon forget.
Our guide told us that he had been to this location just one other time about a month or so prior and at that point this now deep slot had only been about 2' deep. It's just crazy what water can do in a somewhat short period of time! What's also wild, is that because the ice is always moving, this canyon could be gone at any moment and we could have been the first and last people to have gone through it.
That's definitely a crazy cool thought but what's cool is that something else will open up that wasn't there when we were there. There's always something new to see and explore on glaciers like this.
We ended up wandering around on the ice for 3 hours and saw so many incredible ice formations, glacier rivers and more frozen beauty before the cold and wet finally were starting to get to us and so we called for the Heli to come back and pick us up. But this was hands down the highlight of our trip. The guides were incredible and showed us such a great time exploring an out of this world place.
This is definitely a place I would love to come back to on a sunny day to experience the paddle boarding we had originally planned for but am so thankful for the experience we had as it truly was an adventure. One fun fact about going on a cloudy day is that the blue ice is actually much more vibrant than it would have been on a sunny day. It definitely seems like it would be the other way around but we were blown away by how blue it all was. I tried to capture it the best I could with my camera, but it is still far more beautiful in person and is worth adding to your bucket list.
Once we landed back at the lodge, we peeled away the dry suits and found ourselves to be mostly dry which was a nice surprise. After thanking the guides for the amazing day we made our way to the restaurant and tried out this amazing homemade Mac and cheese that I can't say enough good things about. And of course washed it all down with some delicious local brew.
All in all a great day, we were all smiles!
Today we got an early start. We grabbed some muffins and fruit from the local store and hit the road on our way to Whittier, which was about to be another wet, but very fun day! Our plan for the day was to jet ski through the sound to some more glaciers.
We arrived at Alaska Jet Ski tours in Whittier, and again got ourselves all bundled up and cute in our dry suits. After meeting our guide and getting the safety talk out of the way, we walked out to pick our machines.
For those that have never ridden a jet ski, please know that this tour really is for everyone. Angelle was very nervous about this tour since she had never driven one before. She really wanted to ride tandem with me (which is an option), but knowing I was going to want to play around a bunch throughout the trip I decided it best for her to have her own.
Angelle was very clear with our guide about her nerves and her lack of experience. But Angelle was put to ease pretty quick as the guide made sure to make her feel comfortable with plenty of tips and answered all the questions Angelle had. So finally we hit the water! It was another wet day but this honestly wasn't that big of a deal. We were all dry and warm in our wet suits. Once we were out of the marina we quickly sped up to about 30 miles an hour as we all got comfortable with the skis. Fortunately the water here was pretty smooth so it made for easy going.
Along the way we took a couple quick breaks where our guide pointed out a few things and gave us a chance to rest. After our first break we were warned about some rougher water ahead going around a point. Our guide took it a bit slower here as it was pretty windy and there were some small white caps. Angelle took her time and road through the waves nice and calm and like a champ... meanwhile I was close behind her pumping and jumping any wave or wake from her boat I could find ha ha. It's funny how different two people can take any given situation. Angelle was focused and a bit nervous here (although she did great and was never in danger) while I was hooting and hollering having the time of my life! But to each their own, that's the best part about these kinds of trips.
After about an hour or so of riding we made it to our first glacier. It was amazing getting so close to these massive structures. This wasn't all we saw though, we also got to see tons of waterfalls one of which flowed right into the sound as seen below.
After this waterfall, we drove around the corner to another massive glacier. It's wild to think of just how many glaciers are littered all over Alaska.
After exploring around a bit here it was time to head back. I have to say though, I've done this trip twice on jet skis to the glaciers but with two different companies and by far had a better time with this guide. The first trip I took a few years ago the guides were all business and although the trip was still fun it was still lacking the ultimate fun side but with this company that wasn't the case. Our guide was a blast and to prove that point, as we were headed back from this final glacier she led us to a big open and pretty calm cove and let us play around on the skis for a good 20 minutes! I had a blast doing donuts, trying to jump my wake and go as fast as I could before whipping it into a 180. I was all smiles, and then we started our trip back.
We made our way back to the marina, (my skis gas tank almost empty lol..I guess I did play around quite a bit) and after peeling out of our dry suits again found that all of us had little wet spots right in our groin areas ha ha. We all promised we didn't pee our pants and went on our ways. We really did have a blast on this trip though. And now that I've done it in the rain and sunshine I can honestly say that it's a blast either way and 100% worth doing.
Even for the most timid of people, you will have fun on this tour. It's unlike anything else you've ever done. One of the other fun parts about visiting Whittier is that you get to experience some history too. There is only a one way road into Whittier that is also shared with trains from time to time. To go through this tunnel does have a small cost (I think $10) and you line up like you would for a ferry on either side of the mountain the tunnel goes through. On the top of every hour they open the tunnel for traffic leaving Whittier, and on the half hour they open it up for those driving into the town (make sure you plan your driving accordingly otherwise you could miss the tunnel opening and therefore your tour if you're headed into Whittier). The tunnel itself is 2.5 miles long, it's actually the longest tunnel of it's kind in North America.
After our Jet ski tour ended we had a choice to make, we could either rush and catch the next tunnel opening in 10 minutes or go to the Whittier Inn to grab some food. We chose the latter. The Whittier inn is a great place to stay the night as well as drop in for some food. I am a huge fan of nachos, if you follow me on Instagram then you probably will know from stories I've posted just how true this is. So even though my wife always gives me a hard time about always getting nachos, when I saw blackened salmon nachos on the menu, I knew I had to try it! I mean, where else are you going to find salmon nachos?? And while we are on the topic about nachos, are they not the most perfect food? I mean they cover all the food groups, carbs, protein, veggies, the oh so delicious fat from all that wonderful cheese... making me hungry right now for some nachos just thinking about it ha ha. They also had some delicious clam chowder that my wife went for along with my tasty Kentucky mule. All in all a great day finished off with a great meal!
But wait, we aren't done with this day yet!! Remember, sunset here in the summer goes way late, anywhere from 10 to past midnight depending on what time of year you come. On our drive home we drove by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and decided to check it out and am so glad we did. They have everything from Moose, to all different kinds of deer and of course they have grizzlies. Here are some photos of pretty much mostly bears, because bears are awesome!
RIGHT AWAY SAW THIS DUDE JUST PERCHED LIKE A KING!
LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS ONE!
This last one blows me away. I've never seen a grizzly before, only black bear. But to see one this close (and be completely safe) was incredible! Also, look at those claws!!!! Unbelievably huge! But don't you still want to just go give it a big bear hug ha ha.
The great thing about this park is that you can choose to walk it, or if it's raining like it was for us and you've had enough rain lol, you can simply drive through like we did. We would get out from time to time to get closer and get some photos but it was nice just slowly driving through and getting to see so many amazing animals.
After spending the afternoon here we then started making our way back to Anchorage where we got back to the house, cleaned up a bit and then went to hang out downtown. There are a lot of fun shops and stores, and of course we had to go find some souvenirs to bring back for the kids and for ourselves.
After we were all shopped out, we decided it was time for dinner. We chose a local favorite 49th State Brewing. This place typically gets really busy, so be warned. We got lucky and were able to find a quick seat at the bar. They have lots of great options from pizza and sandwiches to steaks and salads, and of course lots of good beer.
We woke up early again and made our way back to Whittier. After multiple days of rain and activity we wanted something a bit more chill and dry. So we decided to go with one of the classics, a large ferry ride up the Prince Williams sound with Phillips Cruises and tours on the 26 glaciers tour. This was a fun and relaxing day, we sat with another couple and had a great time getting to know them and enjoyed learning all about the area from the boat host. Along the way saw so many incredible glaciers and wildlife. Below is a selection of some of my favorite photos from the trip.
After the boat tour yesterday we drove back to the Knik Lodge. After spending some time there on day 2 for the Heli trip, we decided we wanted to stay in one of the nice cabins they offer. We got there late the previous night just in time to grab some dinner before heading to our cabin and getting some shut eye. We woke up the next morning to a beautiful view out the front door.
We enjoyed some great breakfast that's included in the stay and sipping coffee while watching helicopters come and go bringing others out for what I'm sure will be great adventures!
All in all it was a great place to stay and I highly recommend it! When it was time to check out, we headed back south and made an impromptu stop at Reflection lake just north of Anchorage for a nice little stroll around the lake. It is a great spot to view wildlife, but unfortunately being mid day we didn't see any. But it was still a great spot for a relaxing nature walk.
Reflecion lake is an easy almost flat hike, perfect for just about anybody and really is a quiet and relaxing area to spend a couple hours just wandering around.
After our little hike it was time for my wife to fly home. So I took her to the airport, kissed goodbye and she was off. I still have another day to play and have a bigger hike planned for my final day.
For my final day I had been excited to go on a bigger hike to one of the mountaineer huts north of Anchorage. I had visited the Mint hut a few years back and wanted to do more of the traverse. I wouldn't have time for the whole loop but really wanted to visit the Snowbird hut. So I grabbed a couple friends and hit the road to the trail head.
The hike to Snowbird hut is roughly 10 miles RT. The first couple miles are very easy as you are just following a wide trail alongside a river. Then the trail quickly turns left and UP! It goes up and up gaining a couple thousand feet over the next two miles, it'll definitely get you breathing lol. We finally reached the saddle and got our first view of the Snowbird glacier.
We made our way down the right side of the glacier and were surprised to not need any foot traction. There was enough dirt and traction on the ice that we climbed comfortably down the glacier. We did come across a couple really cool moulins which are always fascinating to me and they are just beautiful!
If you're not familiar with what a moulin is, the picture to the left of Jake staring down in an abyss is a moulin. They are essentially vertical rivers and serve as a glaciers internal plumbing system. They carry water out of the glacier by meltwater streams and lakes formed on the surface.
Definitely be careful if you find yourself near these, they are beautiful as the walls are often the prettiest shade of blue with water cascading down and down, but definitely not a place you're going to want to fall into.
After exploring the ice for a bit, we finally turned uphill for our final ascent to the hut. And within only 5 minutes of leaving the ice the hut was within view, and in another 5 minutes we were there! And what a place it is!
We met some other hikers who were just finishing up their night at the hut and enjoyed our lunch inside while taking in the amazing views! After a couple hours we decided it was time to start hiking back out as we had a good 5 miles out to go and weather was moving in. After the hike I went back into Anchorage and had probably one of the best plates of nachos I've ever had at the Rustic Goat. This was definitely one of my favorite meals while here and was the perfect way to end my trip in Alaska.
We had such a great time visiting Anchorage, Alaska! The weather might not have been ideal but that's honestly part of the fun of visiting Alaska! It's all part of the adventure and it really did make our experiences that much more memorable. Anchorage does make for a great basecamp though if you plan to visit the state. There are so many amazing places to explore all within 30 minutes to just a couple hours away from the city. From exploring up towards Denali NP, over to Girdwood, Whittier, Seward, and south to Homer. Anchorage really is in the middle of it all with plenty to keep you busy for a quick weekend trip, a week adventure like me or even longer. There's definitely something here for everyone and I really do hope that you get to experience it yourself one day, there really is no where else like it in the world.