With well over 660,000 square miles of scenic land to explore, one cannot mention an outdoor adventure without America’s Last Frontier, Alaska springing to mind. America’s largest state is where you will find most of the nation’s national parklands, providing a seemingly endless number of possibilities for bucket list-worthy adventures.
Hiking in Alaska is unquestionably the best way to explore the beautifully diverse landscapes and exquisite scenery on offer in America’s largest state. From short, easy trails to advanced multi-day excursions, hiking in Alaska promises to be an unforgettable outdoor adventure.
Are you looking to enjoy some fresh air, scenic views, and a great workout? Then look no further than the great outdoor state of Alaska. Whether you are a newbie hiker or have enjoyed hundreds of miles on hiking trails, the beauty of Alaska will not leave you disappointed. Discover all you need to know about a hiking adventure in America’s Last Frontier.
Hiking In Alaska
Thanks to Alaska’s sheer size and incredible diversity, you could undoubtedly spend a lifetime in an attempt to hike the seemingly endless variety of trails and routes available. And you can guarantee that it would be time well spent, regardless of your fitness level and overall experience in the world of hiking.
A hiking experience in Alaska is truly unlike any other. You will have the fantastic opportunity to get up close to breathtaking glaciers, explore the largest national forests in the country, experience those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of wildlife sightings, and soak in panoramic views with a beauty that no camera is genuinely able to capture.
For the newbie hikers out there, Alaska has plenty of options close to major towns that offer relatively short hiking trails that would take only a few hours round-trip to complete. These hiking trails are no less exquisite and are a great way to begin exploring all of Alaska’s beauty.
For the experienced hikers out there, there are multi-day hiking trails available that span several miles through Alaska’s diverse landscapes. These trails include being able to camp out in the Alaskan wilderness. However, keep in mind that some of these hiking trails may require permits to gain access and are often available in limited amounts each day.
Alaska’s weather is well known for being unpredictable and its tendency to change dramatically at any given moment. This is vital to be aware of when planning to embark on Alaska’s hiking trails. Preparation is the key to ensuring that you have the best time, so let’s explore all you need to do before heading outdoors.
The Best Hiking Trails In Alaska
Now that we have the experience, preparation, and essentials for hiking in Alaska taken care of, let us help you to plan your next outdoor adventure by showing you some of the best hiking trails in America’s Last Frontier. There are, of course, far too many to list them all, but here are the ones that you will not want to miss out on.
Kenai River Trail
First on the list is the exciting Kenai River Trail. Hiking along this trail will give you the opportunity to see the beautiful turquoise-colored river up close. Paired with unmatched views of nearby mountains, this is one of Alaska’s hiking trails that you do not want to miss out on.
The hike is roughly ten miles long, and due to some parts having a slightly challenging terrain, you will need to make sure that your fitness levels are up to par. Being so close to the river does mean that the risk of bears could be prominent, so make sure to bring along some bear spray for extra safety.
Bring your phone along or a nice camera if you have one to capture the exquisite scenery that you will be exploring. This hiking trail also has an abundance of birdlife, so you might want to take a few pictures of those too.
This trail is undoubtedly for the experienced hikers out there. Alaska’s Chilkoot trail is unquestionably one of the most popular in the state. This intense hike spans over 33 miles and requires anywhere between three to five days to complete the entire journey.
This hiking trail boasts some of the most exquisite scenery in the country, passing through rain forests, stunning mountains, and the opportunity to enjoy unforgettable views of the Alaskan wilderness. The trail also provides the chance to hike through history, where you will get to see remains from the gold rush era of 1897 – 1899.
Preparation for the Chilkoot trail is essential. You will need to bring along at least five days’ worth of food, as well as all necessary camping equipment. There are dedicated camping areas for those who choose to hike the entire trail.
Due to its popularity among hikers from all over the country, the Chilkoot trail is regulated, which means that you will have to acquire a permit to access this trail. Only a limited number of permits are given out per day, so try your best to plan your hike with enough to secure permits for you and those who will be accompanying you.
Preparing For A Hike In Alaska
Many hikers – particularly first-timers – make a common mistake by choosing to embark on a particular trail without first researching essential details like the distance and overall difficulty, which includes things like the trail’s terrain and, if any, climbing will be necessary.
Before going on a hike in Alaska, make sure to thoroughly research the trails that you would like to hike and assess whether you will be able to handle it from a physicality and fitness point of view. The last thing that you would want is to find yourself in the middle of nowhere, feeling too exhausted to continue.
To prepare for a hike in Alaska – mainly if you are not already active – start by going on walks every day to increase your fitness level gradually. Push yourself as you feel comfortable with increasing the distance of your walks and include varying inclines so that a hike in the Alaskan wilderness will not be a shock to your system.
Make sure to know your limits so that you do not end up in an unfavorable situation while on your hike. Hiking in Alaska is guaranteed to be an incredible adventure, but safety should always be a priority.
What To Wear On A Hike In Alaska
As is the case with any other outdoor activity, having the necessary clothing and equipment plays a significant role in helping you perform the required task adequately. Hiking is a prime example of this, and, particularly in the case of Alaska, having the appropriate clothing is of utmost importance.
Starting with arguably the most vital aspect of hiking clothing – you need to make sure that you wear good quality hiking shoes. A standard pair of trainers will not cut it for a hiking experience in Alaska. The terrain you will be exploring demands something far more supportive and versatile.
You will want to get a pair of lightweight hiking boots that offer good ankle support. They should also ideally be waterproof, as they will likely get wet and muddy. A good pair of hiking shoes will give you the confidence and stability that you will need to take advantage of Alaska’s challenging trails.
If you did not already know this, Alaska has an arctic climate and experiences lengthy cold winters, cool summers, and the possibility of snow throughout the year. As previously mentioned, the weather in Alaska can change suddenly and dramatically, so even if you are hiking in the summer, ensure that you bring layers in preparation for sudden temperature drops.
Long sleeves and long pants will be essential, and especially in the winter, layers will be crucial. Thermal long underwear and long-sleeved vests will be your best friend when the temperatures plummet.
During summer, you will want to wear something that has a more breathable material. However, be prepared for sudden temperature drops, and if you are hiking through any of the gorgeous forests, make sure to bring a raincoat, as torrential downpours in Alaska can be intense and unforgiving.
Regardless of the time of year, make sure to bring a hat and perhaps even a neck buff for added protection from the sun and cool winds. As a general rule, always prepare for a worst-case scenario. Even if the day starts off with bright shining skies, do not underestimate the volatility of Alaska’s weather.
What To Bring For A Hike In Alaska
So, clothing is the first step, but what else should you bring along for a hiking adventure in Alaska? The necessary gear and equipment you will need may differ based on the type of hike you are embarking on – whether multi-day or just a short excursion. However, there are a few necessities that you should bring along regardless of the type of hiking trail.
Food And Water
Staying hydrated and maintaining your energy levels are vital for any hiking experience. Bring a backpack along with you and keep it stocked with a good amount of water and some snacks. If you are anxious about carrying too much weight, you could bring along a filter bottle and keep refilling it in nearby streams or rivers.
From a food perspective, we are not talking about full-size gourmet meals. Instead, some high-energy carbohydrate-loaded snacks like energy bars are a great option to throw into your backpack for when you need a little boost in energy levels.
Every outdoor adventure comes with a couple of potential risks, and one possibility while hiking in Alaska is coming across a bear. Despite what you might have heard, this is not something to be too worried about, especially if you are hiking in a group – which is highly recommended.
The sound alone of a group of people is usually enough to deter a bear long before you would even see them. However, as a means of precaution, take along some bear repellent so that in the unlikely event of an encounter with a bear, you will have something to defend yourself that will deter the bear.
A Hiking Pole
They might not be an appealing fashion accessory, yet they will be of far greater use to you. Hiking poles are a fantastic piece of equipment that can aid you with stability on uneven paths, climbing steep inclines, and even testing the depth of water before walking through it.
Look for a lightweight hiking pole that can collapse to prioritize portability. Hiking poles are recommended for all hikers but will especially come in handy for those who are new to the world of hiking.
Extra Pair Of Clothes
This is especially important for lengthier hikes that include a greater risk of getting wet and muddy or even getting your clothing damaged. Having a fresh pair of clothes to change into before heading back home can make for a much better overall experience.
The key to hiking in Alaska is that over-preparing is not too much of a factor to consider. Be sure to have everything that you could need and more for peace of mind. Rather bring it along and don’t use it than not bring it when you need it most.
Reed Lakes is another one of the most popular hiking trails in Alaska that boasts stunning lakes, waterfalls, and breathtaking mountain peaks. This hike can easily be completed in less than a day, so hikers of any experience level should undoubtedly give this trail a go!
Both the upper and lower regions of the lake are considered separate parts of the trail, and hiking them both will total roughly seven miles, which could take anywhere from four to six hours to complete. Upper Reed Lake, in particular, has an abandoned plane wreckage from the 1950s that you will be able to see.
Reaching the lower parts of Reed Lake gives hikers the chance to see the majestic turquoise-colored water that so many parts of Alaska are famous for. All in all, this trail promises to be a great adventure.
It is easy to see why a hiking adventure in Alaska is not to be missed out on. The state boasts some of the most exquisite scenery in the whole country, from turquoise waters to breathtaking mountain tops – not to mention the intricate glaciers. Overall, Alaska is undoubtedly a bucket list destination for hikers. With just one trip here, you’ll see why.