Chances are, you’ll be flying into Anchorage, Alaska for your first adventure in The Last Frontier, and the fun begins even before you set foot off the plane. The flight path into the city brings you up close and personal with the Chugach National Forest mountains, which means your face will be glued to the window far before the pilot finds the runway! While this is only the beginning of your adventure, we wanted to share some of our favorite places in and around Anchorage, Alaska to help you have the most epic vacation. In this post, we’ll be sharing our favorite coffee shops and cafes in the city, our favorite local hikes, and some fun drives to pack out your adventurous schedule!
This post was sponsored by Westmark Hotels. All opinions, writing, and thoughts are completely our own.
10 Epic Things To Do Around Anchorage, Alaska
1. Visit Hatcher Pass
Drive about 1.5-2-hours away from the city and you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful white mountain peaks and miles and miles of trails. Hatcher Pass is a recreational area perfect for long drives, seasonal activities, and gorgeous landscapes. The summertime provides opportunities for mountain biking, berry picking, and hiking while the winter brings activities like cross-country skiing and sledding!
At Hatcher Pass, you can also find the beautiful and iconic cabins of Hatcher Pass Lodge, explore Independence Mine, hike April Bowl, and try out tons of hikes. If you’re looking for an overnight adventure, try backpacking to the Mint Cabin for a more rugged journey.
Read More: 10 Amazing Things To In Fairbanks, Alaska
2. Eklutna Lake
Less than an hour’s drive outside of Anchorage, this accessible lake is full of year-round activities. We arrived in April when the lake was still frozen over and got a gorgeous view of the snow peaked twin mountains in front of us. We used it as an opportunity to shoot some beautiful photos of our leather duffel bag from Will Leather Goods!
However, during the summer months, there are a series of walking trails around the lake, campsites, and easy access for ATVs. This is also a popular lake to come out and paddle in a kayak or relax in a canoe! If you’re looking for a classic summer day, look no further than Eklutna Lake.
3. Thunderbird Falls
Located conveniently at the turnoff to Eklutna Lake is the trailhead to this amazing waterfall. Thunderbird Falls is a 200ft, 2-tier falls that is a very easy hike – perfect for families. You can choose to walk the 2-mile out and back trail to the viewing deck at the end, or you could extend your trip just a little further and climb down to the base of the falls for a closer look.
We decided to hike to the base of the waterfall during our hike. The trail was muddy but easy, and the swirling blue water and ice-covered falls made for beautiful photographs! If you plan to come in the winter months (say, October – April) wear spikes on your shoes – the trail down to the falls is slippery in parts!
4. Explore The City + Stay At The Westmark Hotel
Anchorage, Alaska itself is home to around 300,000 residents. At the end of our trip, we stayed in the city for a few days, roaming around trying to find the best food and coffee. Berty and I were lucky enough to stay at the Westmark Hotel, right in the middle of downtown! The central location made it incredibly easy to walk outside and grab some coffee on a morning walk or even find a great brewery just across the street! We also noticed that the lobby provided walking tour maps of downtown and an event calendar of fun things happening in the city!
(Keep reading for our favorite coffee and restaurant recommendations!)
Read More Cities: 16 Epic Things To Do In Boise, Idaho
5. Turnagain Arm – Seward Highway Scenic Drive
Turnagain Arm is a waterway known for its severe climate, bore tides, beautiful views, and extreme sports! Along the “arm” is the incredibly scenic Seward Highway Drive, which is essentially a right of passage if you are heading off to explore places like Seward, Homer, or the Kenai Fjords National Park.
There are many spots to pull over and enjoy the mountain views. Berty and I found quite a few and spent an afternoon pulling up at any one that struck our fancy. We recommend taking your time driving this highway, and give yourself plenty of opportunities to pull over and enjoy the view! You might even get lucky and see some surfers daring to ride the world-class tides!
Read More: How To Spend A Weekend, In Seward, Alaska
6. Winner Creek Trail
This trail is located in the little ski town of Girdwood, Alaska. Only a short drive away from the city, you can enjoy Winner Creek Trail’s well-maintained path (good for biking and on foot!), beautiful views, and try out a hand-tram! Many hikers opt for the easy 3-mile out-and-back trail, but adventurous hikers can opt for the 9-mile trail. The longer route takes you deeper into the forest, and you can river raft back out on the return trip!
Despite its famous hand-tram being closed when we visited, we set off on the trail anyway for the beautiful forest views and a chance to get outside and breathe the fresh air. We were impressed with the tall trees, clear streams, and peaceful ambiance of Alaska.
Read More: What To Pack For An Epic Alaska Road Trip
7. Camping at Bird Creek
One of our favorite and convenient camping spots was at Bird Creek Campground, located in the Turnagain Arm. It was conveniently located between activity hotspots like Anchorage and Girdwood – perfect for choosing an adventure on a whim!
For any campsites in Alaska, check to see if they take reservations to secure a spot ahead of time. If it’s a first-come-first-serve site, figure out the checkout time and come early afternoon to claim your spot!
Other campsites near Anchorage, Alaska:
- Eklunta Lake Campground
- Eagle River Campground
- Black Bear Campground
- Tenderfoot Campground
- Bertha Creek Campground
Curious what our van looking like while camping? Read this post here!
8. Flattop Mountain
Flattop Mountain is a 3.3-mile out-and-back trail just a short drive out of Anchorage, Alaska. We decided to take this trail with our friends Esther and Phil, who live in Alaska! We spent a few hours visiting, taking pictures, and making our way up the trail. During the summer, this place is great for berry picking and views of Anchorage, Alaska.
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
9. Go On An Adventure In A VW Westfalia
One of our favorite adventures in Alaska was driving around in this cool, vintage VW Westfalia van. Sourced from Trickster Trips van rentals, we spent two weeks camping, driving, and taking this guy everywhere! Some of our favorite trips with the van was exploring Turnagain Arm, driving through Denali National Park, and seeing a moose on Flattop Mountain.
It was super convenient to take a camper van around Alaska. If you want to read more of what it was like to drive/live/camp in it for two weeks, read our full article below!
10. Check Out The Coffee + Food Scene in Anchorage, Alaska
There were so many amazing coffee shops and restaurants to try! Berty and I were lucky enough to have Phil and Esther to recommend some great places, so we’re sharing our favorites with you here!
- Snow City Cafe – Perfect for a classic diner breakfast in the city! Bright location, cozy feel, and great service.
- Glacier Brewhouse – Good beer, great setting for a nice dinner out on the town.
- Kaladi Brothers – Perfect for a quick cup of coffee on the go!
- Black Cup Coffee – Beautiful aesthetic and quality coffee. This place is perfect for chatting with friends, working remotely or reading a good book.
- Moose’s Tooth – Awesome pizza choices in a fun, Alaskan setting.
- Bear Tooth Theatre Pub – Recommended to us by our van host, this theater has cheap tickets, and you can drink beer while you watch your movie!
- Rustic Goat – Great aesthetic, perfect location for brunch or lunch with friends.
Thank you again to the Westmark Hotel for hosting us for a few days in Anchorage, Alaska! All opinions are our own and we are thankful for the time we could spend in the city and explore the area!
What are some of your favorite things to do around Anchorage, Alaska? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
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