All of Anchorage’s Natural Wonders That You Have to Visit

Courtesy of Visit Anchorage/Shutterstock
Courtesy of Visit Anchorage/Shutterstock

Alaska, also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun, may conjure up connotations of burly outdoorsmen going on month-long hunting trips in the deep woods. But the truth is, you don't have to be an experienced backcountry trekker to enjoy the great outdoors in Anchorage. This urban center unlike any other provides ample opportunities to encounter wildlife and sightsee while still staying within cell phone range. Here are some of our must-visit outdoor options in town, plus a few spots perfect for kicking back once you’re done for the day.

Frank Flavin

Get outdoors while still downtown

Located in the heart of downtown Anchorage is one of North America's best urban fishing spots. A favorite among locals, Ship Creek is a hub for salmon fishing during the summer months. It’s also home to the annual Slam'n Salm'n Derby, where fishermen spend a weekend vying for the largest catch. Luckily, you don't have to be an expert fisherman to try your hand at Ship Creek. The Bait Shack can equip you with poles, bait, tide charts, fishing licenses, and sound advice to help you make the most of your excursion. 

If sportfishing isn't your idea of a great time, Anchorage has bike trails for every fitness level. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail offers multiple access points and will take you through marshes and forested hills with stunning views of Cook Inlet. You're also likely to see moose, beavers, and sand cranes on your journey. Bike rentals will cost you between $20-$45 at Pablo's, and you’ll have your choice of mountain, tandem, and even electric bikes. Just make sure to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent. 

After being outdoors in the summer sun, you can cool off with an ice-cold, local brew from the 49th State Brewing Company or enjoy some local music at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse. For the under-21 in your group (or just those with a sweet tooth), Wild Scoops has a variety of tantalizing ice cream flavors like fireweed, blueberry, spruce tip, and spiced hibiscus.

Visit America’s wildest national park 

North America's highest peak is located 230 miles north of Anchorage in Denali National Park. Luckily, you don't have to go all the way to Denali to experience the mountain's grandeur. A short two-hour drive outside of Anchorage is the quaint town of Talkeetna, where you can easily view Denali mountain and partake in a variety of outdoor options. 

You can see the entire Alaska Range, the Susitna and Chulitna Valleys, and the south side of Denali as you zip from platform to platform with Denali Zipline Tours. Or, catch a flight with K2 Aviation and land on a glacier after soaring over snow-capped mountain peaks. Waterbugs can hitch a ride with the Talkeetna River Guides and enjoy a relaxing float trip down the Susitna and Chulitna rivers. Just make sure to pick up a slice of delicious spinach bread from the beloved Talkeetna Spinach Bread food truck before heading back to Anchorage.

David Kasser

Tour Alaska’s glaciers and wildlife

A short 50-mile jaunt south down Turnagain Arm and you’ll encounter glaciers, whales, otters, and sea lions, to name a few. Aboard the Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise, you can sip coffee while watching calving glaciers elegantly cascade into Prince William Sound. Make sure to plan extra time to explore the historic port town of Whittier and enjoy an array of fresh-caught seafood. 

On your way back into Anchorage, fulfill your thrill-seeking urges by stopping at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. A drive-through menagerie of wildlife, the center is home to brown bears, eagles, musk oxen, wood bison, wolves, and moose. Admission costs $15-$17 and children under six can enjoy the park for free. For $100 per person, you can purchase a personal tour with a guide who will walk you through the center, offering history and stories of resident wildlife — and you’ll get to feed an animal! It also has panoramic mountain views that are rivaled only by The Great One to the north.

Ashley Heimbigner

Head to Matanuska Glacier for history and hiking

It wouldn’t be a trip to Alaska without a hike on a glacier. Try a hands-on adventure while having a genuinely Alaskan experience with Matanuska Glacier Adventures. You’ll spend the day exploring blue and basal ice while learning about the history and glaciology of the Matanuska Valley of Southcentral Alaska. Each guided trip is tailored to the group's physical abilities and interests, so no two tours are the same.

Once back in Anchorage, wind down and recount your experiences over a craft cocktail at the Crow's Nest on the top floor of the Captain Cook Hotel. Alternatively, you can chow down on gourmet seafood and bask in the midnight sun at Simon and Seafort's Saloon and Grill. Finish off the day by dancing to live music at one of downtown's many bars, including The Pioneer Bar and Williwaw Social. After a long day of seeing all that Alaska has to offer, you’ve earned it.