You've landed in Anchorage and can't decide what adventure to take first. It's OK -- that's a natural feeling when suddenly faced with so many mountains and trails and waterways and all-around outdoor options.
Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can't do it all -- even lifelong Alaskans are still working on completing their must-do outdoors checklists. But you can have a classic Anchorage visit and experience the best of the city's outdoor life by taking one (or all) of these six quick and easily accessible adventures:
Bike, jog or walk the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail: The crown jewel of Anchorage's vast and amazing trail system, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (named after an avid outdoorsman who is a former Anchorage mayor and Alaska governor) offers steady workouts and cozy walks, alpine and aquatic views, wildlife and happy people. It's 11 paved miles long, spans from downtown to Kincaid Park on the west side of town, and offers scenic stops at Westchester Lagoon, Earthquake Park and Point Woronzof. Lace up your shoes and go, or rent bikes at a handful of downtown vendors (Coastal Trail Rentals, coastaltrailrentals.com; Downtown Bicycle Rental, alaska-bike-rentals.com; Pablo's Bicycle Rentals, www.pablobicyclerentals.com).
Conquer Flattop: There are countless reasons why Flattop Mountain (dnr.alaska.gov/parks/aspunits/chugach/glenalps.htm) is Alaska's most popular hike. Here are just a few: It looms above Anchorage with its unmistakable flat peak and offers spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet and the cityscape; you could also see moose, an occasional sheep and, if you're really lucky, a bear in the Powerline Pass below; it's a quick drive from downtown to its Hillside trail head called Glen Alps; at just 1.5 miles to the peak, it's also a relatively quick climb -- you'll cover a good chunk of the 3,550 feet in altitude during the drive to the trail head; and it's an easy-to-moderate trail that thousands climb each year, but it has other walking options if you aren't set on getting to the top. Oh, and blueberries are bountiful in late summer! Need a lift to the trail head? Give the Flattop Shuttle crew a shout at 279-3334 or www.hike-anchorage-alaska.com.
Ride the tram up Mount Alyeska, then hike (or fly) down: In the winter, the tram at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, about an hour south of Anchorage, is packed with skiers and snowboarders looking for a ride to the top of the mountain for their downhill fix. When the powder is gone, the tram is one of summer's best kept scenic secrets: Amazing views abound, from mountains to water to wildlife to the quiet town of Girdwood below. If you're looking for exercise, you can take the seven-minute, 2,025-foot vertical ride up, then hike or run back down. If you're adventurous or just want to spread your wings, you can fly down with a guide in a paraglider. Of course, you can always take the tram back down. For more information, visit www.alyeskaresort.com/resort/about-aerial-tram.aspx or call the Alyeska tram ticket office at 754-2275.
Catch a salmon in Ship Creek: Anchorage is a fishing haven and some of the biggest and best fighting salmon swim right into downtown Anchorage along Ship Creek. This is the ultimate in urban fishing, with runs of kings, silvers and pinks at different periods of summer, and locals and visitors sharing (sometimes packing) the shores. There are annual fishing derbies if you're feeling a lucky lunker is in your future. Make sure you know the regulations and always have a fishing license and applicable tags. Learn more from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at 907-465-2376, email@example.com or www.adfg.alaska.gov.
Run or mountain bike Kincaid Park: West Anchorage's Kincaid Park (9401 W. Raspberry Road, 343-6397) is famous for hosting cross-country skiing races in which Alaska's -- and sometimes the world's -- best athletes take on the 40-plus miles of trails. But why should the skiers have all the fun? In the summer, the quiet and vast wooded park is the perfect place for an outdoor adventure. For locals, it's also a popular place to run trails and ride mountain bikes. From tame rides to heart-pounding roller-coaster rides to rugged single-track rides, Kincaid has it all. Rent a mountain bike and a helmet at these local bike spots: REI (www.rei.com/stores/16), Coastal Trail Rentals (coastaltrailrentals.com), Downtown Bicycle Rental (alaska-bike-rentals.com), Pablo's Bicycle Rentals (www.pablobicyclerentals.com).
Rent a canoe or kayak and float three urban classics: Anchorage is dotted with lakes; three great local water holes offer a break from urban life without leaving the city and all are small-water-craft friendly. Westchester Lagoon is practically set in downtown Anchorage but sparkles with quiet, birds and views; Goose Lake is a wooded and watery oasis in Midtown; and Jewel Lake is a popular southside play spot. Learn more about each by visiting the Anchorage Park Foundation website (www.anchorageparkfoundation.org) or the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Rec website (www.muni.org/departments/parks). Rent canoes, kayaks and flotation devices at REI (www.rei.com/stores/16) and Alaska Raft and Kayak (alaskaraftandkayak.com).