Alaska Visitors Guide

Where to start exploring Anchorage’s terrific trail system

To enjoy Anchorage life like a local, look to the city’s longstanding and lengthy trail system. This award-winning network of woodsy paths, lakeside trails and coastal routes connects Anchorage’s various neighborhoods and takes sightseers to epic lookouts.

The trail system encompasses more than 120 miles of paved bike and multi-use trails, not to mention 130 miles of plowed winter walkways, 105 miles of maintained ski trails, 36 miles of dog mushing trails and 87 miles of non-paved hiking trails. These trails help connect 11,000 acres of parkland, 226 parks and 86 playgrounds.

Many trails are multiuse, available for walking, jogging, skiing, biking, horseback riding, roller blading, dog mushing, snowshoeing and skijoring. Seasonal makeshift routes wander from main routes into woodsy stands within neighborhoods. Some trails ramble beyond and connect to Chugach State Park, with its scenic alpine tundra and access to about 495,000 acres of jaw-dropping scenery. Pedestrian tunnels beneath arterial roadways allow travelers to avoid busy streets; wood-planked bridges span trickling creeks and streams.

This comprehensive system is the foundation for recreation, exploration, relaxing and, in some cases, commuting. Overall, Anchorage’s trail system is ideal for visitors who want to experience Alaska’s largest city from the vantage point of its natural surroundings.

The crown jewel of the system is the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which connects downtown’s historic Second Avenue sector to the multiuse chalet at Kincaid Park, a favorite locale for moose-watching and cross country skiing. The generally flat grade and smooth pavement allows for easy access and use for all ages and abilities. There are multiple places to access the picturesque Coastal Trail, making it a scalable and customizable experience. From this beloved route, users will skirt the fault line of the epic 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, enjoy views of the downtown skyline and Denali, and possibly see some wildlife.

Along the Coastal Trail route is Westchester Lagoon, just 1.6 miles from downtown. There’s plenty of parking available and an updated playground for kids. From here, enjoy Chugach Mountain views on the horizon, reflected in the lake water, and take advantage of picnic tables and benches for contemplative breaks. Birders will appreciate waterfowl, migrating shorebirds, mallards, grebes, swallows and more. The lagoon sets the stage for a splashy summer paddle. When frozen over in winter, it’s a popular spot for ice skating and hockey.

From Westchester, travel 9 miles on the Coastal Trail to Kincaid Park, or hop on the eastbound 6.1-mile-long Chester Creek Trail, which connects the lagoon first to Goose Lake, then to University Lake. Chester Creek Trail is paved, flat and fun, following its namesake creek for 4 miles as it tumbles and burbles over rocky shallows and carves meandering braided paths across silty riverbeds. A popular point of interest on Chester Creek is Valley of the Moon Park, another spot worthy of picnic or play on a pleasant summer day.


Chester Creek Trail ends at Goose Lake Park, in central Anchorage near the University-Medical District. If you’re not ready for your walk to end, follow the paved trail surrounding this scenic lake. Warm summer days draw swimmers here, and municipal lifeguard schedules are updated on the lake’s website. Adults must be present while children are swimming.

Another popular entry point or rest stop along the Coastal Trail is Earthquake Park. Famous for the long-gone houses that slid away to the sea below the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the park today is a spacious parking lot and viewpoint with interpretive signs pointing out significant peaks like Denali and its companion mountains, Hunter and Foraker. It’s also a vantage point for striking views of downtown Anchorage, backdropped by the Chugach Mountains.

If you want to go big, consider tying all these trails together and attempting the growing-in-popularity Moose Loop. The Moose Loop is an inventive hodge-podge of existing routes and imaginative links that, creatively, might be viewed as almost-kind-of, sort-of looking like the shape of a moose head.

The route is 32 miles, traveling from parks to schools, trails to neighborhood streets, past businesses and homes, into quiet woodsy areas and across highway overpasses. The major trails that cover the Moose Loop don’t seamlessly link, so riding this route demands paying attention to location and being nimble in making one’s way.

For those eager to bike the trail system, multiple downtown vendors rent bikes all year round. Rates and lengths of rentals vary by the hour, day or even week. Downtown Bicycle Rental offers all kinds of options and accessories, including complimentary bear spray and electric bikes. Reservations are rarely needed and walk-ins are welcome, but renters who want assurance can text 907-250-1170 to reserve same-day or next-day bikes. Another option is Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals, which is also open year-round with plenty of wheels for rent.

Safety tips

Anchorage’s trails are busy on most summer days, enjoyed by recreationists on foot, on wheels, with dogs, and more. People of varying skills and abilities recreate differently, so it’s important to follow basic safety and courtesy guidelines for the protection of all users. The municipality reminds users that trails are usually multiuse and not intended for racing, so be aware of surroundings, traverse at safe speeds and never take up more than half the trail.

Keep right, except to pass. Listen for others upon approach; it’s common for bicyclists and others to have bells on, or to verbally warn those ahead of their approach by saying things like “on your left!”

All pets must be leashed. The law requires any animal or human litter be picked up and disposed of. Even so, keep an eye out for meandering dogs as you navigate turns and narrow spaces. Leashing dogs is also a good idea due to ever-present wildlife in the area, including moose.

Wildlife awareness is key. Moose, bears, coyotes and other animals share city trails, and that’s especially true the farther one travels from downtown. Be alert and give wildlife plenty of room — moose, in particular, often show up on or near the trails.

When traveling in bear country, be mindful of making noise. Travel with one or more people whenever possible, and stay observant.

It’s smart to carry water and make sure someone knows your route plan. Applying bug spray and carrying bear spray is also a good idea. Sunscreen shouldn’t be forgotten in the long summer daylight hours, even if temperatures are moderate.

Of note: Camps where unhoused people reside are present along some of the Anchorage greenbelts off the trail system, and you may notice them as you go by. Daytime is the best time to access the trails, and as always, be aware of your environment and exercise caution when traveling, especially when solo.