There’s nowhere better to inhale that fresh alpine air than hiking in Alaska. Julia walks us along just a few of the trails, encompassing rocky mountain climbs, gracious glaciers, and gorgeous alpine lakes along the way.


Alaska is the ultimate destination in America to go hiking in summer. Yes, I said it. Never mind what’s in the ‘Lower 48’ – the moniker dubbed by Alaskans when discussing the rest of the country sans Hawaii. Alaska – the land of the grizzlies, midnight sun, and reindeer hot dogs (sorry Rudolph!) is the place to step your hiking boots.

Hiking trails are veins of Alaska. The Last Frontier is ecologically blessed with striking sceneries, spanning the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Alaska. Think snow-capped mountains, far-reaching glaciers, icefields, tundra, and forests of all kinds connected by a wide-ranging trail network. Wildflowers and giant furry residents add to Alaska’s pristine scenery, making it a remarkable place to exert yourself.

Limited phone access, enduring long distances, and the threat of a close call with wildlife are some things to bear in mind when hiking in Alaska. But that makes exploring one of the world’s last great wilderness areas an eye-opening experience (and good for the glutes, too!). To maintain your safety and budget, consider joining a guided tour with folks like Intrepid Travel.

Not sure which path to take? Let Alaska take your breath away by hiking these tried and tested trails.

Please note: When hiking in Alaska, pack the bear spray on the rare chance of coming close to Alaska’s biggest furball (ahem, bears).

Read more: Hiking First Aid Kit

1. Savage Alpine Trail

Distance: 6.4km
Elevation: 457m

Get ready to be blown away with Savage Alpine Trail in Denali National Park. I’m not just talking about the vistas but of course, eyeing off a mountainous horizon is pretty gnarly. Along this trail, you’ll be experiencing one bad hair day, so brace yourself for the wind factor.

There are two entry points to access this trail. I recommend starting from Savage River Campground (closest to Denali Visitor Center). From here, the strenuous trail begins as a gradual ascent, trekking along wide paths that slowly meander up the mountain. For a while, it’s unclear what heights you’ll reach, with vegetation obstructing views, so every bend carries suspense. The climb soon becomes a vigorous exercise, combating winds, cooler temperatures, and rocky terrain to reach peak elevation along the ridgeline.

Read more: How To Use a PLB

You’ll observe rivers and roads snake along the green valley floor with widescreen views of the Alaska Range, with a possible peek-a-boo appearance of Denali – North America’s highest peak (6,190m) and meaning the ‘the High One’ for Athabascan Indians – emerging from the clouds.

Jagged rock formations along the ridgeline soon provide a welcome respite from forceful gusts. Things soon get tricker with its rocky stairs requiring careful foot placement. The trail ends at Savage River, and if you’re for it, you can keep calm and carry on with the following hike below.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio

2. Savage River Loop

Distance: 3.2km (round-trip)
Elevation: Negligible

Savage River Loop is Alaska’s idea of a romantic stroll.

Compared to the Savage Alpine Trail, ‘hiking’ the Savage River Loop is an effortless walk, journeying along compacted and native soils around a narrow section of the Savage River. Expect to encounter people along the route as it takes roughly an hour to complete, making it an easy choice when deciding to squeeze in one more hike. The midway point is a bridge to get across, perfect for a scenic photo op. No sweat.

Read more: What I Learned Preparing to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

3. Harding Icefield Trail

Distance: 13.2km (round-trip)
Elevation: 1070.5m

Want to be afforded ‘gram-worthy views left, right and centre? Pack your lunch and head on up Harding Icefield Trail, located in Kenai Fjords National Park along the Kenai Peninsula.

Set aside a day to combat this strenuous hike, allowing those moments to marvel. I can assure you that this trail has no bad angle. The trail meanders through different environments, mainly across flat terrain, leaving from the valley floor, passing the toe of Exit Glacier, winding through alder and spruce forests, and meadows edged with pops of purple fireweeds, all embraced by alpine scenery.

The last leg requires a walk on ice and snow to be gifted sweeping views of Harding Icefield. Take a really, really, long (and well–deserved) pause to grasp the remnants of the last Ice Age. An expansive field of white stretches out into the horizon intersected with nunataks, or isolated peaks, touched by a blue sky. From here, it’s easy to feel on top of the world!

When making your exit, take time to spot local wildlife – bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and wolves – (I spotted a Black bear club from a rocky vantage point!) and the countless waterfalls cascading down mountain slopes.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio

4. Grewingk Glacier Trail

Distance: 20.3km
Elevation: 618m

Set aside the day for this boat-hike-boat exploration along Alaska’s south coast.

At the end of the US highway system lies the artsy, southern seaside town, Homer. Its long, twisted split – a geographical wonder shaped by tidal swells, glaciers, and earthquakes – is the place to hop into a water taxi (approx. $90 USD round-trip) to journey to Grewingk Glacier.

This trail is one of the region’s most popular hikes. It’s a two-in-one adventure, cruising the bay, passing a mountainous coast to arrive along the blackened shores of Kachemak Bay State Park. From here, the 20.3km out-and-back trail winds through spruce trees, mostly on compacted soil, to arrive at the rocky banks of Grewingk Glacier Lake.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio


You’ll immediately be fascinated by what faces you. Grewingk Glacier’s iced tongue dips into the lake with fallen icebergs scattered in its path. It’s a frozen wonderland so take the time to immerse yourself in nature’s might. I suggest making this a pitstop to replenish energy levels because having lunch by a glacier, how cool is that?!

Time to bid farewell to the ‘bergs to make your eventual descent down a switchback trail overlooking Halibut Cove. This part of the hike affords stunning views, enhanced by Purple sentinels – fireweeds – fringing the path to beautify the scene even more.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio


Depart on your waiting water taxi from Halibut Cove to make your trip back to Homer. And if you need a place to toast your efforts, head to the Salty Dawg Saloon – a legendary landmark along the split – for a celebratory drink. You can’t miss it; it looks like a beacon of hope, a lighthouse.

Please note: We love a spontaneous hike, but this is not the time to go hiking on a whim. Make sure to pre-book a water taxi to avoid disappointment.

5. Curry Ridge Trail

Distance: 10.5km (round-trip)
Elevation gain: 575m

Mountain mad? Grab your hiking poles and trek this out-and-back track along Curry Ridge Trail in Denali State Park.

Departing from K’esugi Ken Campground, the popular trail near Talkeetna starts off straightforward by trekking along a wide gravel path, but don’t be fooled. The track soon becomes narrow as it transcends into sub-alpine terrain, zigzagging dense vegetation, lakes, and soaring spruce trees. Pops of purple fireweeds and glacial streams add to the quintessential Alaskan wilderness scenescape. You’ll be forgiven for constantly snapping away; the scenery merits a canvas finish.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio


The moderate climb affords stunning views of Denali National Park’s mountains for most of the hike. Compared with Savage Alpine Trail, Curry Ridge Trail provides better viewing opportunities being a lot closer to the seemingly endless mountain range. If you’re lucky to hike on a clear day, you may see Denali Mountain’s peak in its full glory. And let me tell you, it makes for outstanding viewing.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

6. Horseshoe Lake Tail

Length: 5.1km (round-trip)
Elevation: 76m

Give your leg muscles a short break from the elevation by trailblazing one of Denali National Park’s most popular (and less inclined) routes. Moments from Denali Visitor Center, Horseshoe Lake Trail is considered a moderate trail, encircling a spruce-fringed lake along Nenana River, taking less than two hours to complete. The trail’s other star attraction is a beaver dam with its resident woodchoppers frequently sighted hard at work.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio

7. Flattop Mountain Trail

Length: 5.3km (round-trip)
Elevation: 1070m

Chugach State Park’s Flattop Mountain is not for the faint-hearted.

Although a challenging clamber to the top, this rugged hike is often regarded as the most climbed summit in Alaska, perhaps due to its close proximity to Anchorage and having year-round accessibility. It’s common to see people – even families! – along the trail.

Part of the trail features stairs constructed from old railroads, but it’s beyond these sections where things get dicey. If you’re wanting to opt-out, take a seat on the bench after the first stair climb to see Alaska’s most populous concrete playground morph into the wilderness.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio


The last section calls for confident hikers as its steep, rock-strewn terrain demands cautious climbing. You’ll transform into a human crab, adopting a hands-on approach to scramble up the summit.  Once you reach the peak, give yourself kudos for your skilful ways and for hiking around the other-worldy Alaska.


7 Hikes That Prove Alaska is a Dream Hiking Destination, Julia D'Orazio


Want to take on all these hikes? Check out the Intrepid Travel tour, Hiking the Great Land of Alaska.

Julia D’Orazio was a guest of Explore Fairbanks and Intrepid Travel, and all thoughts and opinions are of her own.