Any trip to Alaska has to involve getting off the beaten path. After all, you’ll want to take a few day trips to see everything Alaska has to offer, right?
What are the best day trips around Anchorage?
You can see the best sights in Alaska’s wilderness with these day trips from Anchorage. Our top choices include these priceless destinations:
- Turnagain Arm
- Chugach National Forest
- Katmai National Park
- Prince William Sound
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Portage Glacier and Portage Lake
- Alaska Railroad
There are plenty of day trips from Anchorage that will cater to all interests. And, hopefully, you’ll be visiting Alaska long enough to try more than one!
Best Day Trips from Anchorage
Keep in mind that many of these destinations are on their way to each other. If you are able to take a few day trips while in Alaska, you might be able to check off a few boxes in the same day if you plan your travels properly.
Turnagain Arm is one of the more popular day trips you can make in Alaska. You can follow the Seward Highway along this winding road that borders the Cook Inlet.
It’s widely considered one of the more scenic drives in North America, and although there are a number of interesting stops along the way (like the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center or Potter’s Marsh, or a number of hiking trails), grabbing a rental car and hitting the Turnagain Arm is a worthy day trip in and of itself.
As far as day trips from Anchorage go, this is a great way to start your Alaska vacation.
Chugach National Forest
The Chugach National Forest is nestled in the Chugach Mountains, and is a breathtaking example of the Alaskan wilderness that has been perfectly preserved.
The Chugach National Forest is the second largest national forest in America (the largest is also in Alaska).
You can access Spencer Glacier, the Alyeska Resort Aerial Tram, and the Alaska Railroad (all are reviewed further below) from Chugach.
You can also spend time hiking hundreds of miles of hiking trails, as well as massive glaciers like Bering Glacier, Columbia Glacier, and Portage Glacier.
Katmai National Park
Hop aboard for a seaplane tour of the Alaskan wilderness at Katmai National Park. Rugged mountains and dense forests are accessible for those willing to brave the elements.
If you’re looking to spy out some grizzly bears, Katmai National Park has you covered there too. You can see them between July and early September, and congregate at the Brooks River for salmon fishing.
You’ll need to access Katmai National Park by seaplane, but it’s worth the effort for a day trip you’ll never forget.
Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound is a breathtaking destination where you can see hanging glaciers before they break off on their own.
You can also see tons of Alaskan wildlife, like harbor seals and sea lions, from Prince William Sound.
Prince William Sound is also the site of excellent boat cruise liners that will take you on a tour of everything Prince William Sound has to offer. You can also cut loose on a kayaking adventure through the icy lakes.
Prince William Sound is quite simply one of the best day trips from Anchorage you can possibly take.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the most iconic landscapes in all of Alaska. The Kenai fjords and the surrounding mountains are an idyllic backdrop for one of the most memorable day trips from Anchorage you will ever take.
Most say the best way to experience the Kenai Fjords National Park is with a day cruise through the Kenai fjords. If the scenery on land wasn’t enough, you’ll pass by Exit Glacier, and might even see whales in the midst of their seasonal migration.
Kenai Fjords National Park is a bit further from Anchorage than most day trips, but you won’t be disappointed.
Portage Glacier is found at the end of Portage Lake, situated in the expansive Portage Valley. Redundant naming aside, what’s not redundant is the stunning views of this magnificent glacier.
When you’re planning your day trip to Portage Glacier, be sure to check the weather throughout Portage Valley, since it can be a home for some nasty storms.
A great way to explore Portage Lake is to sign up for the Portage Glacier Cruise. We recommend you spend a half day going to Portage Glacier Cruise, then visit the nearby Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
One of the day trips from Anchorage that truly lives up to its name, the Alaska Railroad is a scenic ride through the vast Alaskan landscape.
The Alaska Railroad is a one-day day trip that even offers a car with an outdoor viewing platform.
You can also use the Alaska Railroad to stop off at other destinations between Anchorage and far-flung Fairbanks.
Eagle River is a nature center that is technically part of Chugach State Park, and with its neighboring Chugach National Forest gives you the opportunity for a guided tour through some of Alaska’s most beautiful land.
The Eagle River Nature Centre is perfect for those who might want to stay the night out in Alaska since there are campgrounds onsite. You can also bring dogs, as long as they stay on leash.
The town of Eagle River also hosts local festivals, but the real star of the show is the nature preserve. You can engage in snow sports in the winter, or reconnect with nature in better weather.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is situated along the Turnagain Arm, and focuses its efforts on endangered species that have been displaced from their natural habitats by manmade developments.
A visit to the sanctuary at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a great educational opportunity as you make your way along the Cook Inlet. You can really get up close and personal with many of the animals, like mountain goats, moose, and bears.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center offers a self guided tour or a guided small group tour.
Eklutna is nestled in the heart of the Chugach State Park, just off of Glenn Highway.
This is one of the more unique day trips from Anchorage you can take, since Eklutna is both a town and a glacial lake. It’s a stunning drive to get there, and the town is a historic Alaskan Native village.
Another fun fact: the glacial lake of Eklutna is the largest body of water in Chugach State Park.
Talkeetna is another name shared by a town and a natural feature. The downtown Talkeetna strip behaves much like any other tourist trap, and also features historic buildings and museums.
Off the beaten path, the Talkeetna Mountains also give you access to locations like Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine, sites of gold mines abandoned after the Klondike Gold Rush.
The Talkeetna Mountains are another great opportunity for flightseeing tours. Tour operators will provide a breathtaking circle around Denali Mountain, the tallest peak in North America.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is a worthwhile entry into your plans for day trips from Anchorage. You can make it its own day trip, or work it alongside other locations to check off your list.
Denali National Park is home to Mount Denali (previously known as Mount McKinley), and it’s also a great place to spot wildlife year-round.
Spencer Glacier is also part of Chugach National Forest; you can get there by taking the Alaska Railroad.
A guided tour up to Spencer Glacier is one of the most manageable day trips from Anchorage, since you can get there and back in only a few hours. Once you’re there, you can raft through the massive ice formations on crystal clear waters.
Whittier is indelibly linked to the Cold War, and this hamlet on Prince William Sound is also a gateway to Portage Valley.
One of the strangest ways this town gained notoriety is the Begich Towers. This 14-story structure houses the vast majority of Whittier’s inhabitants, and provides nearly every public and private service needed to live their daily lives.
You can get to Whittier via a drive through the Portage Valley tunnel.
Alyeska Resort Aerial Tram
Spencer Glacier is also home to the Alyeska Ski Resort, which itself is the home of the famous Alyeska Resort Aerial Tram.
Even if you don’t fancy a day of hiking or skiing, just hop on the tram for some of the best views of Chugach National Forest you could ask for.
The ride up the Alyeska Resort Aerial Tram may only last a few minutes, but the memories you make – and the pictures you take – will last a lifetime.
The Matanuska Glacier is another popular stop on the Glenn Highway, and yet one more reason to stop off in the Chugach Mountains.
A guided tour is the only way you’re allowed to explore this glacier, but the chance to actually walk on a glacier is one you won’t want to pass up.
The Matanuska Glacier is covered in snow year-round, so you’ll also get a taste of winter even in the warmer months.
- Glacial lakes and rugged mountains will make for some stunning scenery on your travels.
- Feel free to roam all over southcentral Alaska to see more of the natural environment.
- Day trips outside of Anchorage can lead you to beautiful scenery or small towns.
- Many day trip options are on their way to each other, so you can hit a few at a time.