The 4 Most Stunning Trails in Alaska for Hiking and Backpacking


The Last Frontier offers some of the best hiking and backing anywhere in the world. From coastal rainforests and arctic tundra to glaciers, towering mountain peaks and expansive forests, Alaska has some of the most beautiful landscapes on this planet.

Alaksa is deceivingly massive. At over 650,000 square miles, it is actually almost one-third the size of the contiguous 48 states. It is home to the two largest US National Forests. Even after more than dozen trips personally here, that is not nearly enough. I'm excited to share some of my favorite trails for hiking and backpacking:

Photo: National Park Service

1. Exit Glacier (Seward, Alaska)

This is a great choice for families to hike together. The Exit Glacier hike gives people of all skill levels a few different options to see one of Alaska's most easily reached glaciers. You'll also get to see Kenai Fjords National Park.

The Glacier View Loop trail is a full accessible, paved trail featuring great views of the glacier. Signposts along the trail show just hor far the ice used to extend.

If you're feeling ambitious, you can make a day out of this and head up further to Harding Icefield. The Harding Icefield is a 500 square mile frozen mass, that feeds over thirty glaciers (including the Exit Glacier). The trail is fairly well developed, but can wash out in heavy rain seasons. Note it is very steep with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain in just a few short miles.

The final view over the ice and the jagged peaks in the distance/surrounding is well worth the effort!

Photo: National Park Service

2. Reed Lakes (Anchorage, Alaska)

The Reed Lakes are one of the most popular areas in the Hatcher Pass area, and maybe even one of the most popular in all of Anchorage. The trail gives hikers a great preview of the terrain in Anchorage and nearby.

The trail starts relatively flat, and very clearly defined for the first 1.5 miles or so. As the trail begins to get steeper, the trail gets more rugged, with fair amounts of boulder travel (this may be challenging for dogs/children). This is definitely all worth it though when you reach the lower lake, with a bright turquoise color. The meadows around the lower lake are very popular for camping. Please be gentle with the envrionment here as it is very fragile.

If you are feeling ambitious, the trail continues to Upper Reed Lake, passing beautiful cascading waterfalls. Past the upper lake is some plane wreckage, of an Air Force bomber that crashed in the 1950s on Bomber Glacier.

Photo: National Park Service

3. West Glacier Trail (Juneau, Alaska)

If you want to get up close to glacier, Mendenhall glacier is just about as easy as it can get--it is right in Juneau's backyard. The trailhead is just minutes from downtown Juneau's cruise ship terminals, the airport, and ferry dock. there's even a bus stop a mile from the trailhead!

The trail here starts out very mellow and flat, with only 250 feet of elevation gain in the first mile. Here at the first lookout, you get a beautiful view of the glacier and lake at its base, as well as Nugget Falls on the far side. The first seciton of the trail is a grea toption for those short on time or families with children!

If you continue hiking, you can take in views of Mendenhall Glacier. You'll eventually climb out of the forest if you follow the West Glacier trail, coming to the edge of the glacier. On a hot day, you will appreciate the temperature dip/light winds here! The Mendenhall Glacier is a seemingly endless ocean of vibrant ice. Also look into taking ice cave tours here during the spring seasion!

Photo: National Park Service

4. Deer Mountain (Ketchikan, Alaska)

Deer mountain is easily accessible from the heart of Ketchikan, Alaska. This is a great place that is less crowded, with diverse scenery and panoramic mountain views. Be careful as snow in the early summer can present hazardous conditions!

This trail is popular for locals, but not as well known to outside alaska (as the Chilkoot Trail). Deer Mountain offers fantastic views of the islands, fjords, and channels that make up this part of Alaska. Like many of the trails here, you'll get to see forests, climb through meadows and alpine basins, in addition to hiking past mountains that hold snow well into the summer.

No other trail in this region offers such dramatic views of all the surrounding islands, and alpine lakes than deer Mountain. Overall, the trail starts steep shortly after leaving the parking lot. At the one and two mile marks, there are great viewpoints to catch your breath. At 2.5 miles, the trail runs up to the top of Deer Mountain itself. There is a shelter here available for camping on a first come, first served basis!


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