There is no better way to experience the great north than to step out into nature and take in the beautiful surroundings. There isn’t much in this world that beats the rush that accompanies hiking a mountain or discovering the view of towering, glaciated peaks and crystal blue lakes. Alaska and the Yukon’s dense woodland forests and abundant wildlife make these northern land hikes a unique experience. Where else in the world can you encounter moose, arctic foxes, bald eagles, and diverse marine life just minutes from your hotel?
It might be hard to believe but the best hikes in Alaska and the best hikes in Yukon can be as easy as stepping out the door of your hotel. Luckily, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite day hikes which are easily accessible from Westmark properties around Alaska and the Yukon.
Disclaimer: This list includes all levels of difficulty! Be sure to take a look at the trail maps and descriptions to pick the hike best for you and your group.
1. Anchorage: Flat Top Mountain
Photo credit: Teri Hendricks/Visit Anchorage
Distance: 3.3 miles
Elevation: 1,430 feet
It’s easy to spot Flattop Mountain, nestled among numerous pointy crests in the Chugach Mountain Range, this peak is easily identified by its broad, flat top. This trail is extremely popular among locals and visitors thanks to its proximity to the city and ease of access. Though nearly all uphill, this is a relatively moderate hike with plenty of scenic resting stops along the way. The parking lot alone provides a view worth the short drive from the Westmark Hotel in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. For your Flattop Mountain hike accommodations, stay at the Westmark Anchorage Hotel.
2. Anchorage: Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Photo credit: Chris Arend/Visit Anchorage
Distance: 19.7 miles
Elevation: 1,217 feet
If you are someone who is looking to get the full scope of Anchorage, Alaska, we recommend doing Flattop one day and hitting the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in the following days. This trail is one of the most scenic and picturesque trails in Alaska and it is accessible right from downtown Anchorage. Not only is the trail open year-round but it also lines the coast of the Cook Inlet, giving you beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding waters of the city. Some have even said they have spotted beluga whales while roaming the trail! The trail gradually gains and loses elevation depending on which part you are on and has multiple access points. It is multi-functional meaning there are not just walkers but runners, bikers and even rollerbladers!
3. Fairbanks: Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
Acreage: 2,000 acres
Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is the perfect destination for a family-friendly day trip. Share the trails, wetlands, ponds and open fields with fellow visitors as well as wildlife on this 2,000-acre state-owned refuge that is home to historic dairy buildings and farm fields, now used solely by migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. There are two great trails you can hike on and enjoy. For your Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge hike, stay at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center.
4. Fairbanks: Angel Rocks Trail
Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation: 1,204 feet
If you are looking for some fun exploration, the 3.6-mile loop Angel Rocks Trail near Fairbanks, Alaska, is open all year and is dog friendly, on a leash of course. This trail is great for those interested in geological formations being that the trail passes by massive granite boulders that have been sculpted through erosion and weathering over millions of years. Ultimately, if you are looking for a hike to do where you can challenge yourself, view wildlife and adventure in the backcountry, this is right up your alley.
5. Skagway: Gold Rush Cemetery and Lower Reid Falls
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation: 100 feet
Looking to walk along the same trails used by pioneers in the gold-rush era but don’t want to spend a week backpacking the entire Chilkoot Trail? Stay at the Westmark Inn Skagway, Alaska, and enjoy several day hikes that showcase the history of the Klondike gold rush. A short forest trail behind the Gold Rush Cemetery leads to the picturesque Lower Reid Falls. As you pass through the cemetery, you can see the tombstone of Soapy Smith and other notable figures from the gold rush era. This is another family-friendly hike that will leave plenty of time to explore the rest of the city’s attractions. For your Gold Rush Cemetery hike, stay at the Westmark Inn Skagway.
6. Skagway: Laughton Glacier Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation: 856 feet
This out-and-back trail is a popular hike in Skagway, Alaska, that is a memorable outdoor experience for all! The Laughton Glacier Trail hike will bring you to the base of Laughton Glacier where visitors can get up close and personal with glacial ice. Along the way, you can enjoy the surrounding mountains, forests and valleys. This is also a popular trail for wildlife viewing, especially birding. If you are looking for a challenge with a great reward, this is the hike for you!
7. Dawson City – Ridge Road Heritage Trail
Distance: 17.1 miles
Elevation: 1,227 feet
Right outside of Dawson City, Yukon, and a short drive from the Westmark Inn Dawson City is a nearly 20-mile route that explores the mining history of the Yukon. Ridge Road Heritage Trail is a recreation route built during the Klondike gold rush and the first wagon road built by the Yukon government. In 1996 the road was designated a Yukon Territory Heritage Trail. Today it is used for hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Though it takes two to three days to complete the entire trail, you can make a short day hike out of this outstanding trail by starting from one of the trailheads and walking for a few hours before turning back. For your Ridge Road Heritage Trail hike stay at the Westmark Inn Dawson City.
8. Dawson City: Midnight Dome Trail
Distance: 5.2 miles
Elevation: 2,162 feet
Located just outside of Dawson City, Yukon, about a 15-minute drive up Dome Road, you can find this steep but relatively short hike which takes visitors to the top of Midnight Dome, offering stunning panoramic views of the city, the Yukon River and Klondike Valleys. This trial goes in a loop, making it easier for less experienced hikers to walk out to the viewpoint and turn around at any part they want.
9. Denali: Mount Healy Overlook
Distance: 6.9 miles
Elevation: 2,483 feet
This out-and-back hike is located close to the entrance of Denali National Park and Preserve and boasts great views of Denali when the weather permits it. The Mount Healy Overlook trail has varied terrain and begins gradually uphill which eventually gets steeper near the top. Once visitors reach the top, they are rewarded with stunning views of not only the surrounding wilderness but also the Alaska Range and Denali on a good weather day. While this hike might seem like a lot of effort, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spot wildlife near the highest peak in North America and breathtaking views makes it all worthwhile.
10. Denali: Horseshoe Lake Trail
Distance: 2.1 miles
Elevation: 393 feet
Horseshoe Lake Trail is a very accessible hike that is great for all levels of hikers, including families with children or elders and is located near the park entrance which can be accessed from the main park road. The hike takes you to the shores of Horseshoe Lake and winds through a variety of landscapes along the way. During the hike, you pass through beautiful forests and meadows where you can spot wildlife like beavers, moose and other small creatures.
Hiking safety tips
Hiking is a wonderful way to get out and explore the great outdoors, get your feet moving and connect with nature. But hiking in Alaska and the Yukon is no joke. That doesn’t that you can’t have fun while doing it — you just have to be smart and safe! Lucky for you, we have some tips to help make sure you are prepared!
Photo credit: Jody O. Photos/Visit Anchorage
Bring the appropriate gear
When it comes to hiking in the backcountry of Alaska and the Yukon, bringing the appropriate gear is not just a matter of convenience. The rugged remoteness of the northern wilderness offers incredible natural beauty but can also pose unique challenges that can catch you off guard — it’s best to plan ahead! Bringing the right gear like warm and windproof clothing, reliable hiking boots or shoes and sunscreen can make or break a hike. It never hurts to throw in a hat and some sunglasses to ensure your face is protected.
Protect yourself against wildlife
Encounters with wildlife when hiking in the north are common. Alaska and the Yukon are home to some of the most abundant wildlife including bears, moose, wolves and many others. While it is rare for these animals to attack humans unprovoked, it is still necessary to take precautions to avoid any potential danger. First and foremost, ask any local what you should be carrying with you during a hike — they will say bear spray! But it is not enough to just carry it, you also need to know how to use it. So, read the directions carefully. It is also very important to know the kinds of animals you might see on your hike and learn their behaviors. Give them plenty of space if encountered. While this one might seem silly, you do not want to be in the backcountry of Alaska without bug spray. Small flying bugs are a pesky annoyance that is easily avoidable with bug spray. Last,
Obey the trail signs
To make sure you have a safe and enjoyable experience while out on the trails, it is very important for you to obey the trail signs. The signs are placed there for a reason — whether it is to indicate a change in terrain or direction, warn of potential hazards, or protect sensitive areas, these signs were placed by area professionals. Ignoring these signs can not only put you in danger but also have negative impacts on the environment, such as walking on fragile or protected land or plants. The last thing you would want to do is cause environmental damage to an ecosystem that everyone loves. Most importantly, you want to obey trail sings to avoid getting lost or end up in a dangerous situation. Always hike responsibly!
Study your route ahead of time
One thing we all know for sure — Alaska and the Yukon are huge! Taking the extra time to study the route map can come in handy. The rugged terrain of the north, variable weather conditions and potential wildlife encounters require careful planning and preparation. By taking the time to study a map of the trail ahead of time you can identify potential hazards, estimate the time you will need to complete the hike as well as pack the appropriate gear — like how many snacks to bring along! It can also never hurt to have a backup route in case you run into a creature who calls the trails home. Lastly, by equipping yourself with the knowledge of where certain landmarks and points of interest are along the way, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty and nature that Alaska has to offer.
Take a hike!
With these tips and trail suggestions, you can not only be best prepared for a safe and enjoyable hike but also get some insider local knowledge on which trails are worth your time in the most northern state in America and the Yukon. And as always, if you find yourself with more questions, don’t hesitate to ask the front desk staff at any Westmark Hotel you are staying at!