Stories from Alaska

An insider's journey through Alaska's best kept secrets

3 Unforgettable Southcentral Alaska Hiking Tours for All Levels

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As amazing as Alaska is to experience from the air, water and road, there’s something very special about exploring the state on foot on an Alaska hiking tour. There are hundreds of hiking options in Alaska encompassing varying distances, difficulty levels, and landscapes. You can hit a trail for an hour, a day, or a week, and see parts of Alaska rarely explored or view popular places with fresh perspectives. And if you are traveling in Southcentral Alaska, plan some time for exploring the Kenai Peninsula and breathing in its fresh air on one of these three popular hikes, for all levels of ability.

View from the end of the Portage Lake trail

Portage Lake – Portage Glacier Hiking Near Whittier

An hour south of Anchorage is Portage Lake, which is fed by the once grand and still spectacular Portage Glacier. The glacier is no longer visible from the area’s visitors center, but there are opportunities to see it in all its grandeur on an moderate to active hiking trip. The fascinating drive south of Anchorage leads to the quirky port town of Whittier, accessible through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel in the Maynard Mountain, the longest highway tunnel in North America at 2.5 miles. After the tunnel, veer right before reaching Whittier for the Portage Pass hike. Within a mile of mild climbing through trees and rocks, you’ll be able to see the glacier shimmering in the distance. If you hike another mostly downhill mile, you’ll reach Portage Lake and a peaceful, million-dollar view of the glacier. This is a perfect place for a lunch and a power nap.

View of Anchorage and Mount Susitna from Flattop Mountain

Flattop Mountain Hiking Near Anchorage

Looming above Anchorage with a level peak that provides its name, Flattop Mountain is Alaska’s most popular hike, and for many good reasons. It’s beautiful – resting on the edge of the amazing Chugach Mountains and offering spectacular views of Anchorage, Cook Inlet, Sleeping Lady, mountains galore and occasional wildlife. On a clear day, even Denali is visible from here. It’s easy to access – a 20-minute drive from downtown Anchorage should get you there. And Flattop is a relatively short and moderate hike – the drive to the trail head climbs a lot of elevation and you’ll see hikers of all ages and fitness levels on the 3-mile round trip trail. And if you don’t feel like hiking the entire thing, there are plenty of places to stop, breath in the cool mountain air, have a snack and enjoy the amazing Alaska sights. In the fall, blueberries sprinkle the area for a sweet bonus.

The Hiking Trail for Mount Marathon

Mount Marathon Hiking Near Seward

With apologies to The Great One, Denali, Alaska’s most famous and infamous hike is Mount Marathon – and if you reach the top, it’s also among the most gratifying. Every Fourth of July, hundreds of hardcore athletes race from bustling downtown Seward to the peak of Mt. Marathon, 3,022 feet above sea level. The race dates back to the early 1900’s and is a bucket-list Alaska experience for many. But anyone fit and brave enough can climb the mountain for fun at their own pace. Fun, of course, is relative – this is a really tough hike! The mountain is steep; the brush is dense and the trail is humid near the bottom; the rocks are loose and sharp near the top. If you follow the race route, the wet snowmelt at the bottom section of the mountain can make the steady string of chutes pretty slick. But from potential pain comes a big payoff at the peak: the eagle eye’s view of suddenly tiny Seward, Alaska below and the big and beautiful Resurrection Bay is one you’ll never forget. Stepping back on flat ground after your Mount Marathon hike, you’ll feel like you conquered the world!