The 10 Best Hiking Trails in Alaska

Snowcapped Denali in the background with two hikers on the trail in front.
Denali can dominate the horizon on the Kesugi Ridge Trail.


Dubbed the "last frontier," Alaska is a place that has more than its fair share of stunning landscapes to explore. It has eight massive national parks and more public lands than any other state in the U.S. by a vast margin. That means that there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails to explore, many of which are incredibly remote and offer stunning views along the way.

Creating a list of the 10 best trails in Alaska isn't easy, as there are so many good ones to chose from. But we've combed through all of the options and made our selection. If you're heading to the 49th state, these are the hikes that you should have on your radar.

01 of 10

The Lower Trail (Kenai Fjords National Park)

A man stands at the foot of a large glacier in Alaska.


The Lower Trail—or the "Edge of the Glacier Trail" as it is sometimes called—is one of the most memorable hikes you're likely to take anywhere on the planet. The route is relatively short and flat, stretching for just a little less than a mile one-way, but it takes hikers from the parking lot, right to the edge of the stunning Exit Glacier located in Kenai Fjords National Park. Along the route, hikers will find signs explaining flora and fauna of the region and the impact of the retreating glacier over the past 120 years. Suitable for everyone, this is a must-do if you're visiting the park.

Those looking for something a bit more adventurous should give the Harding Icefield Trail a try. It's 8.4 miles in length and a bit more challenging but provides even better views of the surrounding landscapes.

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Lost Lake Trail (Chugach National Forest)

An alpine lake reflecting a mountain peak in the background.

Grant Dixon/Getty

Just one of more than 30 trails found inside the Chugach National Forest, the Lost Lake Trail is nonetheless a standout option for hikers. Stretching for 13.8 miles out and back, the route distinguishes itself thanks to the wide variety of terrains that it passes through. In the beginning, you'll walk through rainforests, but later, you'll leave the woods behind and bask in alpine meadows and pristine lakes. The trail is moderately difficult in the summer, with more than 2,600 feet of vertical gain along its length. In the winter, it becomes more challenging with the addition of snow and ice. No matter what time of the year you visit, however, you're sure to be captivated by the scenic Alaskan backcountry.

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Indian River Trail (Sitka)

A waterfall tumbles through the Alaskan rainforest.

Sitka Trail Works

Located just a short walk from the charming town of Sitka, the Indian River Trail is an enchanting walk that rewards hikers with a 70-foot waterfall at one end. The trail is 4.4 miles in length, but is a reasonably easy walk, requiring about two hours to complete one-way. The route follows the path of the Indian River, which carves its way through a lush Alaskan rainforest, which is as wild and untamed as you can imagine. Part of the joy of this hike is just how accessible it is from the city, although it doesn't take long to feel like you've wandered into a remote corner of the globe.

Bears are not frequently found on the trail, but the river itself is known for having a lot of fish. This will occasionally lure both black and brown bears into the area, so it is essential that make noise while hiking, bring a can of bear spray, and know what to do should you come face to face with these creatures. As with any wilderness hike, it is good to be safe and cautious along the way.

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Chilkoot Trail (Skagway)

A snowcapped peak towers over an Alaskan river.


Chilkoot Trail gives hikers several reasons to get excited. For instance, not only is it an excellent option for day hikers looking to access some of Alaska's best backcountry, but its 33-mile length makes it an excellent choice for backpackers too. Generally seen as moderately difficult, the trail also happens to be an outdoor museum, passing through ancient cultural and archaeological sites along the way. The Chilkoot even crosses the border into Canada, providing an international wilderness experience that includes camping on both sides of the border. Taking a day hike on this legendary trail offers a good taste of what it has to offer, but to understand what it is truly all about, you'll need to spend 3-5 days walking it end to end.

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Flattop Mountain (Anchorage)

Flattop Mountain in Alaska shrouded in clouds.

Yu Takada/Getty

If you're visiting Anchorage and are looking for a great hike that isn't far from town, head to Chugach State Park and take a walk to the summit of Flattop Mountain. It is easily the most visited peak in the entire state, but it is easy to see why. From the summit, it possible to look down on the city, as well as Cook Inlet, the Chugach and Alaska Ranges, and if the weather cooperates, possibly even Denali itself. The trail is only 1.5 miles in length one-way, so it isn't exceptionally long. There are also some strategically placed stairs to be found near the 3,281-foot summit, which makes this a more comfortable hike than would typically be. Still, it will test your legs along the way, but offer some great views and have you back to the car in time for lunch.

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06 of 10

Resurrection Pass (Kenai Peninsula)

A hiker walks past a stunning waterfall in Alaska


Although it is broken up into shorter day hikes along its length, the 38-mile long Resurrection Pass Trail typically requires about five days to walk end-to-end. Those who take on this journey will be treated to some of the best views of the Kenai Mountains imaginable, passing through beautiful valleys, past towering waterfalls, and around alpine lakes. Despite its length, the trail is of moderate difficulty at most and is considered one of the best and most accessible ways to explore Alaska's backcountry. Well marked, generally smooth, and with only a gradual elevation gain and loss, this is a fantastic option for those looking to make their first Alaskan backpacking trip. However, day hikers will find plenty to love along its various segments as well.

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07 of 10

Mount Marathon (Seward)

The view from Mount Marathon looking down on a fjord below.


The legendary Mount Marathon is home to an annual foot race that is often described as the "toughest 5k in the world." The trail that the runners use is open to hikers all year round and provides fantastic views of the town of Seward and the Kenai Fjords beyond. This route isn't an easy one, however, as it features more than 3,000 feet of vertical gain over just three miles. In other words, there is a lot of climbing involved, which will likely leave in those in good physical condition gasping for air along the way. Stick it out to the top, however, and the payoff is more than worth it. On a clear day, you can see for miles, providing a great sense of the scope and scale of Alaska while you catch your breath.

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Kesugi Ridge Trail (Denali State Park)

Alaskan wilderness with lakes, tundra, and mountains.

Scott T. Smith/Getty

Another somewhat-hidden gem in the Alaskan hiking line-up, Kesugi Ridge Trail is a multi-day hike that covers 29.2 miles through Denali State Park. Moderate to challenging in difficulty, there are many steep climbs throughout. This can make it somewhat discouraging for day hikers, although those who push through the tough starts at either trailhead, will soon be rewarded with easier walking and amazing landscapes to explore. On clear days, even Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) can be seen from sections of the trail, bringing an added element of surprise to this hike. Thru-hikers will find this a rugged and challenging walk, but a very rewarding one, particularly as you'll usually have the route mostly to yourself. Along the way, you'll discover open tundra, rainforests, mountain views, and so much more. Indeed an excellent trek for those with an adventurous streak.

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Kenai River Trail (Cooper Landing)

Kenai River flows through a snowy landscape in Alaska.


With so many scenic coastlines and mountain tops to explore, it's easy to overlook some of Alaska's fantastic river trails, many of which have plenty to offer adventurous hikers too. Take, for example, the Kenai River Trail, which runs for 10.1 miles (out and back) along a gorgeous stretch of the river. The route is lovely all year round, but especially so the autumn when the leaves begin to change. A relatively easy hike along most of its length, the trail gets a bit more challenging along the upper sections, which require some climbing to reach the top of the Kenai River Canyon. Once over the top, however, the views of the Kenai River are outstanding, with snowcapped Alaskan peaks often reflected in its serene waters.

Late in the summer, the river fills with spawning salmon, which in turn tends to lure in plenty of bears. While it can be exciting to encounter those creatures in the wild, it is best to avoid them when you can. Take caution, don't get too close to the animals, and give them a wide berth when hiking.

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10 of 10

Skilak Lookout Trail (Cooper Landing)

A mountain like sits in the foregrounds, with snowcapped peaks in the distance.

Ken Marsh/Getty

Another relatively short, but oh-so-sweet trail, the Skilak Lookout Trail is a true Alaskan classic. A little over four miles in length round trip, the hike makes a gradual climb upward to a rock cliff face that provides stunning views not only of Skilak Lake itself but the Kenai Mountains beyond. But there are several other great views to be had while en route as well, making this a popular walk with photographers. A relatively easy hike from start to finish, the trail is easy to follow and requires about 3-4 hours to complete. In the summer months, some sections can get a bit thick with overgrown brush, so wear your long pants. Sturdy hiking shoes are a must all year long, but even beginner hikers can march this route without fear. Add a little extra time into your schedule for lingering at the overlook, because you're not going to want to rush back to the parking lot after you've seen that view.

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