The idea of vacationing in Alaska might sound too chilly for any but the most intrepid explorers. But vacation planning takes time, so grab your cocoa and discover your next unique summer vacation spot!
Although its average winter temperatures are below freezing, Alaska’s largest city experiences a full 22 hours of daylight during the peak of summer. Come July, you and your family will feel like you have all the time in the world to explore the extensive opportunities for outdoor adventure in the land of the midnight sun.
More than 100 years ago, this entire valley was filled with a great river of ice. The Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, home to the Glacier Ranger District Interpretive Program, sits at what was once the foot of that massive glacier and is a great starting point to learn more about Portage Valley and its geology. Portage Glacier has since retreated from sight of the center’s viewing decks, but little seafarers wanting an up-close view of its ten-story face from the water can take an interpretive cruise on the mv Ptarmigan. Five miles of trails await landlubbers along the Trail of Blue Ice, which connects many nearby glaciers with campgrounds, and the Byron Glacier Trail offers a quick, easy in-and-out hike to the moraine fields at the toe of the Byron Glacier.
The 1.5-mile hike to the summit of Flattop Peak is easily the most popular hike in Anchorage, due in no small part to its location just fifteen minutes from downtown, and makes a great, family-friendly day hike. The youngest set may want to stick to the Anchorage Overlook Trail, which is an accessible trail with a viewing deck that offers stunning views of the city, the nearby Alaska Range, and Cook Inlet. Toddlers on up can try to tackle the Blueberry Loop Trail, which circles the first saddle on the way to the summit. Snow can muddy the path even in late June, and the trail is popular with Anchorage’s four-footed as well its humans, so do keep an eye on those kids! Intrepid explorers of grade-school age should be able to handle the hike all the way to the top—it’s a popular field trip location—just make sure they’re careful on that final scramble.
Crow Creek & Indian Valley
If you’ve got a little rock hound in the family, catch a bit of gold rush fever and take them out panning for gold. Spend a sunny afternoon in the heart of Chugach National Forest on a whitewater creek at Crow Creek Mine, sluicing for gold flakes after a quick demonstration, or take a guided tour for a more educational experience that includes information about the historic buildings that date back to the turn of the century and the mining equipment from the same era. Indian Valley Mine, a lode mine located about 30 minutes west of Crow Creek, offers similar opportunities for families to get their hands wet panning. Strike it rich, then relax and enjoy the stunning views of Turnagain Arm.
Alaska is infamous for its megafauna, and much to youngsters’ delight, it doesn’t take much effort to see them. The resident beluga whale pod cruises just offshore from turnout points along the Seward highway—check out Bird Point and the aptly-named Beluga Point—and orcas, humpbacks, and fin whales frequent the waters of Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay. Moose regularly trot through town, and Potter Marsh is as good a bet as any given backyard.
Anchorage boasts some 200 to 300 resident black bears. Follow the fish to see the bears—try Russian River Falls or the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform. If the kids aren’t satisfied with seeing a bear with the recommended minimum distance of 100 yards between them and the animal, guaranteed views and close-up encounters can be had at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
Wherever your Anchorage, Alaska, trip takes you, you’re sure to make memories to last a lifetime.