Considering Anchorage as a base in AK, there are undoubtedly enough day trips to go on. You can easily spend a few days in Anchorage or a nearby area, then a few days touring the regions south of Anchorage, and then spend the remaining time participating in things north of Anchorage. Anchorage offers various activities like hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. It also houses museums on aviation, state troopers, the military, and natural heritage. Flightseeing excursions allow exploration of the Alaska Range, glaciers, and bear gazing.
Other nearby attractions include Girdwood, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Seward, Whittier, Matanuska, Susitna valleys, Talkeetna, zip line courses, jet boat tours, and flightseeing excursions around Denali. Check out a complete list of day trips from Anchorage, AK, because there is a lot more to do here.
We stayed two nights in Girdwood, a mountain community along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet about an hour outside of Anchorage, but a trip there would make for a truly enjoyable day trip from Anchorage. The Bore Tide Deli and Bar, the (free) Roundhouse Museum, and the gift shop are all accessible via the Alyeska aerial tram, which whisks you to the summit of Mt. Alyeska at 2,300 feet in elevation. One afternoon, we took the tram up, stopped at the Bore Tide Bar for snacks and drinks, and then hiked two miles back down the mountain. (If you walk up, the tram ride is free.)
The Bore Tide Deli and Bar, as its name suggests, is a fantastic location to observe the bore tide on Turnagain Arm. The Turnagain Arm becomes extremely shallow and, in some areas, almost empty during the bore tide, which is a particularly spectacular tide where the water extends far out into Cook Inlet. You can see kilometers in front of you as the tide rolls in as a rolling wave. Beluga whales will occasionally follow it in. We observed it from a pullout on the highway next to the Turnagain Arm, but I’ve heard that viewing it from a distance is much more impressive.
See if you can time your aerial tram trip at Alyeska Resort with the Bore Tide Schedule. Girdwood offers a variety of activities, including a tram ride, mountain biking routes, yoga sessions, and hiking routes in the Chugach National Forest. Visitors can choose from easy three-mile boardwalks, dirt trails, aerial trams, or challenging hikes to Crow Pass. Girdwood Brewing Company serves delicious beers, while a food truck serves large, delicious nacho platters.
#2. Matanuska Glacier Walk With Salmon Berry Travels and Tour
Salmon Berry Travel & Tours’ guided walk on the Matanuska Glacier was one of our favorite day trips from Anchorage, AK. On this distinctive Alaska trip, our guide picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the Matanuska Valley, stopping along the way to let us get out and take in the area’s fall beauty and learn about it. After a brief safety lecture and the installation of microspikes on our boots, the guide led us out onto the glacier, which, I must say, completely blew me away. It was more gorgeous and otherworldly than I had anticipated.
We continued pointing in wonder at the cracks, blue pools, and broken ice. It was an incredibly unique experience. Right now, you require a guide or special authorization to get onto the glacier. Twelve participants and two tour leaders seemed like a reasonable number for our excursion. We were able to ask a lot of questions because, as you know, we like to do that. After the glacier trek, we had lunch at the Long Rifle Lodge, which was also included. The view of the glacier and the golden trees made it difficult to focus on the meal.
Anchorage serves as the starting point for the majority of Salmon Berry Travel & Tours’ day trips, but they also provide tours across the state. They provide so many tours that I could fill a full post with them.
#3. Glacier Cruises in Alaska
A glacier tour is among the day trips from Anchorage that people highly recommend in AK. While on these day tours, you might also encounter whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions, eagles, and other animals in addition to glaciers. The ability to view Alaska’s untamed scenery from the water is another perk of a glacier cruise. When the beluga whales follow the bore tide, you can observe whales from a pullout on the Seward Highway in Anchorage, but for a greater opportunity to see whales, I suggest setting sail from Seward or Whittier towards Resurrection Bay or Prince William Sound.
There are several choices for an Anchorage glacier cruise. We decided to go on the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour (such a mouthful!) offered by Kenai Fjords Tours. Although Anchorage can still serve as your home base for a day cruise, we were staying in Seward. This boat cruise delivered on its promise to be a highlight of our journey. We observed seven orcas, many sea otter pods, numerous bald eagles, a smack of jellyfish (did you know that a smack is a collection of jellyfish? ), seals, sea lions, and a calving tidal glacier.
The boat excursion to the Aialik Glacier, icebergs, and glacier collapse was captivating. The captain provided an excellent interpretative tour, allowing passengers to get close to wildlife without getting too close. Other Kenai Fjords trips, such as a shorter family tour in Resurrection Bay and kayaking at Fox Island, are also available. The experience was memorable for both the family and the crew.
#4. Day Trips From Anchorage to Denali National Park, AK
This time, we opted to skip the day drive to Denali National Park from Anchorage, Alaska. Although we were interested in going, we preferred to focus our time on a region that was relatively smaller because Alaska is such a large state. I don’t know whether I would want to take a day trip from Anchorage to Denali because the weather is notoriously unpredictable, and you can spend the entire day riding a bus or shuttle and never get to view the highest mountain in the United States.
My preferred option would be to stay at one of the lodges located inside Denali National Park for a few days and pray for at least one day of good weather. However, you might feel otherwise or just have one chance, in which case you might opt to travel to Denali one day from Anchorage. I love that! There are numerous choices. The best method to see the park is by bus because most of the 92-mile Park Road, which enters the park’s core, is closed to private vehicles. Narrated tour buses and non-narrated transit buses are the two types of buses that transport passengers into the park.
#5. Alaska Bear Viewing From Anchorage
Although we were in Alaska at the wrong time of year, we wanted to see some bears. May through the end of September are prime bear-viewing months in Alaska, including Anchorage. The large brown (grizzly) bears that inhabit Katmai National Park, Kodiak Island, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Brooks Falls are particularly well-known in Alaska. Alaska can be the best place in the world to view grizzly bears. Bears congregate nearby to devour the salmon that are swimming up streams and rivers and out of the ocean to spawn. Following that, travelers swarm the area to observe bears in Alaska.
As I previously indicated, Alaska bear excursions visit various locations according to the season. You only need to register with one of the flying companies from Anchorage, and they’ll be able to advise you on the best location at the time. They might even pick you up from your hotel in Anchorage.
#6. Hatcher Pass Independence Mine State Historical Park
We looked for day trips from Anchorage, AK, by automobile when we realized we wouldn’t need to return our rental car until late that evening as we drove from Alyeska Resort to Anchorage. Although there were several possibilities, we chose to investigate Hatcher Pass/Independence Mine because we were hearing good things about it. When we went, the State Park was fascinating, and the autumnal colors were magnificent.
The surrounding mountainous environment is extremely breathtaking. Hatcher Pass has a long history of active mining, claims, and gold prospecting. After reading the explanatory signs and answering questions in the visitor center, we strolled around the site. Even some gold panning is possible at the State Park for the Hatcher Pass. It seemed enjoyable, but we decided against doing it. We went up to Gold Cord Lake after visiting the Hatcher Pass gold mining site, where the scenery became even more breathtaking.
The trail’s elevation increase is 480 feet over a two-mile round trip. The lake is hidden in a couloir and is only visible after you are almost on top of it. Hatcher Pass is located beyond Independence Mine State Park. In the summer, Hatcher Pass provides access to fantastic mountaineering terrain, breathtaking mountain vistas, berry picking, hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. In the winter, it also provides snowmobiling, sledding, snowshoeing, mountain skiing, and snowboarding.
#7. Day Trip to Whittier and Portage Glacier
In September, Alaska experienced perfect weather, but intense rain forced a change in itinerary. On one day, we visited Whittier, known as the “weirdest place in Alaska” and one of the wettest towns. Highlights include visiting the Turnagain Arm side of the tunnel.
- Go to Byron Glacier by hiking. Viewing this glacier requires a short, flat 2.8-mile roundtrip hike.
- The Chugach National Forest, the most northern national forest in the United States, provides information about its local flora and animals at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center. Additionally, the Portage Valley and the Byron and Portage Glaciers will be well visible to you.
- You can watch the ice break and smash into the lake while aboard a Portage Glacier Cruise on Portage Lake, which approaches the glacier up close. It is open every day from mid-May to mid-September.
The Whittier Tunnel is a one-way one-way traffic route, with hourly and half-hourly traffic. If no train is present, waiting is required. On the Whittier side, activities can be enjoyed.
- The moderate 2-mile Portage Glacier Trail leads to a viewpoint over the lake, Portage Glacier, western Prince William Sound, and Whittier. The climb to Portage Glacier offers a different perspective than the boat journey to Portage Glacier.
- The Whittier Marina offers fishing charters in addition to the aforementioned wildlife and glacier trips.
- The Lazy Otter Café serves food and beverages, including coffee and beer. I tried their “world-famous salmon spread” on a bagel, which was excellent. Additionally, they provide kayak rentals, boat cruises, and water taxis.
- The 2-mile walk south of Whittier offers stunning views of Horsetail Falls, a 700-foot altitude walk, and the Portage Valley before reaching the observation platform.
#8. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is one of the day trips from Anchorage, AK that are convenient. It can be a standalone excursion or a component of a day trip to Whittier. Through conservation, education, research, and superior animal care, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary devoted to protecting Alaska’s wildlife. Visit the AWCC Alaska animal sanctuary’s 1.5-mile loop by bike, foot, or car to see the creatures there, which include wolves, wood bison, eagles, bears, moose, and more. They also provide programs for naturalists and education. The majority of the animals are in this Alaskan wildlife facility because they cannot live in the wild.
#9. Eagle River Nature Center
An interpretative visitor center, educational activities, and hiking trails are all provided by the Eagle River Nature Center for Chugach State Park. It’s excellent to first visit the nature center here before going on a short hike or a longer excursion.
Planning a day excursion allows you to enjoy more of Alaska’s natural beauty and have a trip within a trip. Whichever way you turn, there will always be more to appreciate! Consider an Alaska rail excursion with Gray Line when making travel arrangements for your upcoming trip to Anchorage. Transportation by rail to and from Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali is included in our vacation packages.