With an abundance of snow and seemingly endless winters, Alaska is a first-class destination for non-stop snowshoeing. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find snow year-round somewhere in this winter wonderland whose appropriate nickname is The Last Frontier.
Using the Municipality of Anchorage as a home base, you’re treated to the best of both worlds: Immediate access to great snowshoeing venues along with the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a major city. With roughly 300,000 residents, Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and home to more than 40 percent of the state’s population.
From the downtown Anchorage Hotel Captain Cook, Flattop Mountain and the Glen Alps Trail Head are less than a half hour drive. You can also take the Flattop Mountain Shuttle to this popular recreation area that offers snowshoeing options from a few hundred yards to 12 miles, if you’re so inclined. The views of downtown Anchorage, Cook Inlet, the Alaska Mountains, and even Denali are spectacular from this vantage point. Given its proximity to downtown and marvelous scenery, Flattop Mountain is the most climbed mountain in Alaska. After a few hours of easy snowshoeing, head back towards town and stop at Midnight Sun Brewery, one of several micro-breweries in Anchorage. The beverage of choice: Snowshoe White Belgian-style wit beer. This wheat beer has an interesting combination of citrus, cumin, and coriander, and is a great way to top off a fun afternoon of snowshoeing.
Lots of trails
With more than 135 miles of paved multi-use trails, Anchorage is a winter paradise for snowshoers. For example, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail stretches 11 miles along Cook Inlet from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park, tying into the city’s trail network and parks along the way. Kincaid Park offers its own wooded trails and is the premier spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
However, if you’re looking for more of a challenge, head to Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC), a short drive from downtown. This is a great place for a quick snowshoe hike or a day-long adventure. I opted for the day-long adventure, thanks to Gus Gustafson, the Center’s winter trails coordinator/supervisor. Gus took me on a five-hour snowshoe hike while gaining nearly 1,800 feet of elevation. Our efforts resulted in breathtaking 360-degree views coupled with dead silence, sans your heartbeat. This is truly what snowshoeing is all about.
In addition to snowshoeing, Eagle River Nature Center, located in the massive 495,000 square mile Chugach State Park, offers a variety of public education programs. According to Gus, the glittering northern lights and bountiful wildlife are just a few of the topics explored during the nature center’s public programs. It’s easy to observe wildlife in their natural habitat along the trails around ENRC. Animals frequently seen include brown and black bears, moose, porcupines, beavers, and songbirds.
Located 40 miles south of Anchorage in Girdwood, Alyeska Resort averages nearly 650 inches of annual snowfall on its 1,400 skiable acres. The only North American ski resort with both mountain and ocean views, Alyeska Resort offers alpine pursuits like snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and dog-sledding on its valley floor trail system. Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the resort and experience the area’s natural beauty. You can hike through Moose Meadows, or any of the surrounding trails at the base of Mt. Alyeska.
Another option for enjoying the Alaskan backcountry is on a guided snowshoe hike. Experienced guides lead you on an exploration of the Historic Iditarod Trail while snowshoeing along Winner Creek. This particular tour is 2.5 miles long, takes two to three hours, and is moderate in level. Your naturalist guide will point out and discuss the flora and fauna of North America’s northern-most temperate rainforest. You may even see a moose!
And speaking of moose, these gigantic, ubiquitous creatures are part of everyday life in Alaska. During winter months, many of them head for the low lands in search of food. In fact, the moose population in Anchorage can triple to about 1,500 during winter as moose come to town searching for their prime staple: Mountain ash and birch trees. If you prefer, you can see moose up close and personal along with an assortment of other animals at the Alaska Zoo. Located at 4731 O’Malley Road in Anchorage, the zoo is also home to polar bear, snow leopard, Dall sheep, alpaca, Bactrian camel, black bear, brown bear, and many other animals. Other attractions in and around Anchorage include the Alaska Aviation Museum, Anchorage Museum, and Ship Creek salmon viewing, to name a few.
Seven Glaciers is Alyeska Resort’s AAA Four Diamond award-winning mountain-top luxury restaurant. Offering signature Alaskan entrees in an elegant atmosphere, the Seven Glaciers experience is extraordinary from start to finish. Your journey begins with a scenic aerial tram ride that takes you high above The Hotel Alyeska to 2,300 feet above sea level. From this mountain-top perch, Seven Glaciers is surrounded by nature from every direction. This means that every table features panoramic glacier and water views for a truly unique Alaskan dining experience.
Though there are many fine establishments in and around Anchorage, here are just a few they await your visit:
Marx Brothers Café is a nice little unassuming restaurant housed in a 1927-built home. The view overlooks Cook Inlet and the atmosphere, service, and meals are delightful.
Anchorage locals have tapped Snow City Café as the best breakfast spot in the city nine years running at this urbanely hip little café.
At the elegant Hotel Captain Cook you’ll discover four distinct dining options: The Café, Whale’s Tale Bistro and Bar, Crow’s Nest, and Fletcher’s, affectionately named for the man behind the historic mutiny on the Bounty.
To discover more about Alaska and specifically Anchorage, visit www.anchorage.net.
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