Easy Strolls Around Alaska

Despite what tourism brochures might imply, Alaska is not just for the ardent hiker. Most 49th state communities possess at least one or two walking trails for easy family strolling. A lovely way to either unwind after a long day or inspire for a new one, Alaska is full of accessible, easily-navigatable pathways that beckon to children and the adults who follow them.

ANCHORAGE: Trails all but jump out to visitors of Alaska’s largest city; with almost 200 miles of paved pathways circling around and cutting through the community, it’s easy to find a spot from nearly every hotel. Managed by the Municipality of Anchorage, the twisting, paved trail system is known by a variety of names depending upon the section used, and a helpful map aids the new user in deciding where and how to begin. Start with a visit to the Muni’s website HERE. The most popular of pathways is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, named for a former governor (No, not THAT one) who always lived the outdoor recreation mantra he preached, and thus gained a trail in his honor. Perfect for families bunking downtown, the trail starts at Elderberry Park and continues 11 miles to Kincaid Park. Find a link HERE to the trail’s history and directions to get started.

Interested in the history of Anchorage and local folklore? Try the daily walking tour offered by the National Park Service at Anchorage’s Public Lands Information Center on 4th Avenue. Right across the street from busy Peratrovich Park and the bustling Log Cabin Visitor Center, the Public Lands Center gives daily walking tours of Anchorage every day at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., leaving from the front of the building. Most kids age 7 and above (or small ones in carriers who might snooze away a naptime aboard mom or dad) will enjoy learning about Captain Cook’s discovery of this beautiful land and why he decided to stop on by.

Lake Hood in the Spenard neighborhood of Anchorage offers cool views.

If time permits, try a stroll around the always interesting Lake Hood area in the Spenard neighborhood. The busiest seaplane port in the world, Lake Hood is home to hundreds of float planes and their accoutrements, and kids simply adore watching planes take off, land, and be prepped for a day or week, or even a month, in remote sections of Alaska. Watch for moose, and do not allow kids to throw anything into the lapping waters; planes need their space free from any debris.

SEWARD HIGHWAY: The Bird-to-Gird trail is a 13 mile, paved trail visible from the busy Seward Highway, and offers many great opportunities to stop and run the ya-yas out of kids who are tired, already, of riding in the car or RV. A popular bike trail, families should keep a sharp lookout for two-wheeled wonders screaming around the corner, as it’s hard to hear over the traffic noise and breezy conditions. It’s worth it, though, to have a spot to stretch the legs. Find the trail through the ACVB website HERE.

SEWARD: The community of Seward is blessed with a lovely 4.5-mile, paved trail that takes the walker, biker, jogger, or skateboarder through this bustling town and in perfect view of the surrounding peaks. Kids will love that the trail, beginning at the fringe of town, passes right by a “dream playground” just aching to be played upon by little and not-so-little ones. AK Fam often stops by after dinner for a walk and a little climbing time.

Exit Glacier trail, outside of Seward, also offers a short stroll for the family looking for a more serene experience. Located at the Exit Glacier visitor center off Exit Glacier Road, it is a bit of a drive to arrive at the walking path, but oh, what beauty. Remembering bear aware strategies, of course, take the kids on the beautifully-maintained, one-mile accessible loop; no hurry, here, so see what sorts of things can be found to hear, see, and touch along the way. It really is extremely cool in an Alaskan sort of way. Bring the camera.

Walking in the waves on Bishop's Beach in Homer.

HOMER: Ahhh, Homer. People love to walk in Homer, and with good reason. It’s a beach town, walking on a beach is mecca to children, and parents, too. Try Bishop’s Beach near Bunnell Avenue in “old Homer”, where a short stroll across the sand can put even the crankiest kid right, again.

The Homer Spit is another wonderful place to safely allow running feet a few kilometers of kid-fun. A 4.5-mile, paved path that extends to the very tip of the spit’s curving arm, it is great for bikes, scooters and joggers, too.

MATANUSKA-SUSITNA VALLEY: Reflections Lake is a quick stop along the Glenn Highway, and a fairly new walking opportunity thanks to some dedicated volunteers. A pleasant, one-mile walk takes visitors across a boardwalk and around this quiet little lake where birds and dragonflies co-exist peacefully. Access the lake via the Knik River exit from the highway, and park in the small dirt lot. This trail has become an AK Fam stop to and/or from most of our Mat-Su adventures because of its accessibility and beauty.

Take a stroll around charming Palmer, beginning at the Info Center/Museum.

Palmer has some lovely opportunities for stretching the legs, too, beginning right downtown at the Palmer Museum of History and Art. Head to the little but mighty garden to see how incredibly large rhubarb can grow in Alaska, or stroll in the Veteran’s cherry tree grove, then take the sidewalks around this little community founded when then-President Roosevelt sent  a few hundred colonists to settle under his “New Deal” in the 1930’s.

FAIRBANKS: A small city with huge interest in walking and hiking, Fairbanks offers a number of family-friendly strolling options. For a bit of forest fun, try the new Wander Lake trail at Wedgewood Resort off College Road. A beautiful stroll through a boreal forest, the trail leads to, and around, little Wander Lake, where birds twitter and sing and splash around all the livelong day. The pathways are packed gravel, and most strollers can manage the tread easily. An AK Kid fav.

See you, AK Kid!

Creamer’s Field, a bird refuge and education center, is the perfect spot to meander through fields of green, brown, and, in the winter, white. If one can pull the kids away from the antique tractor in the parking area, a few miles of grassy walking can be had for little effort. See if kids can spy swallows taking a breather on a weathervane of the huge white barn.

Pioneer Park is a big hit with both kids and parents because of its proximity to downtown and its eye-catching features. Designed to take the visitor “back in time”, Pioneer Park is free and full of walking paths that pass by old-Alaska buildings, a steam boat, playgrounds, and a merry-go-round. Safe, clean, and comfortable for all sorts of walking, PP is a delight for the whole family.

Take a walk, wind down, and enjoy a slower pace with kids on your Alaskan vacation. You’ll be glad you did!

Posted in Downtown Anchorage, Fairbanks and Interior Alaska, Glenn Highway, Kenai Peninsula, Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Miscellaneous and tagged .