Family Fall Hikes: Anchorage’s Kincaid Park and Beach

Anchorage’s Kincaid park is a popular family destination for its sandy surface and beautiful views.

During Alaska’s lingering autumn weather, Anchorage folks may need distraction from dreams of snow. When the sun shines, and even if it doesn’t, we find such a distraction at the corner of our own Anchorage Bowl. Kincaid Park, located in the southwest corner of Anchorage bordering Cook Inlet, is one heck of a fantastic place to visit any time of year, but most definitely during fall, as trees lose leaves, the sun continues to shine, and the city waits with bated breath for that first snowfall. 

Yes, Anchorage has a beach, despite what you may have heard about rocky, mudflat-y shores and dangerous cliffs. It’s all true, by the way, but somehow Mother Nature took pity on the good folks of southcentral Alaska and provided us with a bit of beach land upon which to party hardy with our kids.

Sleeping Lady across Cook Inlet. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Kincaid Park is easy to find from anywhere in Anchorage, and, in fact, should you fly into Alaska’s largest city, you’ll practically land on its trail system bordering the Ted Stevens International Airport. That’s one of the draws for families, too; the almost-constant stream of aircraft landings from every make, model, and size. It’s eye candy for young and old, and one of the reasons we frequent the park.

To get there, take Minnesota Drive north or south, exiting at Raspberry Road West. Continue in a westerly direction until you arrive at the Kincaid Park entrance; heed the 25 mph signs and park at the Chalet, a stark building that houses restrooms, helpful park staff, and a place to warm up on chilly days.

Part of the fun along the trail is playing in downed trees! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Take the pathway marked for the disc golf course, and go down, down, down, enjoying the creepy trees with skeleton-like branches reaching overhead. Look for moose (particularly in the fall during the “rut,”) and bald eagles. At the bottom of the trail, near shoreline, veer left on a well-traveled path recently upgraded through the fabulous Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) crew. through a tunnel of brushy willow and spruce (ahem, do make noise for bears and moose, here). Make a steep right (hold hands and be careful!) and viola! You’ve arrived. The forest opens up to a wide, grassy expanse of beach that reminds me of the Washington coast where I grew up. we always stop for a second and sighs with obvious pleasure. It’s that kind of place.

Kincaid Park’s sand dunes are found just east of the main beach entrance. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Feel free to wander along the shoreline, frolic in the sand, and build a fire on the beach. If you’re looking for a bit more hiking, continue east along the shoreline, watching the tides, or take the social trails higher up along the bluffs until you reach Kincaid Park’s unique sand dunes. But do remember the following tips:

1. Know your tides. A tidebook is free and available at any sports store or HERE. Do not get stuck at any point of your exploring.

2. Stay off the mudflats. Visiting Kincaid Park in the winter is one thing when the sand/mud is frozen solid, but any other time of year can lead to tragic results. Solution? We say NO to playing beyond the rocky beach line. No, no, no.

3. Pack out anything you bring in. No trash cans are available, so if you are planning a picnic (highly recommended), make sure you bring bags for the garbage.

4. Savor the view. To the east is the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and Seward Highway, with the Chugach Mountains in the background. In front of you, Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range. To the north, Mt. Susitna (Sleeping Lady), and mountains Foraker and Denali. This is Alaska, people, so take a minute to appreciate your present circumstances.

EK

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