In the midst of a perpetual autumn, AK Kid and I needed distraction from our dreams of snow, and found it right smack in the middle of the Anchorage Bowl. Kincaid Park, located in the southwest corner of Anchorage and bordering Cook Inlet, is one heck of a fantastic place to visit any time of year, but most definitely this fall, as trees lose leaves, the sun continues to shine, and ice begins to form along the shoreline. So, on Friday, AK Kid and I packed up friend and gear and headed out our favorite trail to Kincaid Beach.
Yes, AKontheGO’ers, 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.
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 that borders the Ted Stevens International Airport. That’s one of the draws for families, too; the almost-constant take-offs and landings of aircraft of every make, model, and size. It’s eye candy for young and old, and one of the reasons we frequent the park. To find the park, 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.
Take the pathway marked for the disc golf course, and go down, down, down, enjoying the creepy trees with skeleton-like claws, er branches reaching overhead. Look for moose, bunnies, and bald eagles, too. At the bottom of the trail, near shoreline, veer left on a well-traveled but unmarked path 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. AK Kid always stops for a second and sighs with obvious pleasure. It’s that kind of place.
Feel free to wander along the shoreline, frolic in the sand, and build a fire on the beach. 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. 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 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 McKinley. This is Alaska, people, so take a minute to appreciate your present circumstances.
Ahhh-laska. Yep, you’re there.