Five Great Family Hikes In Alaska

With longer days, warmer weather, and almost-green hillsides, hiking trails are beckoning to AK Fam as we prepare for yet another summer of outdoor recreation, the Alaska way. Last summer I guest-blogged for Trekaroo and listed some good choices for family hiking in Alaska, but felt there was so much more to share. Plus, AK Dad and AK Kid spent the weekend cleaning out the garage and subsequently unearthed our stash of trekking poles, dirty hiking boots, and day packs, giving me a decided itch to put  my feet to the trails!

Hiking in Alaska is so, so easy with kids, provided you follow a few basic guidelines: Be critter-cautious, pack for ever-changing weather and emergencies (10 essentials, rain/snow gear and all that), and know the destination. Check out this list, lace up the boots, and head out during your Alaska visit. In addition to our Trekaroo choices, maybe try these hikes and walks with your crew:

There's always something interesting along the Beaver Lake/Herring Cove trail near Sitka.

SOUTHEAST ALASKA: Beaver Lake/Herring Cove trail in Sitka. AK Fam took this hike last summer and was thrilled at the varying terrain, interesting views, and not-too difficult route for AK Kid, then six. At a manageable 1 3/4 miles, this trail terminates at a nice little lake and passes through muskeg, berry bushes, and rock formations along the way. Take a backpack for little ones, however, as the trail tread is narrow and utilizes rocky steps in some places. Suitable for preschool on up for self-hikers, backpacks for smaller kiddos. Reach this trailhead by driving out Sawmill Creek Road six miles out of town. Sitka Visitor Center can help you find the way, too.


The view from the top of the Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau.

Mount Roberts Tramway trails, Juneau. Oh, how fun it is to ride a tram up a steep hill, hike around, then take the tram back down. Alpine hiking is easy here, with carefully-marked trails and stunning views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel. Look for wildflowers, listen to birds, and take the self-guided tour of carefully marked trees to preserve an ancient Native Alaskan tradition. Suitable for the whole family, some trails are easier with jog strollers than others, so check the map carefully once you reach the top. Keep an eye on small hikers, often muddy trails are slippery. Find tram prices HEREAccess to the tram is easy, since it begins right at the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau.

Accessible trails for all make Eagle River Nature Center a great choice for famlly-friendly hiking, all year round.

SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA: Eagle River Nature Center trail system, near Anchorage. If you’re new to hiking, or Alaska, this is one place where you’ll be educated, informed, and helped along with outdoor recreational pursuits. ERNC is one of the best places for the whole family to enjoy hiking, with short or long trails suitable for strollers, wagons, babies in backpacks, and even the hard-core overnight contingent. Try the easy Rodak Loop trail, winding down toward the Beaver Pond, or the seasonally-operational Albert Loop trail (closed during the fish runs so bears can eat their fill). We like the Historic Iditarod Trail leading to Eagle River, then on toward Crow Pass, where a public use cabin and two yurts are fun to spy amongst the trees. Great classes and lectures are available at ERNC, too! FREE, but parking is $5 for non-members. Reach the center by taking the Glenn Highway north to Eagle River Road, then follow the road to its terminus.


Reflections Lake near Palmer Hay Flats lives up to its name on a sunny summer afternoon.

Palmer Hay Flats is a relatively new area, and organization, committed to this swath of meadow/muskeg land near Palmer and Wasilla, in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley area. Drive the 35 or so miles north along the Glenn Highway toward Palmer, and exit at the Knik River Road, and choose your trailhead. We like the Reflections Lake trail with its partially-boardwalked tread and lots of dragonflies in the summer. Ducks, geese, swans, and moose also enjoy this little lake, and it’s the perfect distance for small legs. If you’ve been driving for some time, this is a great walk to stretch legs before continuing north.


Still all smiles after a hike near Riley Creek Campground in Denali National Park!

DENALI NATIONAL PARK: We could go on and on about the virtues of hiking in this incredible national park, but we’ll save that for another post. If you’ve got kids who are avid hikers, drive out the Park Road toward Savage River and Mile 13-15, also the last stop unless you’re on a shuttle bus. From here, take a walk along the paved trail, or break off and scramble among the rocks toward the Savage River Canyon (I love that name). Closer to the Denali Visitor Center and Park Entrance, try the short, easily-accessible trails nearby, which offer a more interesting way of getting to and from Riley Creek Campground, the Sled Dog Kennels, and Wilderness Access Center. Try a guided hike with one of the rangers, or give one of the self-guided hikes a try. Inquire at the Visitor Center for information and maps, they have a ton of both. Here is a link to all the nearby trails.


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