I Want To Ride My Bicycle: Alaskan Cycling Adventures for the Whole Family

Let's go ride a bike!

Yes, all roads are indeed leading back to AK Dad this week, but since he and his broken wing are in the forefront of our minds, I thought I might as well take advantage of the fabulous thoughts swirling around in my head at 2 a.m. while waiting for Mr. Mister’s pain meds to kick in. Today we talk bicycling in the 49th state, a popular and growing activity among families. Resident or visitor, Alaska, and particularly Anchorage, is becoming more aware of cycling and the need for safe, accessible, and well-maintained trail systems that take riders off the road and into the beautiful Alaskan landscape.

Anchorage, Alaska’s most populated city, is home to around 120+ miles of paved bike (ski, jog, etc) trails winding around and through busy streets. While not perfect, the trails do indeed provide thousands of outdoor enthusiasts with a safer way to see the city or commute to work, and AK Fam takes advantage of it like most of our cohorts. One of the most frequently utilized trails is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, named for the former governor who fought for its existence. This 11-mile, paved trail skirts the shores of Cook Inlet, affording mostly flat riding and incredible views of the Inlet and Alaska Range behind. From downtown Anchorage to enormous Kincaid park south of town, the trail is the perfect access point for families to explore a bit of the city and its rich history without driving on unfamiliar and sometimes confusing roads. A favorite of AK Kid is to start from Elderberry Park in downtown Anchorage and ride south towards Lyn Ary Park (great views, great play equipment, lots of moose) and Earthquake Park (excellent interpretive signs about the 1964 quake that devastated the city), ending up at Point Woronzof near Ted Stevens International Airport, a seven-mile ride round trip. Sometimes we spot moose browsing in the trees, lots of times an Alaska Railroad train will come alongside, and always there are enormous jets taking off right over our heads at Point Woronzof. Hit the beach below the Point at low tide and walk along the rocky shores, letting the kids skip stones and listen to the lapping of water against the shore.

Biking with the Harrison family, who cycled from Kentucky to Alaska last summer.

Another excellent ride takes one east of town, near the University of Alaska Anchorage and friendly Goose Lake park. A little trickier to find, the Chester Creek trail is nonetheless a lovely ride through residential areas of Anchorage, ending up at Goose Lake park, one of Anchorage’s only “swimming holes” with official lifeguards during the summer. Pack a picnic and wander around the lake, watching the duck families dodge and weave among the rushes and sedges, or catch a mama moose and her calf resting in the quiet boreal forest. Goose Lake has a great playground and tons of trees where we always make a great game of hide-and-seek. A super trail map, found HERE, can provide excellent directions to the trail and parks along the way. Do watch for wildlife.

For the truly adventurous, the “Bird to Gird” trail south of Anchorage offers outstanding views, tons of wildlife, and a dash of local flavor. Thirteen miles long, the trail begins along the scenic Seward Highway in the small community of Indian, about 25 miles from Anchorage. Saddle up here and ride south on the paved pathway past Bird Creek (nice campground and stunning views of Turnagain Arm) towards Girdwood. Along the way, watch for moose, beluga whales, Dall sheep, and the occasional bear. During the height of fishing season, anglers crowd Bird Creek hoping to hook that special fish, and its worth stopping at the bridge to watch and read the interpretive signs that talk about “combat fishing”. The ride can get windy past Bird, so watch children carefully for fatigue and turn around if they seem to be worn out from fighting the constant headwinds. But enjoy this trail, it is a slice of Alaska most folks only drive by.

Need a bike? Anchorage is fortunate to offer several bike rental options that meet the needs of a diverse biking family. From helmets to trailers to panniers, one can be on the trail in minutes, enjoying the serenity of a pedal along one of Anchorage’s most treasured trails.

Alaska Bike Rentals on 4th Avenue in downtown is probably the most popular, and most diverse equipment-wise. Offering trailers for small children and all the accoutrements necessary, AK Bike Rentals is located in the blue mall across from the Army/Navy store at the east end of touristy 4th Avenue.

Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals on L Street at the west end of downtown is also a good choice for those who want quick access to the Coastal Trail.

Click HERE for a more comprehensive list of bicycle rental companies and tours available to visitors.

As always, remember the helmet for each biker and passenger. Trails around town can be crowded, conditions sketchy depending upon the time of year, and the unexpected can and often does happen. Be safe.

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