Woodsy Winter Wonderlands

Exploring the forest during the late Alaskan winter

Exploring the forest during the late Alaskan winter

Before I launch into the treasures of winter hiking around Anchorage, there is a message I must deliver to the brown bruin seen wandering Far North Bicentennial Park on Saturday. “Get the heck back in bed and don’t let me catch you up again until April or you’ll be sorry!” We mothers have such a way with non-sleepers, don’t we?

OK, back to winter. Which, I will add, is still quite active despite reports of seasonal shift in the Lower 48. No matter, plenty of frosty fun is available and abundant for the entire family, even if the calendar says otherwise.

One of the activities the Kirkland clan enjoys most is simply getting out on the local trails for a few hours. Anchorage has 10,946 acres of municipal parkland and about 250 miles of trails and greenbelts within its limits. Even the most dedicated hiker could trek about town for years before seeing it all.

Our favorites for families? Try the short but scenic Goose Lake Park, near the University of Alaska Anchorage. With the added bonus of the onsite Paddleboat Cafe and hot chocolate to warm up chilly bodies, Goose Lake is a lovely stroll through black spruce and birch forests, and often moose are spotted browsing among the trees. The park also boasts three small skating rinks and access to the University trails.

Another great spot for an easy family stroll is the new Abbott Loop Community Park, off Elmore Road. Completed in 2007, the park is a hotspot for local baseball teams in the summer and a great starting point for jogs, walks, or ski jaunts during the winter months. Aim for starting near the huge picnic shelter/chalet, where a lovely view of the Chugach range awaits and kids can see clearly where the meandering trail begins. The trail converges with others in the local system, but maps point the way with ease and families can be confident of finding their way back to the car without too much effort. Last time we took this hike we encountered a cow moose casually browsing along the trail, appearing not to care a whit that three people and a dog were waiting anxiously for her to move on.

Anchorage has an active parks and recreation community; the Anchorage Park Foundation works in tandem with the Municipality of Anchorage to encourage park use and stewardship year-round. Look on their Web sites for detailed maps and descriptions of all the parks and trails in town.

Even the youngest of Alaskan visitors will enjoy time spent in the woods, exploring hidden nooks, watching for animal tracks, and simply being a part of the great Alaskan wilderness. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Posted in Miscellaneous.