Living the Wild Life in Anchorage
Anchorage is an outdoorsy city where retired lumberjacks and Alaska Natives swap fishing tales in their waders. A testament to the area’s fishing culture, Wild Salmon on Parade sculptures appear throughout downtown, a nod to the anglers seeking kings and silvers nearby at Ship Creek. Anchorage’s transit system handily stops near many trailheads, and most buses have bicycle racks. The daily bear sighting reports in the local newspaper reveal what a rugged city this is. This guide to wildlife in Anchorage will help you experience the best of its beautiful, natural surroundings.
Glacial Ice is Nice
Alaska has the densest concentration of glaciers in North America, covering almost 30,000 square miles. About 50 scenic miles from Anchorage is Portage Glacier, the state’s most visited glacial attraction.
A highlight of any Anchorage visit is a day trip to the Spencer Glacier. Gray Line of Alaska runs a picturesque rail trip with a mild float tour led by Chugach Adventure Guides. The train departs from Anchorage in the morning, south along Turnagain Arm for 50 miles, and along the Seward Highway, a national scenic byway. Following a soup-and-sandwich lunch, the trip starts with a panoramic view of the huge Spencer Glacier as a guide rows the raft through gentle water, floating past the icebergs at Spencer Lake and down the Placer River.
Viewing the Four-Legged Locals
Surrounded by massive state and national parks, Anchorage is a modern metropolis located in the heart of the wilderness with good opportunities for Alaska wildlife viewing adventures. In Anchorage and the surrounding area, visitors can go bear-viewing, birdwatching, whale watching, and be on the lookout for other Alaska wildlife, including moose, mountain goats and Dall sheep.
Anchorage offers a plethora of birdwatching opportunities, with over 450 identified species of birds. Potter Marsh State Game Refuge and Chugach State Park offer excellent avian sighting opportunities. The colorful, ever-comical Puffins are perhaps the most easily recognized Alaska seabird. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers the Wings Over Alaska program, which provides an Alaska birdwatching checklist and recognition to participants based on the number of bird species they spot in the state.
For those who wish to continue their wildlife watches to southeast Alaska, The Boat Company is a nonprofit, multi-day small boat excursion exploring the rich wildlife between Juneau and Sitka. Multiple sightings of bears, humpback whales, sea lions and eagles are very common.
Mountains on My Mind
Within view of downtown Anchorage are two active volcanoes, the highest point in North America, Mount McKinley, and six major mountain ranges including the Aleutian Range – Mount Redoubt is a notable point – and the Tordrillo Mountains, which includes Mount Spurr.
With summer’s midnight sun, travelers can run for the hills for a post-dinner hiking adventure. Ideal for all levels of hikers, Anchorage’s Flattop Mountain is a 3,510-foot rise with a plateau summit. Although just three miles round-trip, the elevation gain is 1,300 feet and showcases excellent views of Alaska Range, Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm and the city of Anchorage.
Take a spectacular helicopter ride with Alpine Air into the imposing Chugach Mountains and onto Punch Bowl Glacier. Upon landing, enjoy the giant snowfield with a dogsled ride. Alpine Air also offers a tour over Columbia Glacier Tour, the largest tidewater glacier in the Prince William Sound, encompassing over 15,000 square miles of deep blue water and continuous ice fields.
Other Outdoor Fun
Rent a bicycle at Coastal Trail Rentals, located near the Lake Hood Seaplane Base and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Families with children and adult couples enjoy the variety of paved and dirt trails and great scenery nearby.
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All images via anchorage.net