Alaska is the largest US state, and most of it is comprised of wilderness. It’s no surprise, then, that adventurous souls from all over the world are drawn to Alaska, both for hiking and camping trips.
It would probably take an entire guidebook to do justice to this topic, so we won’t worry about covering everything. Instead, we’d like to offer some of the best hiking and camping spots in Alaska’s national parks.
If anything in this guide inspires you to explore our little part of Alaska (in and around Anchorage) with Alaska Trail Guides, please explore our Guided Mountain Bike Tours from Anchorage and our Fat Bike Winter Tours in Anchorage.
Let’s explore Kenai Fjords National Park first of all. Just a 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage, this is fairly close to our backyard.
Kenai Fjords National Park spans much of the Kenai Peninsula and, as the name suggests, contains some truly beautiful fjords. You can hike and camp along the shores and then take boat trips or kayak on the water. Look out for orcas, sea otters, and porpoises on the water.
Given the popularity of Kenai Fjords National Park, and that it isn’t very far away from Anchorage, it offers decent cell phone signal; you will also find outhouses. This makes Kenai Fjords perfect for those who want to explore the Alaskan wilderness without abandoning all modern conveniences.
For many, the best thing about visiting Kenai Fjords National Park is the 700-square-mile Harding Icefield, which contains 40 moving glaciers. This is an ice hiker’s dream location. There’s no need to fly in for this 8.2-mile roundtrip hike. You can access it at Exit Glacier near Seward (a 2.5-hour drive or 4.5-hour Alaska Railroad train from Anchorage). Plan for about 6 hours for this challenging hike.
Denali National Park is arguably the most popular national park in Alaska, and the easiest to explore. Its popularity is more than deserved and we high recommend either hiking or camping here.
This vast national park stretches over six million acres — all of it wild except for one road that cuts through it, making it perfect for anyone looking to experience one of Alaska’s great wildernesses.
As you explore Denali, you will notice a range of different biomes, with forests, snow-covered mountains, and alpine tundra.
However, for many the highlight of the park is Denali — North America’s tallest mountain peak. Do you have what it takes to climb this 20,310-feet behemoth?
Lake Clark National Park is only an hour’s flight from Anchorage and it is renowned for its bear viewing (both black bears and brown bears). With this in mind, any camping needs to be carried out carefully, observing all safety precautions with regard to food storage and preparation.
However, while bear sightings are incredible here, there is so much more in Lake Clark National Park than bears alone. If you decide to visit Lake Clark, look out for bald eagles, golden eagles, moose, caribou, and the enigmatic Dall’s Sheep.
We mentioned two species of eagles above, but there are over 185 different bird species to watch out for here, making Lake Clarke National Park one of the best places in Alaska for birdwatchers.
At 495,204 acres, Chugach State Park is the third largest state park in the US. While technically a state park instead of a national park, this expanse of nature more than deserves its place on this list.
We also recommend Chugach State Park because it is within driving or cycling distance of Anchorage, which is why our Mountain Biking Tour in Chugach State Park has proven so popular in recent years.
While we offer bike tours here, it is equally good for hikers and campers. In the winter, you can ice hike the area, but it is arguably even better in summer, fully thawed out and teaming with wildlife, including moose, grizzlies, and other large mammals.
If you’re looking for a real adventure in Chugach State Park, you could hike or mountain bike along the Eklutna Glacier Trail to the moraines at the bottom of Eklutna Glacier. The views here are truly epic and are guaranteed to impress even the most seasoned adventurers.
Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of Arctic National Park (Source – Licence)
This beautiful national park can be reached by catching a flight from Fairbanks, of which there are regular daily flights.
Many hikers relish visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park because it is perhaps the best example of a flourishing and intact Arctic ecosystem. And this ecosystem is home to a large population of caribou. In fact, it’s one of the best places in North America to see caribou.
Gates of the Arctic National Park attracts thousands of hikers and campers each year; however, there is so much space here that it’s highly likely that you won’t see another soul outside of your group.
What draws hikers is the ever-changing variety of surfaces here; on top of tall 7,000-ft granite mountains, Gates of the Arctic also offers wetland forests and relatively flat Arctic tundra.
Larger than the entire country of Switzerland, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States. This alone makes it one of the most popular hiking and camping spots in Alaska, with around 80k visitors each year.
However, the popularity is very much earned, as this park offers some of the best and most diverse hiking in the world — which isn’t a surprise when you consider that it spans 13.2 million acres.
Within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, you can visit many of the United States’ largest volcanoes, a range of epic glaciers, and countless hiking trails.
Many come to say they’ve hiked in the largest national park in the US, but they leave with memories and stories of the landscapes, mountains, and wildlife they saw on their adventure.
That’s all we have time for today. As you can probably tell, we’ve only covered a few of the incredible national parks Alaska has to offer. It truly is a hiker’s paradise.
If you have any questions about any of our tours from Anchorage mentioned in this guide, please feel free to contact us. Your big Alaskan adventure could be closer than you think.
Do not hesitate to give us a call or text.
+1 (907) 317-5707