View of the directions to Anchorage and Seward road sign on Alaska highway with mountain views, including some of the best day trips from Anchorage

25 Best Day Trips from Anchorage (in 2023) 

I’m an Alaska local with insights into the absolute best day trips from Anchorage! 

While there are so many fun things to do in Anchorage, there’s even more awaiting outside the city limits.

This guide covers many of the popular attractions in southcentral Alaska, from alpine hikes and glacier cruises to charming small towns. I also share can’t-miss hidden gems, along with key tips that will help ensure a safe and unforgettable experience. 

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!

Best Day Trips from Anchorage


Alaska’s most famous mountain is doable as a day trip!

View of the people admiring Mount Denali from Eielson Visitor Center
Denali viewed from the Eielson Visitor Center

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 4 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Denali National Park Website | 👉 Top Denali Suggested Tour

Anyone who wants to see a prime example of Alaska at its most epic will want to add this to their itinerary. Without question, it’s one of the best places to visit in Alaska

The grandeur of this lofty mountain and its surrounding wilderness is around 240 miles from Anchorage. Though, this Alaska road trip can be accomplished within a day. The fastest route from Anchorage is the AK-3 N highway.

Mount Denali itself is so tall that you can still catch breathtaking views of it from afar, even if you don’t have the time to drive there. 


The “doorstep” for Denali has attractions of its own.

View of the canoes on the shore and the fall foliage around Talkeetna lakes on a cloudy day
Canoes on the shore of one of many Talkeetna lakes

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Talkeetna Website | 👉 Top Suggested Talkeetna Tour

Talkeetna, Alaska often serves as a base camp for in-depth exploration of Denali. But it’s also a great road/day trip destination in its own right! Flight tours of the mountain depart from here, and vistas in the area offer great ground-level views.

The forests surrounding Talkeetna have hiking trails galore. The rivers are great places to fish for salmon. A visit to Talkeetna is a more time-friendly way to see the sights if you don’t have the opportunity to explore Denali itself.


Several fascinating museums and abundant natural beauty make Wasilla a great day trip for families!

Aerial view of Wasilla with mountain valley in the background
Aerial view of Wasilla 

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 45 minutes to 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Wasilla Tour

You’ll pass through Wasilla on your way to Denali. You might not have time to stop here if Denali is your destination, but it’s worth penciling it in as a day trip alternative!

Several museums offer unique glimpses into different aspects of Alaska’s history. Learn about dog-sledding at the Iditarod Headquarters and the Knik Museum & Mushers Hall of Fame. The Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry is another fascinating attraction. 

Wasilla has some other great family-friendly attractions, too. Take the family for a ride on the miniature trains at Alaska Live Steamers Inc. Wasilla’s Extreme Fun Center has racing karts, laser tag, and other games to get that extra energy out. Local lakes and rivers are also great for fishing and picnics.  


Palmer shows Alaska’s agrarian side at its best.

Closeup view of the variety of sizes of pumpkins
The Great Pumpkin does exist, after all (photo: Nickolas warner / Shutterstock)

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 45 minutes to 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | Palmer Website 

This small town nestled in the Mat Su Valley makes for a great escape from the bustle of Anchorage — at least, that’s how Anchorage feels to us Alaskans. It is the largest of cities in Alaska, after all!  

Like Wasilla, Palmer is great for family trips or for anyone who appreciates a little tranquility and beautiful nature. “The Valley” is Alaska’s farm country, and several local attractions reflect this. 

For one, you can visit the local reindeer and musk ox farms. There’s also the Alaska State Fair in late August-early September. There’s a giant vegetable contest amid all the usual fare of a fair, such as rides, games, etc. Alaska’s long summer days are great for crops, so vegetables often grow to gigantic proportions.

Matanuska Glacier

Chill a little at one of Alaska’s most popular glaciers!

Hikers at the snow covered Matanuska Glacier
Visitors exploring Matanuska Glacier

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Matanuska Glacier Tour

This majestic river of ice is the next attraction awaiting you if you take the Glenn Highway past Palmer. Matanuska Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the state! All you need is a rental car and a knowledgeable guide. 

Since 2021, guided tours led by professionals have become the only option for exploring Matanuska Glacier. Glaciers are treacherous, so what may seem like sure footing may not be after all.

The Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site is one mile south along the Glenn Highway and offers several hiking trails. This site makes a great picnic spot and vantage point for viewing the Matanuska Glacier amidst its surroundings. 

Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass offers a combination of outdoor adventure and authentic Alaskan history.

A man standing on a rock overlooking the view at Hatcher Pass
Alpine adventure awaits!

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 90 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Hatcher Pass Website

Locals love this pass in the Talkeetna Mountains. In winter, it’s a popular place for both downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and sledding. In summer, it’s a great place for a hike and berry picking. Several trails here take you to alpine lakes and meadows. It’s one of the best places for a taste of the Alaskan Alpine, all within about a 90-minute drive from Anchorage!

Hatcher Pass is also home to the Independence Mine State Historical Park. The once booming gold mine now stands as a ghost town, testifying to the height of Alaska’s gold rush days. A museum preserves a wealth of information on the mine and its history.  

📚 Related Reading: Wondering about the best time to visit Anchorage? Follow the link to find out more!

Eagle River

Anchorage’s northernmost suburb is a great gateway to adventure.

Panoramic view of the great mountain and landscape of Eagle River Nature Center reflecting on the water
The landscape at the Eagle River Nature Center

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 20 to 45 minutes | 📍 Google Maps

This northeastern suburb is one of the best places to stay in Anchorage, especially if you want to make day trips north of the city. There are some great coffee shops and breweries to start up or wind down the day at, as well as stores to buy any needed or forgotten items.

The Eagle River Nature Center is one of the highlights of Eagle River. Trails here take you either along a 3-mile scenic loop or on a 5-mile ascent into the mountains. Thunderbird Falls is another popular attraction in the area. 


This village houses a uniquely Alaskan cultural treasure.

View of the colorful spirit houses” in Eklutna
The one-of-a-kind “spirit houses” in Eklutna

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 30 minutes to 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps

This village beyond Eagle River is home to one of Alaska’s most fascinating cultural treasures — the spirit houses at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. These brightly-colored grave markers came about as a fusion of local Athabascan and Russian Orthodox cultural elements.

Eklutna Lake is another major attraction near Eklutna. Mountains surround this pristine, glacially-fed lake, and it’s one of the most popular places to go kayaking in the area. Eklutna Lake is worth a visit, whether you enjoy kayaking or just sitting on the shore and taking in the scenery!

Turnagain Arm

Take in the epic beauty of Turnagain Arm.

People admiring the Cook Inlet from a distance
Cook Inlet is majestic, even at a distance (Kincaid Park in Anchorage)

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 20 minutes to 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Turnagain Arm Tour

Turnagain Arm has the most drastic tidal changes in the United States. Sometimes the incoming tide takes the form of a surging wave that travels for miles as the tide rushes back in. 

This phenomenon is known as a bore tide and occurs in the waters south of Anchorage. A handy chart indicates the best time to view this phenomenon. You may even spot surfers riding the tide! 

A word of caution, though: the mudflats left by the low tide are extremely strong quicksand. Most rescue attempts of people who strayed out onto the flats haven’t ended well. It’s best to look and not touch — like many things in Alaska’s nature.


Winter or summer, Alaska’s most famous resort is worth a visit.

Overlooking view of the mountain valleys and ski lift of Alyeska in summer
Alyeska in summer

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 50 minutes to 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | Alyeska Website | 👉 Top Suggested Alyeska Tour

A visit to Alyeska Resort is a must for all winter sports enthusiasts or luxury travelers. It’s nearby attractions and upscale accommodations make it one of the top places to stay in Alaska. The slopes here are some of the best in the state, and there are several restaurants (ranging from casual to fine dining) and a Nordic spa. 

I’ve visited the hills here in the summer, and the erstwhile ski slopes are perfect for a short but scenic hike. There are also hiking trails leading further back into the mountains. For the more daring, mountain biking is a great way to get the same downhill thrills even if there’s no snow on the ground.


Rustic vibes, gold rush nostalgia, and peaceful surroundings make Hope a great place for a quiet retreat. 

View of the rustic Sourdough Dru's cabin with a telephone booth outside
Rural Alaskans have a knack for rustic kitsch (photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock)

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Hope Website | 👉 Top Suggested Hope Tour

This tiny town across Turnagain Arm from Anchorage boomed in Alaska’s gold rush years. Its heyday has come and gone, but there’s still a motherlode of character and charm here. The local museum preserves the legacy of Hope’s history, from the gold rush to recent times. Hiking and river rafting are among the area’s best outdoor activities.

Sometimes, finding a scenic place (often by the ocean) and enjoying the peace and quiet is the best thing to do in Alaska’s towns and villages. Hope is a great place to do that!


Small town, big scenery — Seward is a must for any visit to Alaska.

Aerial view of Seward with scenic mountain views in the background

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 2.5 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Seward Website | 👉 Top Suggested Seward Tour

Seward is another fine example of a classic Alaskan small town. It was named for William Seward, the man who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia. It’s among the best day trips south of Anchorage, lying about 2.5 hours south along the Seward Highway. 

Seward’s a great place to go fishing, either with a local charter company or on your own from the shore. Mt. Marathon makes an excellent hike, or if you’re athletic, an unforgettable 5k run.

The Alaska Sealife Center is one of the local highlights and a must-see for a family outing. Here, you can get an up-close look at many of Alaska’s most famous aquatic creatures and sea birds. 

Kenai Fjords National Park

See the best that the sea has to offer with day cruises out of Seward.

A boat sailing at the foggy Kenai Fjords
A day cruise at the Kenai Fjords

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 2.5 hours | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Kenai Fjords Tour

Seward is also the gateway for day cruises of the Kenai Fjords National Park. Day cruises here are one of the best ways to see whales, seals, sea lions, and other iconic Alaskan wildlife. Cruises last anywhere from 3.5 to 9 hours, so factor that in when making your plans. 

The Kenai Fjords National Park also has a landward side accessible from Seward. Here, you can see the Exit Glacier and have a chance to spot bears, foxes, moose, and more! 

👉 Pro Tip: The Kenai Fjords are often compared with Prince William Sound. Both places have glaciers and abundant wildlife, but Prince William Sound is generally considered better for glacier viewing. Kenai Fjords National Park tends to be better for wildlife viewing.


This town takes community living to new levels.

Panoramic view of the waterfront city of Whittier with the snowy mountain in the background

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 90 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Whittier Website | 👉 Top Suggested Whittier Tour

The words “unique” and “Alaska” go hand-in-hand. Few places manifest this relationship so well as the tiny port town of Whittier. 

Its claim to fame? All of its residents live in one big apartment building! Another unique feature of the town is that you must travel through a 2.5-mile-long tunnel to get there. Better to pass on the “hold your breath” game here.

There is plenty to see in Whittier besides the unconventional living arrangement. Take a hike on the Portage Pass Trail or the Emerald Cove Trail. Whittier is also closer to Prince William Sound than Seward, making it a better choice for day cruises of the area. Cruises from Whittier last around 4-5 hours.

📚 Related Reading: Whittier’s living arrangements may not be to everyone’s tastes, but there are still plenty of great places to live in Alaska!

Portage Glacier

Along with Matanuska, Portage Glacier is one of the easiest glaciers to get to.

View of the Portage Glacier from Portage Pass on a sunny day
Portage Glacier, the crown jewel of the Portage Valley and Chugach National Forest

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 90 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Portage Glacier Tour

Portage Lake lies in the scenic Portage Valley, shortly before the entrance to the tunnel to Whitter. At one time, the Portage Glacier was visible from the northern shores of the lake. However, the Portage Glacier has since retreated, but there are, thankfully, still ways to see this remarkable river of ice!

You can book a cruise across the lake, hike along trails, or even paddle across the lake yourself if you have a kayak. Though, be aware that the winds on the lake can be sudden and strong, making it less suitable for inexperienced kayakers. The glacial water is also much colder than most lakes.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Get an up-close glimpse at some of Alaska’s most famous furry and feathered denizens.

Moose in front of a red barn at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Moose and other iconic Alaskan wildlife live at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock)

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | AWCC Website | 👉 Top Suggested AWCC Tour

A visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is one of the most popular day trips from Anchorage. It brings Alaska’s wildlife to you! 

Bears, moose, elk, and more await visitors to this facility an hour south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway. In addition to mammals, there are also famous Alaskan birds such as bald eagles and great-horned owls. 

The center serves as a home for injured and orphaned animals. It covers an area of more than 200 acres, replicating the natural habitat of its residents. It’s a great place to visit on a family vacation or to learn more about Alaska’s fascinating wildlife.

The Kenai River

Catch some of the best sport fishing in southcentral Alaska along the Kenai River!

A man fishing at the Kenai River on a sunny day
The river’s light blue color comes from glacial silt carried by the current

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 2 to 3 hours | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Kenai River Tour

Any list of day trips in Alaska would be incomplete without a fishing trip. Some of the best sport fishing in the state lies a few hours south of Anchorage along the Kenai River. All five kinds of salmon run at different times throughout the summer, including the coveted king salmon!

The river is also great for rafting down or even just sitting on the banks and taking in the scenery. Several tiny towns along the river offer a glimpse at life in semi-rural Alaska — the remote villages are the true rural!

Spencer Glacier

Visit an alpine glacier only accessible by rail.

View of the great Spencer Glacier from the kayak
Kayak tours from the train stop bring you right up to the glacier itself!

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 3.5 to 11.5 hours | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Spencer Glacier Tour

The Alaska Railroad offers visitors unforgettable expeditions, including several great day trips. The Glacier Discovery Train is one of the best, taking passengers on a scenic ride to several of the previously mentioned attractions. Though, Spencer Glacier is one of the major highlights, and is only accessible by rail.

Passengers can get off the train at any of the destinations, and the full journey to and from Anchorage takes about 11.5 hours. The Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop is about 3.5 hours out of Anchorage. From there, the glacier and its surroundings can be explored either on foot or via a kayaking tour

Chugach State Park

Epic hikes await in Anchorage’s “backyard.”

View of the wide green space at Chugach State Park with Glacial Valleys View
Glacial valleys abound in the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 20 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Chugach State Park Website

The lofty peaks of the Chugach Mountains are the first sight that greets you as you look out of the windows at the Anchorage Airport. Why not explore them? The mountain trails here offer a wealth of opportunities for alpine hike day trips. One of the closest trailheads to town starts at Beluga Point on Turnagain Arm. 

Several more trailheads start along the road towards Alyeska and at Alyeska Resort itself. Others lie further afield, and each has its own unique beauty. Some wind their way through the Chugach National Forest, a pristine boreal forest filled with evergreen trees. Others ascend straight into the alpine. 

👉 Pro Tip: In the alpine, you may encounter wild animals including bears and moose. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has a page dedicated to staying safe around these majestic, but potentially dangerous creatures.

Flat Top Mountain

Discover one of the most popular day hikes in the Anchorage area!

A young girl overlooking the view from Flat Top Mountain
Flat Top is doable, even for (older) children

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 15 to 30 minutes | 📍 Google Maps

This popular hiking trail is perfect for anyone wanting to hike Alaska without going too deep into the backcountry. Flat Top is the most accessible day hike in the area, located just half an hour southeast of downtown Anchorage. The views from the top give you some of the best panoramas of town and the scenic beauty of the greater Anchorage area.

Flat Top is also a popular mountain biking spot in summer. It’s also a popular place for bird-watching, with dozens of different species spotted by hikers.

Lake Clark National Park

Get a bird’s-eye view of one of Alaska’s eight national parks.

Aerial View of the Chinitna Bay near Lake Clark National Park
The coast near Lake Clark National Park

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | LACL NP Website

Small planes played (and continue to play) a vital role in Alaska’s day-to-day life. They’re also one of the best ways to see some of the more remote options on this list! Lake Clark National Park lies an hour’s flight southwest of Anchorage and is one of the best US national parks

It features winding rivers and huge lakes flanked by forests and mountains. An overnight expedition may not fit into everyone’s itinerary, but a flight is a great way to see the sites and still have time for other attractions. Many float plane charter flights depart from Lake Hood near the Anchorage Airport.

Katmai National Park

See Alaska’s famous bears in their natural habitat in the Katmai wilderness.

View of the grizzly bears and the colorful seaplanes in the background
Floatplanes are one of the best ways to get to Katmai (photo: oksana.perkins / Shutterstock)

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 4 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Katmai NP Website

Bear viewing is another attraction that Alaska is famous for. Flights take visitors to Katmai National Park where tour operators will offer guided excursions. Trust me, you don’t want to go out on your own when it comes to bears!

Besides bears, Katmai also has majestic mountains, long lakes, and the otherworldly Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. It’s on the longer side of the day trips spectrum, but it’s worth an all-day excursion to see this gem of southwestern Alaska! 


One of the best mini-road trips in Alaska!

View of the beach and mountains in Homer on a sunny day
The end of the road, but the beginning of an adventure!

🗺️ Distance from Anchorage: 5 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Homer Website

The 5-hour drive between Anchorage and Homer is one of the best mini-road trips you can take in Alaska! Along the way, you will pass towering mountains, dense birch forests, and alpine lakes. Chances are good that you may encounter several species of Alaska wildlife, too.

Stop for lunch in Kenai-Soldotna or at one of several roadhouses along the way for some hearty grub. The picturesque Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik is one of the highlights along the way. It overlooks the broad entrance to Cook Inlet. 

FAQs About Anchorage Day Trips 

Is Denali a day trip from Anchorage?

Denali is a day trip from Anchorage — but it will be pushing the limits a little. The most direct route takes about 4 hours one way. You’ll want to get an early start to make the most of your time if you choose to do this as a day trip.

Can you do a day trip to Seward from Anchorage?

You can easily do a day trip to Seward from Anchorage, as it’s only about two hours south of the city.

How far are the fjords from Anchorage?

The Kenai Fjords are 126 miles from Anchorage, near the town of Seward.


Thanks for reading my guide on day trips from Anchorage! Be sure to check out my article on the best time to visit Alaska to make the most of your trip. 

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