Free Things to Do in Anchorage

By Nicole
Alaska, Travel Alaska on a budget, Alaska Travel, Travel Alaska, Alaska budget, Alaska budget travel, Eagle River, Eagle River Alaska, Eagle River AK, Travel AK budget, Eagle River Nature Center, ERNC, girl mountain
Eagle River Nature Center.

Free Things to Do in Anchorage

*Including Eagle River and Girdwood.

I’ve lived in, around or near Anchorage my entire life. Although I grew up not thinking it was too exciting of a place, after years of international travel I’ve come to realize how unique of a city Anchorage really is! You can hike a mountain and still be within the bounds of the city. Not 10 minutes away you can grab a beer and a meal. We have an extensive network of bike trails. Anchorage really has a lot on offer especially for outdoors lovers. And guess what makes it all the better? There a number of free things to do in Anchorage!

*Several parks and hikes mentioned here fall within Chugach State Park. Most Alaska State Parks are free to enter, however the many state parks parking lots charge a $5 parking fee per day (additional for camping). If you are an avid state parks user it is worth picking up a $50 annual Alaska State Parks Pass.

Hikes

*Hikes come with a disclaimer: many do have a $5 parking fee, however; entrance to the park is free.

The Coastal Trail

11 mile trail that winds along the coastline from Downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park.  Good for walking, biking, rollerblading, and running.  You can cross-country ski the trail as well in the winter.

Eagle River Nature Center

Eagle River Nature Center

*$5 parking fee

About 20 minutes north of Anchorage in Eagle River valley.  20 miles of trails maintained by volunteers. Also leads into the 21 mile Crow Creek Pass trail through Chugach State Park to Girdwood.

Hike Up Flattop

View from Flattop, Anchorage
Photo Cred: Eli Duke via Flickr

*$5 parking fee

Take the Glen Alps trailhead and follow it 1.5 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain.  Super popular trail with great panoramic views of the city.

Campbell Creek Greenbelt Trail

Runs 7.5 miles from University Lake to Dimond Blvd.  Hugs alongside Campbell creek and goes through neighborhoods.  Good for walking, running, biking and rollerblading.

Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake
Photo Cred: Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

*parking fee $5, campsite fee $15 p/n.

Hiking trails, the lake and a campground.  Hiking connects in with Twin Peaks, Bold Peaks Valley, Pepper Peak and East Fork Trails.

Eagle & Symphony Lakes

Eagle and Symphony Lakes

*$5 parking fee… if you can find an open spot.

Park at the South Fork Trailhead back Hiland road in Eagle River.  About 11 miles roundtrip to the lake and back.  Great blueberry picking in the fall.

Thunderbird Falls

thunderbird faill. eagle river. chukka. alaska. waterfall
Thunderbird falls

*$5 pakring fee.

2 miles roundtrip hike ending at the waterfalls. Short easy hike.

Baldy

Baldy Hike

Up Skyline road in Eagle River.  1.5 miles roundtrip.  Great views of the inlet and Eagle River to Anchorage from the top. This hike can be continued beyond to Blacktail for a longer trip.

McHugh Creek

*$5 parking fee

Ends at Rabbit Lake up in the Chugach Mountains.  14 miles roundtrip, suggested to camp overnight if doing the entire trail.  Uphill the entire way. Rabbit Lake can also be accessed via the parking lot at the end of Upper Canyon Road (Upper DeArmoun Rd), this is a much more gradual and calm hike.

North Fork Eagle River

North Fork, Eagle River

*$5 parking fee.

About 20 minutes north of Anchorage, on the way back to the Eagle River Nature Center.  1 mile roundtrip.  Good trail for families with little kids.  Easy with no elevation gain.  Runs along side Eagle River.

Mile-High Road

Mile-High Hike, Eagle River

Out in Eagle River, about 3 miles up Eagle River road, look for Mile High road and follow the switchbacks up until you come to a pull off and park there.  Walk past the antenna and you’ll see the start of the trail.  Good views to the ocean, and down into Eagle River valley.  Continues and goes up to to Mt. Magnificent.

Winner Creek Trail

40 minutes or so south of Anchorage down in Girdwood.  Nice hike through the forest.  6 miles roundtrip.  Leads up to two canyons.  Hand tram over the Winner Creek Gorge.

Crow Pass

Crow-pass-alaska

21 mile trek through Chugach State Park between Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood and Eagle River (the nature center).  Some people split into an overnight trip.

Bird Ridge

IMG_9299

*$5 parking fee, if you can find parking in the lot.

5 miles roundtrip, uphill the entire hike to the top.  Great views of the inlet.  Head towards Girdwood from Anchorage, about a half hour away.

Virgin Creek

Short hike through the lovely greens of Girdwood to this picturesque little waterfall. (I’ve been corrected that it’s not technically a waterfall, but whatever).

Girdwood, Virgin Creek, Virgin Creek Falls, Virgin creek waterfall, Alaska, Free things to do in Anchorage
Virgin Creek.

Wildlife Viewing

Potter’s Marsh Bird Sanctuary

Potter's Marsh
Photo Cred: Luke Jones via Flickr

Just south of Anchorage, park at the Potter’s Marsh parking Lot.  Half mile of boardwalks over the marsh to view local bird species.  Likely to see Arctic Terns, Seagulls, Yellow Legs and more birds.  Moose frequent the area too.

Ship Creek Salmon Viewing Deck

Watch salmon run through the creek while fisherman try to catch them.  Located on Whitney road in the downtown area.

Parks

Kincaid Park

Kincaid Park
Photo Cred: Paxon Woelber via Flicker

1500 acre park in southwest Anchorage.  Plenty of places to hike, bike and even cross-country ski in the winter.  Links to Coastal Trail.  Access to beaches.

Earthquake Park

Park between Hood Creek and Point Woronzof.  Commemorating the 9.2 earthquake that rocked Anchorage and caused numerous of its neighborhoods to fall into the ocean.

The Park Strip

Oldest park in the city.  In downtown Anchorage.

Point Woronzof Park

Park on then inlet near the airport.  Running and biking can be done here all summer, great place to cross-country ski and snowshoe in the winter.

Museums, Historic Sites and Learning

Want to head indoors? Don’t worry! Of the array if free things to do in Anchorage there are a number indoor options.

Alyeska Roundhouse Museum

*Accessible only by ski lift or tram in winter… lift tickets are an arm and a leg, tram only tickets are $25. Accessible by hiking in summer and fall.

Museum sitting 2,280 feet above sea level.

Alaska Heritage Library and Museum

Small museum of Alaska cultural history and heritage.

Alaska State Trooper and Law Enforcement Museum

Exhibits, photographs and memorabilia on Alaska Law enforcement in downtown Anchorage.

Alaska Public Lands Building

Info and displays on Alaska’s state and national parks.

Campbell Creek Science Center

Campbell Creek Science Center
Photo Cred: Bureau of Land Management via Flickr

Outdoor science education center.  Learn about the creeks, forests, wildlife and plants around Anchorage.

Eklutna Village

Eklutna Village
Photo Cred: Amy Meredith via Flickr

Native Village on the north outskirts of the Municipality of Anchorage.  Visit the historic park to see St Nicholas Orthodox Church, the spirit houses and learn about the culture, history and traditions of the Dena’ina Athabascan people.

Arts

Love the arts? And do you love free things to do in Anchorage? You have options.

First Friday Art Walk

First Friday of every month.  Make your rounds to the local galleries checking out the artwork of the local talents.

Music in the Park

Every Wednesday and Friday from noon to 1pm at Peratrovich Park.  Come listen to local Alaska music and Alaska Native Performers.

Markets

Not the adventurous outdoorsy type? Anchorage offers a few markets to peruse and they fall into the category of free things to do in Anchorage. Although if you want to purchase you’ll have to pay, but looking is always free!

The Anchorage Market

Anchorage Market
Photo Cred: Amy Meredith via Flickr

Saturdays and Sundays off 3rd Avenue in downtown Anchorage in the summer.  Alaska’s largest open air market.  Eat food from local vendors, buy locally grown vegetables and buy artwork and gifts.

The Spenard Market

Farmer’s Market under the windmill in Spenard every Saturday in the summer May-September.  Buy locally grown vegetables, and goods.

Anchorage Farmers Market

Every Saturday in the summer, located off 15th Avenue and Cordova.  Come by to purchase local produce.

Anything I missed?  Contact me at adventureoflilnicki {at} gmail.com or comment below and I’ll add it to the list of free things to do in Anchorage.

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This entry was posted in Alaska, Hiking trips., North America, Travel Advice, Travel guides

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