The Rabbit Lakes Hike In Anchorage, Alaska
Updated December 2023, The Rabbit Lakes Hike In Anchorage, Alaska was originally published in May 2020
The Rabbit Lake hike is one of the most scenic treks you can take to an alpine and still not leave the city of Anchorage. Only a 20-minute drive from midtown, the Rabbit Lake Trail is a convenient and fairly easy hike that you can even squeeze in after work, or take your time and make a full day trip of.
There are two main routes that reach Rabbit Lake, the easier from Upper Canyon Road off DeArmoun, and the longer and steeper route that starts from the McHugh Creek Trailhead, located just south of Anchorage on the Turnagain Arm. You can hike to Rabbit Lake as an out and back hike from either trailhead or a one-way through hike.
In this post, I’ll focus on the out and back route from Upper Canyon Road, but will include info on the McHugh Creek side as well.
Looking for more ideas? Check out the 16 best day hikes near Anchorage
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The Rabbit Lake Hike
The Rabbit Lake Hike From The Rabbit Lake Trailhead
- Distance: 4.4 miles, one way (8.8 return)
- Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
The Rabbit Lake Trail is a well-beaten path that follows an old roadbed that begins meandering through spruce and alder trees as well as shrubbery. Eventually, the vegetation lowers and you’ll have open views of the entire valley. Note that this section can be a boggy muddy mess in the spring, or after rains.
The last section of the hike will bring you up a small rolling hill from which you’ll get your first glimpses of Rabbit Lake.
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The McHugh Creek Route To Rabbit Lake
- Distance: 6.4 miles one way (12.8 return)
- Elevation gain: 2,900 feet
From the McHugh Creek Trailhead, the path will switchback between cottonwood trees until you hit the treeline where the trail continues along past alders and grasses.
When you reach the upper valley it becomes more alpine with better views as you continue along the northern edge of McHugh Creek to arrive to McHugh Lake. Rabbit Lake is just up a small knoll beyond McHugh Lake.
Staying in Anchorage? Check out my Anchorage Travel Guide and start planning
The Rabbit Lake Traverse
- Distance: 10.8 miles, one way
- Elevation gain: 1,200 feet from Rabbit Lake Trailhead, 2,900 feet from McHugh Creek Trailhead
For those planning to visit Rabbit Lakes while doing the Rabbit Lake Traverse, see the notes about either side above. The traverse is easier starting from the Rabbit Lake Trailhead and finishing at the McHugh Creek Trailhead. If you’re up for a challenge though, take on the Rabbit Lake Traverse in reverse.
Looking for another stunning hike in Anchorage? Try the Williwaw Lakes hike
How To Get To Upper Canyon Road Trailhead
From the New Seward Highway, take the DeArmoun exit and continue east toward the mountains. Keep following DeArmoun, as it will eventually turn into Canyon Road and then Upper Canyon Road. The final section of the road is pretty rough so drive carefully.
There is a lot at the end, but if you try to go on a weekend in the summer get there early as it’s known to fill up (people will then begin parking on the side of the road). Parking is free.
How To Get To McHugh Creek Trailhead
Getting to McHugh Creek Trailhead is simple. Take the New Seward Highway out of Anchorage. The parking lot is located at mile 111 of the Seward Highway and will be on your left-hand side. The lot is well signposted from the highway.
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Camping At Rabbit Lake
Camping is allowed at Rabbit Lake. Note that open campfires are not allowed, however you can bring portable camp stoves.
Looking for another gorgeous hike outside of Anchorage? Try out Reed Lakes in Hatcher Pass
What To Pack
This is bear country so I would recommend carrying bear spray on you, especially if you’re not traveling in a larger group. Aside from that a daypack, plenty of water, and snacks are advisable. Hiking boots are a good call, but trail runners or trainers should be fine- just note that the trail can get mucky in areas.
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The Rabbit Lakes Hike is ranked as moderate in difficulty due to the length, but there aren’t any special hazards to the trail to be aware of. As mentioned in the earlier section, bear sightings are not unheard of, moose are quite common too.