PHOTO: Hiking Chugach State Park (Anchorage, Alaska, USA)
Two weeks ago at dinner with two of our best friends my boyfriend responded to a suggestion that we all spend a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods by stating that I hated the outdoors. This, I retorted, was a preposterous claim that did not reside in reality. It's not even reality-adjacent.
My boyfriend cited as evidence my suggestion that we stay in a cabin instead of a pop-up tent on a camping trip in central Illinois we were considering last year. I countered that wanting to say in a cabin vs. a tent in the woods hardly constituted "hating the outdoors" and even offered up that on a recent trip to Alaska I voluntarily drove myself to a State Park and ..... *gasp* HIKED.
Yes ladies and gents, you heard that correct. I'll be the first to admit that I tend to project the image of a pampered, spoiled city dweller. I often joke about being a bit of a pampered man who's primary traits are gluttony and laziness. But our public image isn't always the most accurate portraits of ourselves, and the real me is a big fan of nature. No, I'm not a rugged mountain man.
But I do appreciate the beauty of a mountain vista and the effort it takes to get there.
So yes, on a recent trip to Anchorage I found myself with a day to kill, a rental car at my disposal, and the desire to spend a little time outdoors. While the whole of Alaska is really a wonderland of outdoor space, Anchorage itself feels a bit industrial and bland. I was looking for a bit more fresh air and luckily the Chugach State park is only a 15 minute drive from the airport. I needed to catch a flight that night so figured it was a good location to spend the day before a quick drive back to the airport for my red eye to Dallas.
Parking was plentiful and the Google Maps app took me directly to the start of a trail into the woods that went up into the hills along the Turnagain Arm of the Gulf of Alaska. I meandered through the trails for a few hours, rarely passing any other humans and frequently slipping in the mud that proliferated as I made my way deeper into the park. It was a breathtaking bit of wilderness that served as a nice send-off from Alaska and a change of scenery from the sprawl of Anchorage.
What follows are a few photos I snapped along the hike with a bit of description afterwards. Hopefully it gives you a good idea of what you can expect if you ever need to get out of Anchorage for a bit to see some wild life and beautiful vistas.
Consider a stop at Chugach State Park on your next (or first) visit to Alaska!
The lower part of the trails have informational signs explaining the history, geology, and topography of the park.
The trails are clearly marked and easy to identify with little mud present at the more traveled lower levels.
The higher you climb, the more you have to be on the look out. Tree roots, mud slicks, and narrower paths become more common.
The need to be more watchful is rewarded with higher, more open views of the surrounding area such as this vista over the Turnagain Arm with blooming flowers and a blanket of fog.
Fewer hikers means the wildlife is bolder. Here you can see shoe treads intersecting with animal paw prints in the mud along the trail. This is probably just a dog though!
There can be areas of dense forest coverage, blocking out the view of the ocean. Still the coverage of trees, moss, and flowers is quite picturesque. I can only imagine how colorful and lively this would be during the summer.
And of course if you climb even higher to areas of the park that are even less populated with people, you find even more treacherous conditions. Here is just one of several areas where trees have fallen over across the path due to the moist soil from excessive rain. I was able to get past them just fine but less adventurous folks may want to stick to the lower levels.
But with the flora and fauna of Alaska all around you, why let the fear of falling trees stop you from exploring?
If you're lucky, you might even spot an eagle soaring above the park and ocean like I did here. I was snapping photos with my iPhone so sadly no close up, but if you look carefully you can see him in the middle of the picture over the ocean.