This tiny year-round resort community is nestled in a box canyon just 40 minutes south of Anchorage, which makes it an easy stop for travelers visiting Alaska’s biggest city.
The five-mile Winner Creek Trail winds through moss-coated spruce trees on the way to Winner Creek Gorge, an intense, bubbling cauldron of glacial melt water. Cross via the exciting hand tram to connect with the Iditarod National Historic Trail for a longer eight-mile loop, or head back
If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, try the rugged, 28-mile Crow Pass Crossing, which comes complete with sharp climbs, glacier crossings, a creek fording and breathtaking scenery. This one-way route cuts across the Chugach Mountains and provides a true Alaskan experience suitable only for savvy backcountry travelers: It’s tricky to follow at times, and snow lingers late in the season. Bring a map, traction (we like Kahtoola Microspikes) and supplies that will keep you safe on a long wilderness day. If you do the whole thing, you’ll emerge at the Eagle River Nature Center north of Anchorage, so you’ll need to bribe a friend, drop a car, or arrange a shuttle.
Crow Pass: Drive south on the Seward Highway to Girdwood and turn left on Alyeska Highway. After two miles, bear left at Crow Creek Road (unpaved, but good condition). Take the fork right after the bridge at five miles to reach the parking area.
Winner Creek: The trail begins at Alyeska Resort. Drive south on the Seward Highway to Girdwood and turn left on the Alyeska Highway. Travel for three miles, turn left at "T" intersection, and go one mile to The Hotel Alyeska.
If you’re on a budget, the Alyeska Hostel offers more reasonably-priced accommodations that run the gamut from bunk beds ($25 per night) to private cabins ($112 per night, sleeps up to four people). If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, try any one of the town’s countless B&Bs.
Follow the smell of fresh bread into the Bake Shop, a superb café serving omelets, gigantic sweet rolls, authentic sourdough pancakes for breakfast and sandwiches, pizzas and bottomless bowls of homemade soup for lunch and dinner.