Hiking in Girdwood can be a highlight of your time in Alaska. This mountain town boasts a magnificent setting that includes temperate coastal rainforest, soaring mountain peaks, glaciers, and rushing rivers, along with a diverse ecosystem. It’s a lush world of ferns, lichens, moss, and colorful mushrooms that can only be found in a wet, forested environment like this.
There are miles and miles of scenic trails for exploring it all, with options for all skill levels. It’s truly a hiker’s paradise that’s less than an hour’s drive from Anchorage. We can even pick you up with our round-trip shuttle to Girdwood!!
In addition to hiking, there are lots of things to do in Girdwood before and after your hike. One of the most popular attractions is the Alyeska Aerial Tram which provides a bird’s-eye view over the Chugach Mountains, glaciers, and Turnagain Arm. You can easily combine this epic ride with some hiking too as there are trails at the top along with a cafe, gourmet restaurant, and a museum, The Roundhouse.
Top 4 Hiking Trails in Girdwood
Ready to get hiking? Here are some of the best hiking options available in Girdwood, Alaska sorted from easiest to most challenging.
Virgin Creek Falls Trail
For a short but very sweet hike, the Virgin Creek Falls Trail will bring you through the forest surrounded by greenery that seems as if it should be home to fairies. Your reward for the little effort, just a half-mile round-trip, is an enchanting waterfall. You can make the steep descent to the falls or stay on the main trail and just enjoy the magical sight from there.
Lower Winner Creek Trail
If you’d prefer to tackle a route that’s slightly longer, the Lower Winner Creek Trail is a classic. An easy to moderate, 6-mile round-trip trek on a well-maintained trail, it travels through lush rainforest, into a canyon, and over a gorge, meandering on boardwalks as you make your way through the valley, and cross a bridge with water thundering below.
Alyeska North Face Trail
While the Alyeska North Face Trail is just 2.2 miles, it has an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet, so it’s best for those seeking a heart-pounding challenge. It starts at the base of the Mount Alyeska ski resort tram and after you make your way up the switchbacks, you can look forward to a spectacular view of glaciers and mountain peaks while relaxing in the restaurant. Afterward, you can ride the gondola back down.
Helicopter/Glacier Hiking Tour
Embarking on a glacier tour in Alaska is another fantastic hiking option for your bucket list. For an experience of a lifetime, consider a hike that begins by helicopter where you’ll get an aerial view of the Chugach Mountains and the surrounding glaciers before landing on a glacier. There’s no need to draw straws as to who gets the view, as every passenger will have a large window for panoramic vistas.
Once you land you’ll put on crampons and helmets, get a safety talk and brief instruction from your expert guide, and then discover incredible features in the ice, including brilliant blue pools, caves, blue ice tubes, rushing surface rivers, and more. There’s also an option to add ice climbing.
Preparing For Your Hike
The Best Time to Visit for Hiking and the Right Clothing
The hiking trails are generally open for hiking between late May/early June and early October, so you’ll want to plan your visit during this time. If you’re visiting in winter, there are many great trails for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. You can also use ice cleats and trekking poles as you head out on the hiking trails.
It’s important to account for the unpredictable Alaskan weather, which means being flexible with your plans and preparing by bringing the right attire. It doesn’t rain much in June, but as summer moves forward precipitation increases. Be sure to bring waterproof hiking boots, pants, and a rain jacket. Layers are always a good idea for changing conditions too.
Food and Water
Bringing an adequate amount of water and food is essential. If you embark on a longer hike you’ll want to think about how you’ll get more water. Some treks don’t have reliable water sources nearby and many water sources need to be treated for diseases like giardia. Prepare by bringing a water filter or carrying water purification tablets. Don’t forget energizing snacks, like trail mix, nuts, and protein bars.
Never put yourself in danger. In Alaska, hikes can include creek and river crossings, scrambling over boulders, and even treks across glaciers. For any hike that’s more challenging, consider one of the options available for heading out with an experienced guide.
Responsible Hiking Tips
If you’ve spent much time in the great outdoors, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Leave No Trace.” There are seven principles that should be followed to enjoy and protect these pristine natural spaces, such as disposing of waste properly, being considerate of other visitors, and leaving what you find: examine and photograph but don’t touch historic or cultural structures and artifacts. Leave plants, rocks, and other natural items as you find them.
Always respect wildlife by observing animals from a distance. Never follow, approach, or feed them. The encounters will be more enjoyable by bringing a pair of binoculars and mastering the zoom lens on your camera. In bear-country, take extra precautions: carry bear spray, make noise as you hike, and stay aware (such as not wearing earbuds). It’s safer to hike in a group, so bring a friend!
Make it Happen with Alpine Air Alaska
If you’re looking for a summer adventure that includes plenty of hiking options, Girdwood, Alaska is the ideal destination. Along with hiking, you can enjoy other exciting activities like gold panning and even summer dog sledding, as a helicopter will bring you to a glacier for this thrilling tour.
Of course, you’ll also find plenty of local shops to browse along with dining and drinking venues. That includes everything from a fabulous local brewery to eateries serving delicious, healthy fare with dishes for everyone from vegans to carnivores, such as locally grown veggies and sustainably produced seafood.
Alpine Air Alaska has developed an outstanding reputation for safety and quality with more than 30 years in the business. Not only can you enjoy a heli adventure for hiking, but other experiences too, including kayaking and rafting, for a well-rounded trip to Girdwood you’re unlikely to ever forget.
Alpine Air has partnerships with Ascending Path and Chugach Adventures so that the helicopter ride and hiking adventure can be coordinated into one convenient package deal. Contact us today to book your adventure!