You find yourself in Anchorage with a few extra days before or after your other Alaska tour or cruise. What to do? There are plenty of things to do in Anchorage; there are some lovely walking/biking trails, museums, and gardens. However, I’m an adventure gal, I want to get out of the city. Whenever I find myself with an extra day in Anchorage and look around at the mountains surrounding the city I think – “How do I get out there and play?”
Luckily the answer was pretty easy. I was able to find some really great adventure tours just outside of Anchorage that filled my day with adrenaline and great photography. These adventures range from daring to just fun outdoor time – something for everyone.
If you don’t want to spend your free days in the city, then try these adventure day tours you can easily take from Anchorage and get your adrenaline flowing! I’ve personally tried them all!
Want more Alaska?
I’ve been to Alaska multiple times and have a great variety of unique things I did. Read all of my Alaska travel tours and tips here.
4 Anchorage Tours That Take You Out of the City For Adventure
1. Spencer Glacier Adventure Tour
Activities – Kayaking, glacier hiking, and flagging down a train!
All aboard the Glacier Discovery train! This trip is a long day but full of thrills and incredible scenery. I departed Anchorage on the Glacier Discovery Train early in the morning as the sun lit up the Turnagain Arm. My guide for the day met me at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. This is a remote area within the Chugach National Forest, which is only accessible by train. That basically means that the Spencer Glacier is practically empty since you can’t reach it by road; we had the glacier all to ourselves!
We paddled out onto the lake fed by the glacier and soon we were paddling next to floating icebergs that had broken off the glacier and lodged themselves in the lake. After an iceberg ‘tour’ we paddled over to the glacier where we left the kayaks, dawned crampons, and took off on the glacier. Our guide had studied glaciology in school and as we hiked we learned about the formations and movements of the glacier. After a few hours on the glacier we got back in the kayaks, paddled back across the lake and then flagged down the train Coastal Classic Train coming from Seward and rode it back into Anchorage as the sun went down. This was a day where it wasn’t simply about the destination of the glacier, it was about the journey!
How to Book it: Ascending Path based out of Girdwood will organize and coordinate your day for you and provide everything you need. You can find more information on the website – Spencer Glacier Hike by Ascending Path
What to Take: Layers of clothes as the glacier is cold and don’t forget sun protection – it’s a long day! A rain jacket is always a good idea as well as a dry bag. Ascending Path will provide all of your kayaking and ice hiking gear, plus lunch. You can purchase dinner on board the train on the way home, but you may want to take some snacks.
How to Get There: No car is necessary – just take the train from Anchorage and it will drop you back off in Anchorage!
2. Get Muddy and Ride an ATV to Knik Glacier
Activities: Riding or driving an ATV through the back country, lunch at the Knik Glacier
“We feel you don’t truly start to experience what Alaska has to offer until you’re out of cell phone range, surrounded by towering mountains, pristine glaciers, and monstrous rivers,” Brian on of our guides explained. As Shane readied the ATV’s in the parking lot. Brian talked about how this was the best local way to see Alaska. After all if you don’t own a bush plane in Alaska, you own an ATV – and normally you own both! We had already driven 40 miles out of Anchorage to get to the trailhead and now we were ready to depart the shuttle and have the real adventure begin.
Brian and Shane show us how to operate the ATV’s and we paired up and geared up. They furnish helmets goggles and various other gear if you don’t have it – but dress with the idea that you are going to get muddy and wet! Our group roared off on the 22 miles of ATV trails headed toward the Glacier. You drive through many different environments; wooded forest, sand dunes, dried riverbeds, meadows and a glacial lake. The trail is well-defined yet rugged, and it really helps to be able to follow the guide through the maze of trails as they know best what is doable. The ATV highlight for me was stopping at a big water crossing and getting instructions from our guides and then following them through! The Knik River is always changing, so every trip route is different.
As we got closer to the glacier the trees started getting sparse and suddenly we were staring at the Knik Glacier! The Knik Glacier, located on the northern edge of the Chugach Mountains, is over 28 miles long and 5 miles across, making it one of Southcentral Alaska’s greatest rivers of ice. We parked and Shane and Brian cooked up a feast for us as we enjoyed the views. Then we headed back on different routes and everyone had chances to drive and be really as daring as they wanted. One of my favorite perks of the tour was that Brian and Shane took video and pictures during the whole trip and then sends them to you to download for free. This ensures you can be safe and enjoy the ride while someone else worries about capturing your adventurous feats!
How to Book It: 49th State Motor Tours offers a variety of tours, even an overnight tour. However you can find this Anchorage day tour here – Knick Glacier ATV
What to Take: They provide food and water, but bring a snack as it’s a long 8 hour day! Bring gear that you don’t care about getting dirty or wet! If you don’t have any, then check with them prior to the tour as they often can bring extra. Layers are of course a great idea. And if you have these kind of rain boots bring them!
How to Get There: No car necessary for this adventure day trip from Anchorage either! 49th State Motors will pick you up from Anchorage and shuttle you to the trail and back.
3. Kayak or Bike Eklunta Lake
Activities: Kayaking, biking, and hiking
It was a beautiful 40 minute drive from downtown Anchorage and soon I was deep in the woods on winding roads. I met Dan, my guide from Lifetime Adventures, at the Eklunta Visitor Center. The center is also the office for Lifetime Adventures where you can rent bikes, kayaks or so guided trips like I was doing.
I was excited to get out on the calm turquoise lake so kayaking would be the perfect way to experience it with Dan. The long lake is fed by Eklunta Glacier nearby. The day was a bit overcast, but it just made the colors of the lake and the fall foliage even more vibrant. I spent the day kayaking with Dan, however there are plenty of other options too.
Lifetime Adventures also offers a cool paddle and peddle option to get the most out of your time in the area. You kayak out, 8 miles one-way, to the end of the lake where you then have a bike waiting for the return trip! This trip takes 5 to 6 hours to complete and is only offered Sun – Wed.
How to Book It: You can see all of the Eklunta Lake Tours and rentals offered here at Lifetime Adventures Website
What to Take: They furnish the kayaks, paddles, lunch, and bikes. So just make sure you bring layers as the weather can change quickly. Some waterproof jacket is a good idea. Comfortable adventure sandals are good and bring a dry bag for your camera.
How to Get There: I drove myself out there in a rental car that I already had, however for some of the full day trips, Lifetime Adventures will come pick you up in Anchorage. Be sure to check carefully which ones include a pickup/dropoff.
4. Photo Workshop To the Most Photogenic Just-Outside-of-Anchorage Destinations
Activities: Photography and Sunset Hunting
Jody, our Alaska Photo Treks photography guide for the night, picked me up and we chatted about my photography experience as we filled the van with other photo enthusiasts looking to make the most of the time in Anchorage. This is a night tour typically as the whole goal is to get out of Anchorage to the best spots to capture and enjoy sunset and the golden hours. As you might guess, this isn’t a heart thumping adventure, but if you like photography, this is a must. You can be at any level and have any kind of camera (even a phone), and you’ll walk away with great tips and a better eye for photography.
The tour took us to 3 different destinations outside of Anchorage I never would have found on my own and Jody gave us tutoring and guidance in each spot to get the most out of our sunset images. ‘Golden Hour’ (the best time to take photos when the sun is low to the horizon) turns into ‘Golden 3 Hours’ at these latitudes in Alaska so expect to be out for at least 4 to 5 hours shooting and enjoying the scenic spots.
At our stops we focused on different elements of photography; long exposure, reflections, wildlife, and even some light painting once the sun went down! You can see my whole write up on the Anchorage photography tour here. And once it’s aurora season there’s chances to photograph that too in the late night tours.
Where to Book It: Get more information on the Alaska Photo Treks Website. If you only have a night, try the Twilight Photo Tour. They also offer a number of other day tours to choose from. Book a Twilight Photo Tour and you can reserve a seat on Anchorage Aurora Quest at no additional cost.
What to Take: Bring your camera (and don’t forget extra batteries!)– that’s all you need! Jody will have extra tripods and filters to use if you’d like and you don’t have any of your own. She also furnishes some snacks. However I recommend you eat prior to the tour as it is a long night.
How to Get There: Alaska Photo Treks will pick you up at your hotel!
Where to stay in Anchorage:
I’ve stayed all over Anchorage in hotels, B&B’s, and Airbnb’s. I prefer smaller hotels that are family owned or have some history about them – and here are my favorites:
Copper Whale Inn – Read Reviews of the Copper Whale
Arctic Fox Inn – Read Reviews of the Arctic Fox Inn
Historic Anchorage Hotel – Read Reviews of the Historic Anchorage Hotel
I was a guest of these tour companies in Anchorage, however all opinions expressed here are my own.