There’s so much more to winter in Alaska than ice skating at Westchester Lagoon. Put on your layers, pour yourself a hot toddy and enjoy some of the best winter activities you can experience in Alaska.
Fat tire bike to a public use cabin
Fat tire biking in Alaska has increased in popularity over the last few years. Alaska State Parks offers many public use cabins across the state of Alaska and fat biking is one of the best ways to reach them during winter. Depending on conditions, winter bikepacking can be Type 2 fun. Breaking trail and “riding” in fresh powder is exhausting, but the cabin life is always worth it.
Tubing at Arctic Valley Ski Area
lazier better than getting pulled up a mountain with little effort and gleefully sledding back down. The Arctic Valley Ski Area has a tube park that offers 1.5 hour tubing sessions for $16 per session. There are large and small tubes available, so bring the kids or be a kid yourself and enjoy après ski vibes with live music, beer and wine. Driving up to the ski area is beautiful and may require 4-wheel drive. If you plan it right, you can enjoy a panoramic sunset driving down. Purchase tubing tickets online here.
Soak in Chena Hot Springs
If you’re looking for a “break” from the winter chills, head up to Fairbanks and soak it all away in a natural hot spring. There are only a handful of hot springs in Alaska and Chena Hot Springs might just be the easiest one to get to. You might even get lucky and see the northern lights dancing in the sky above—a truly magical experience. Daily rate for an adult is $15.
Take a hike along a snowy ridge
A little bit of snow adds a lot of fun! I love going for a hike after the first big snowfall of the season. You can find many trails that have low avalanche danger. Rendezvous Ridge in Eagle River is one of my favorite early winter season hikes (pictured above).
Cross-country ski across a frozen lake
Cross-country skiing is not my favorite outdoor activity but sometimes it’s just what the conditions call for. There are a few glacial lakes near Anchorage that freeze during the winter, such as Eklutna Lake and Portage Lake. Cross-country skiing makes for another great way to explore these lakes. You can rent cross-country skis from REI in Anchorage for a small cost. Typically you can rent them for the weekend and extend by a few days for no extra cost!
Ice climb on world-class ice
Massive waterfalls found all over the state of Alaska freeze into beautiful walls of blue, multi-pitch ice during the winter. The Valdez Ice Climbing Festival takes place in February every year. Ice climbers of all skill levels can experience climbing on world-class ice in Keystone Canyon. You can rent ice climbing gear in Anchorage at Alaska Mountaineering & Hiking or Alaska Pacific University.
Get an up close view of a glacier
There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska! Some glaciers in Alaska are a lot easier to access than others, but there are many ways to get an up close view. Popular glacier hikes near Anchorage include Byron Glacier, Exit Glacier, and Matanuska Glacier. Portage Glacier, Knik Glacier, and Spencer Glacier are also popular glaciers to visit near Anchorage, but are usually only accessible during the winter when rivers and lakes become navigable as they freeze over. Always use caution when you’re near a glacier and never underestimate its power.
Paddle around in a kayak
Kayaking in the winter? You betcha. Paddling around snow-covered banks and watching snow fall from the sky is a calming experience. The weather in Alaska is constantly changing and you never know when a body of water will be open for paddling. Safety is always a priority so make sure you know the hazards of cold-water kayaking before you go.
Get out there and earn your turns. There are two popular areas for backcounty skiing near Anchorage. Hatcher Pass is located an hour and a half north of Anchorage and Turnagain Pass is located an hour and a half south of Anchorage. Both are awesome places to ride. Get your avalanche training and always check the weather before you go.
Explore an ice cave
Ice caves can be found beneath glaciers. Exploring ice caves is very dangerous and you should proceed with a lot of caution. You never know when huge rocks may fall from above or when the ice will collapse. But man, they are super cool! Byron Glacier is one of the most popular places to search for ice caves. This Byron Glacier Trail can be found at the end of Portage Spur Road, an hour south of Anchorage. The trail is over 1-mile one way. Again, be careful. You’ve been warned.
Stomp around on snowshoes
Snowshoeing is a fun way to go for a winter walk or hike. I have snowshoes that are fit for the backcountry but a pair from Costco will work just fine for everything else. I love snowshoeing after a huge snow day. Some of my favorite places to snowshoe near Anchorage are Hatcher Pass and the Eagle River Nature Center. You can even fill your thermos with a hot toddy and pack your hammock to take your snowshoeing to the next level.
Backcountry ice skating
Move over Westchester Lagoon, there’s some new ice in town. Backcountry ice skating is a tricky one since conditions have to be just right. There have been many times where I wish I kept my skates in my car as I pointed out perfectly smooth ice driving back from another adventure. You can join NordicSkate-SouthCentral Alaska on Facebook to get ice updates and information on what you can do to stay safe on wild ice.
Camp in Denali
Waking up to a tent covered in snow is magical. It’s even better if you managed to stay warm all night. It’s always fun to camp in the same places in the winter that you camped at during the summer. Denali is a great places for winter camping as it tends to stay pretty quiet and the drive up is usually a winter wonderland. Check out my list on winter camping essentials.
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