9 Best Alaska Backpacking Trails To Thru-Hike

Looking for the best Alaska backpacking trips? Alaska has no shortage of amazing multi day backpacking trails to follow, especially thru-hikes.

Backpacking in Alaska can be an extremely fun and rewarding experience. You can choose to create your own path in the remote backcountry but there are plenty of established backpacking trails routes that won’t require any off-trail hiking.

Alaska long distance trails aren’t that long in comparison to other thru-hikes elsewhere. The longest fully established hiking trail in this list is only 39 miles long.

In this post, I’m going to share the best backpacking trails in Alaska and directions on how to get to each trail.

9 Best Alaska Backpacking Trips To Thru Hike

1. Resurrection Pass Trail

Distance: 39 miles one-way
Time: 3 to 5 days
Elevation Gain: 2,200 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Resurrection Pass Trail is one of the best thru-hikes in Southcentral Alaska. This 39-mile long trail is well maintained and has a ton of campsites and cabins to stay in along the way.

You can complete this backpacking trip northbound from Cooper Landing to Hope or southbound from Hope to Cooper Landing.

The south trailhead in Cooper Landing is located 106 miles south of Anchorage and is best used from June to October. However, the trail is open year-round and a lot of people ski or bike to the public use cabins during the winter.

This trail also connects to Devils Pass Trail, which is another great option for backpacking.

Read the full trail guide: Backpacking Resurrection Pass Trail in Alaska

How to get to Resurrection Pass Trail South in Cooper Landing:

From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway and continue for 87 miles. Take a slight right onto the Sterling Highway. Continue for 16 miles through Cooper Landing. Resurrection Pass Trail South parking lot will be on your right.

Resurrection Pass Trail Backpacking September Alaska
Resurrection Pass Trail

2. Historic Chilkoot Trail

Distance: 33 miles one-way
Time: 3 to 5 days
Elevation Gain: 6,800 feet
Difficulty: Difficult

The Chilkoot Trail is a 33-mile historic trail that starts in Dyea, Alaska, and ends in Lake Bennett, British Columbia, and each summer over 10,000 people hike some or all of it. 

Hikers set out to retrace the journey of gold rush stampeders and pass by artifacts left behind by gold rush stampeders. The hardest part of this trail is ascending the very steep gully, known as the “Golden Stairs.”

There are many designated campsites along the trail but you will need to acquire a permit to camp overnight as well as enter into the Canadian side of the trail.

The Chilkoot Trail is best hiked from June to August. You can access the trail from Skagway, which is a popular tourist and cruise-ship destination.

How to get to Chilkoot Trail in Dyea From Skagway:

From Skagway, head northwest on 5th Avenue toward State Street. Turn right onto State Street. Continue onto Alaska Route 98. Turn left onto Dyea Road. You’ll find a large overnight parking lot.

Historic Chilkoot Trail Backpacking Trip in Alaska
Chilkoot Trail

3. Bomber Traverse

Distance: 32 to 50 miles one-way
Time: 3 to 5 days
Difficulty: Difficult

The Bomber Traverse is a hut-to-hut backpacking trail in Hatcher Pass. This trail includes steep, loose boulder and scree slopes, and glaciers.

Part of the backpacking trail is established and the other part is not. Experienced hikers should be confident in bouldering, glacier crossings, and route finding.

In order to stay in the huts, you must be a member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska.

How to get to Bomber Traverse:

You can start this trail from either the Reed Lakes or Gold Mint Trail parking areas. Depending on where you start the hike, you should leave another vehicle at the other parking area where you will end your hike.

Hike Reed Lakes Trail Alaska
Reed Lakes Trail to Bomber Traverse

4. K’esugi Ridge Trail

Distance: 29 miles one-way
Time: 3 days
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

K’esugi Ridge Trail is the best backpacking trail in Denali State Park. You will traverse miles of rolling alpine terrain with epic views of Denali.

This trail is best hiked between late June and mid-September. It’s also best to hike the trail from the north end at Little Coal Creek to the south end at Byers Lake Trailhead as the northern end of the trail is higher at 3,550 feet elevation.

How to get to K’esugi Ridge Trail in Denali State Park:

From Anchorage, head north on the Glenn Highway. Follow the Glenn Highway until Mile Post 163.9. Turn right towards the Little Coal Creek Trailhead parking lot.

Best hikes in Denali State Park Kesugi Ridge Trail Backpacking
K’esugi Ridge Trail

5. Crow Pass Trail

Distance: 23.1 miles one-way
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 2,100 feet
Difficulty: Difficult

Crow Pass Trail is one of the most scenic and diverse trails in the Chugach Mountains. Crow Pass is best hiked from Girdwood to Eagle River because after the initial climb, it’s basically all downhill from there.

You’ll find a bit of everything on this trail including, glaciers, waterfalls, gorgers, valley views, and wildlife sightings, which definitely makes this one of the best Alaska backpacking trips.

Even though the mileage is shorter than other backpacking trails in Alaska, the river crossings and rope and ladder obstacles make this a difficult trip.

Crow Pass is one of the closest established backpacking trails near Anchorage, Alaska.

How to get to Crow Pass Trail in Girdwood:

From the Alyeska Highway, turn left onto Crow Creek Road. Crow Creek Road turns slightly left and becomes Pack Trail. You will find parking for Crow Pass Trail at the end of the road.

Raven Glacier Alaska
Crow Pass Trail

6. Johnson Pass Trail

Distance: 23 miles one-way
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Johnson Pass Trail is a 23-mile well-maintained trail on the Kenai Peninsula. The views along the trail are incredible. From mountain vistas and bridge crossings to lakes and waterfalls, this trail has it all.

You’ll find designated campsites along the trail that have storage lockers and backcountry toilets. Keep in mind that this trail can get muddy, very overgrown, and mosquito heavy.

Johnson Pass is also a very popular mountain biking trail in Alaska and I think it’s a great way to complete this trail.

How to get to Johnson Pass Trail From Anchorage:

From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway. Follow the Seward Highway for 63 miles until you reach the Johnson Pass Trail North parking area.

Johnson Pass Trail Moose Pass Alaska biking and backpacking trail
Johnson Pass Trail

7. Russian Lakes Trail

Distance: 21.8 miles one-way
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
Difficulty: Easy

Russian Lakes Trail is a hut-to-hut backpacking trail near Cooper Landing. This trail has 3 public use cabins and 7 designated campsites.

Highlights along the trail include Russian River Falls, Lower Russian Lake, and Upper Russian Lake.

I will mention that this trail is very bear-y! I’ve never seen so much bear scat on a trail in my entire outdoorsy life in Alaska.

On top of that, the trail can be very overgrown, which makes it super intimidating.

How to get to Russian Lakes Trail from Anchorage:

From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway and continue for 87 miles. Take a slight right onto the Sterling Highway. Continue for 15 miles through Cooper Landing. Turn left onto Russian River Campground Road. Follow for one mile until you reach the trailhead parking.

Upper Russian Lake Cabin Public Use Cabin in Alaska
Upper Russian Lake Cabin

8. Lost Lake Trail

Distance: 16 miles one-way
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Lost Lake Trail near Seward is an incredibly scenic route, especially on a bluebird day. The trail follows an alpine ridge full of lakes and vistas. You can either start from the Lost Lake side or the Primrose side.

You’ll start off in the rainforest and gradually climb above the treeline to open landscapes. You can see everything from lakes and waterfalls to glaciers.

Lost Lake Trail is another popular mountain biking trail in Alaska (bike northbound). It’s best used from June to September but you should check conditions because the trail may still be covered in snow.

How to get to Lost Lake Trail in Seward:

From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway and stay left towards Seward. Turn right onto Scott Way which turns into Rough Drive. Turn left onto Heather Lee Lane. Turn right onto Hayden Lane. Continue to the Lost Lake Trailhead.

Lost Lake Trail Dale Clemens Seward Alaska
View of Resurrection Bay from Dale Clemens Cabin

9. Grace Ridge Trail

Distance: 9 miles one-way
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Although it’s the shortest thru-hike in Alaska, Grace Ridge Trail is one of my favorites. It’s easy enough to complete this trail in one day but there are some amazing ways to turn your day hike into an overnight adventure.

The main reason I love this trail is because of the epic views. You’ll be rewarded with 360-degree summit views of the surrounding mountains, fjords, and islands in Kachemak Bay.

The location of this hiking trail is also a treat. You can only access the trail by taking a water taxi from Homer, which is a really fun change.

Read the full trail guide: Hike Grace Ridge Trail in Kachemak Bay

How to get to Grace Ridge Trail from Homer:

The only way to get to Grace Ridge from Homer is by water taxi. Two companies on the Homer Spit that offer roundtrip services to Grace Ridge: Coldwater Alaska and Mako’s Water Taxi.

Grace Ridge Trail Thru Hike Homer Alaska
Grace Ridge Trail

Happy backpacking!

Other Thru Hikes in Alaska

Other thru-hikes you can find around Alaska are Ship Creek to Indian Valley, Crescent Lake to Carter Lake, Seven Pass Route in Wrangell St. Elias National Park, and Mt. Eielson Loop in Denali National Park, which is one of the only established backpacking loop trails in Alaska.

Answering Your Questions

What is a thru hike?

A thru hike means to hike an established end-to-end or long-distance trail heading in one direction.

What is the longest hiking trail in Alaska?

Currently, the longest established hiking trail in Alaska is Resurrection Pass Trail. This trail is 39 miles long.

The Southern Trek of the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT) would be the longest but it’s only partially completed at 120 miles.

There is also a proposal to build a 500-mile trail from Seward to Fairbanks called the Alaska Long Trail.

What do you need for a 4 day backpacking trip?

If you are planning a 4 day backpacking trip, you will need the right backpacking gear. Check out my 4 day backpacking checklist to get started.

Do I need bear spray in Alaska?

Yes, you will need to carry bear spray in Alaska. There are bears everywhere and it’s best to be prepared.

Read More

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Pin For Later

Best backpacking trails in Alaska that you can thru-hike. Alaska has plenty of multi day hiking trails that you can backpack. Here are some of the best backpacking trips to add to your alaska adventure list.

Do you have any questions about the best Alaska backpacking trips? Leave them in the comments.

About Andrea Kuuipo

I was born and raised in Anchorage and have been able to travel to many places around Alaska. As an Alaska Travel Blogger, I love sharing my favorite things to see and do in my home state to help others plan an incredible trip!

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