Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Heaven on wheels: Trails across Anchorage, through wilderness keep cyclists moving

Cyclists pedal toward Bird Point on the pathway between Girdwood and Indian along Turnagain Arm.

Anchorage Daily News

Cyclists pedal toward Bird Point on the pathway between Girdwood and Indian along Turnagain Arm.

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activities

24/48: Seward

Majestic Mat-Su: Glaciers, mountains, rivers and history give Valley life

Kenai Peninsula: Wildlife, fishing, glaciers and fun-filled days

A good day of sightseeing at Kenai Fjords National Park

24/48: Fairbanks

Bear-viewing options

What not to ask

Kayak operators

Questions to ask

If you go flightseeing

Get dirty: Off-road bike riding spots

First Friday art walk

Mountains, glaciers, parkland define the biggest state

If you go roadside fishing

Kenai, Russian rivers are just the beginning for anglers

Fish and bears: Kodiak's bruins get so big because of all the salmon

Angling paradise: Seward has a line on halibut and salmon fishing

Fishing fever: Early-season anglers converge on the lower Kenai Peninsula

Fishing for fun: Kachemak Bay's waters are full of halibut and salmon

Valley waters: Anglers discover outstanding fishing just outside Anchorage

Gateways to Chugach State Park

Alaska culture: Where and when?

An explosive past

Water wonderland: Whittier is the place for fishing, cruising or kayaking

Seward's surroundings leave visitors gasping for breath

Bear essentials: Planned encounters with fishing grizzlies is a highlight

Copper Valley: History and wilderness join forces at Wrangell-St. Elias

Fairbanks: Enjoy nearly endless daylight, Gold Rush history

Gifts galore: From downtown markets to art galleries, options abound

Celebrations: Music and food are summer festival highlights

Flightseeing helps visitors grasp Alaska's immensity

Golden destination: Hikers and history buffs all enjoy Hatcher Pass

Heaven on wheels: Trails across Anchorage, through wilderness keep cyclists moving

Wilderness wonder: Chugach State Park, city parks full of excitement

A touch of history: Old Town Kenai should be on the itinerary for visitors

Chefs turn the bounty of the sea into something beautiful

Wild water: A trip down an Alaska river will leave rafters cheering

Lake Clark National Park's scenery and remoteness impress

Small but scenic: History, location combine to make Cooper Landing special

Sea kayaks give paddlers a different lifestyle

Denali Park: Ride horses, fly or raft in shadow of Mount McKinley

Cozy cabins: Public-use facilities aren't fancy but they're fun

Valdez: From the Gold Rush to glaciers, Sound community has it all

Eagle River: Hiking, history and festivals keep visitors busy

Anchorage is blessed with plenty of spots to drink or dance

Stepping into history: From the airport to museums, Alaska shows off unique past

Peninsula hamlets: From Hope to Anchor Point, small towns are worth a stop

Fairbanks: Gold Rush history, weather extremes are part of the culture

UAF tours

Southeast Alaska: Off-the-roadway fishing at its finest

Trails across city, through wilderness keep cyclists moving

A two-wheeled trip around Anchorage may be the best day you spend on a two-week trip to Alaska.

Bicycle rentals
Alaska Mountain Bike Source (2375 E. 63rd Ave., 245-8844, 1-888-989-8844, Web site).


Alaska Visitors Center (4616 Spenard Road, 929-2822, Web site).


Downtown Bicycle Rentals (333 W. Fourth Ave., Suite 206, between C and D streets, 279-5293, Web site).


Girdwood Ski and Cyclery (Mile 1.5 Alyeska Highway in Girdwood, 783-2453, Web site).


Lifetime Adventures (1-907-746-4644, Web site).


Pablo's Cafe and Bicycle Rentals (Fifth Avenue and L Street, 250-2871).


Sunshine Sports (1231 W. Northern Lights Blvd., 272-6444).

Bicycle rentals
Alaska Mountain Bike Source (2375 E. 63rd Ave., 245-8844, 1-888-989-8844, Web site).


Alaska Visitors Center (4616 Spenard Road, 929-2822, Web site).


Downtown Bicycle Rentals (333 W. Fourth Ave., Suite 206, between C and D streets, 279-5293, Web site).


Girdwood Ski and Cyclery (Mile 1.5 Alyeska Highway in Girdwood, 783-2453, Web site).


Lifetime Adventures (1-907-746-4644, Web site).


Pablo's Cafe and Bicycle Rentals (Fifth Avenue and L Street, 250-2871).


Sunshine Sports (1231 W. Northern Lights Blvd., 272-6444).

See, Anchorage combines the perfect amount of wildness with a few cycling amenities to make it a great bicycling location. Anchorage has more than 120 miles of paved trails and has been rated one of the nation's best trail towns by Bicycling Magazine and the American Hiking Society. A November 2004 Bicycling article called Anchorage a "utopia" for cyclists.

What does it take to make utopia?

Start with the trails, add jaw-dropping scenery, wildlife viewing that includes moose and bears, and -- especially for visitors -- an abundance of bicycle rental shops and you get a glimpse of what makes it special.

"I think the reason why Anchorage is a bike 'utopia' is because not only does it have many miles of roadside bike paths but it has three great greenbelt bike paths," said Peter Roberts, owner of Downtown Bicycle Rental in Anchorage. "They either run along the ocean or along a creek."

When it comes to Anchorage trails, it starts with the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The good news is, it doesn't end there.

The Coastal Trail is the prettiest gem in Anchorage's cycling crown. It is joined by the Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail and the Campbell Creek Trail as beautiful in-town options.

Outside the city, the Glenn Highway Trail takes riders north toward Eagle River and beyond, while the Indian-to-Girdwood Trail parallels the Seward Highway south of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm.

• The 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is Anchorage's most popular trail. It's easy to see why. It starts downtown and winds past Westchester Lagoon, Point Woronzof and into Kincaid Park. The scenery changes can include views of Mount McKinley, Knik Arm, Mount Susitna, Cook Inlet and the wooded beauty of Kincaid Park.

Additionally, wildlife encounters are common. I've passed a dozen moose on a round-trip ride between Kincaid and downtown. Black bears also inhabit the park, and beluga whales often swim within view of the trail, especially near Point Woronzof.

"It's very beautiful, and it's a nice ride," said Pablos Castaneda, owner of Pablo's Cafe and Bicycle Rentals. "There is so much wildlife, lots of moose. Almost every single day someone comes back and says they saw a moose."

The trail is packed with places to stop and sights to see.

Interesting points include Elderberry Park and the Oscar Anderson House Museum just a little more than a mile after the trail starts. The museum is in one of Anchorage's oldest homes. Westchester Lagoon is home to a wide variety of waterfowl, including Canada geese and red-necked grebes. Heading south takes riders on the Coastal Trail, while a turn east takes riders onto the Chester Creek Trail. Lyn Ary Park includes baseball fields, tennis courts and a playground area. It is also an excellent place to sit and look across the Inlet at Mount Susitna.

Earthquake Park includes interpretive information about the devastating 1964 earthquake. It also is a great place to see downtown Anchorage or Mount McKinley on a clear day. Point Woronzof is next and it, too, has beautiful views of the Alaska Range, including Mount McKinley. Jets frequently pass overhead during takeoff or landing from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. From there it's on to Kincaid Park -- and keep your eyes open for moose. If you come upon one, don't get too close. Remember, they are wild animals. If you see a mother and a calf, be especially careful; cow moose can be extremely protective of their young.

• The Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail connects with the Coastal Trail at Westchester Lagoon, just south of Anchorage's downtown. From there, the trail heads east toward the Chugach Mountains.

The six-mile-long trail runs along Chester Creek, following a greenbelt for miles and crossing the creek several times. The trail ends at Goose Lake Park, but it is easy to make a couple connections and end up at the Campbell Creek Trail. (Skirt by the University of Alaska Anchorage and hook up with a bike path along Bragaw Street. Use a bike/pedestrian bridge to cross Tudor Road and then connect with the Campbell Creek Trail.)

• The Campbell Creek Trail includes some of the newest bicycle pavement in Anchorage. The trail is about eight miles long.

The path meanders through Far North Bicentennial Park and the Campbell Creek greenbelt. Adventurous cyclists can walk their bikes under the Seward Highway and continue along the pathway.

From the southwest end of the trail, some sidewalk and bike-path riding along residential streets can lead cyclists to Jewel Lake Road and Raspberry Road and, eventually, Kincaid Park. From there it's an easy ride along the Coastal Trail back to town.

All three trails offer scenic riding and the opportunities to come across wildlife. Salmon return to Campbell Creek annually, and the bridges and pull-outs are great places to watch the fish.

"When the salmon are running, (people) stand right next to these big fish in the stream," Roberts said. "These trails are special because they are so accessible. Within minutes from downtown, you can encounter moose."

While the Coastal, Chester Creek and Campbell Creek trails are the easiest to reach from most of town, two other paths are worth noting.

• The Indian-to-Girdwood bike path is perhaps one of the most scenic in the country. A new connector bike path was started in 2004, allowing cyclists to ride from the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood to Indian, nearly halfway to Anchorage. The trail parallels the Seward Highway, which was designated a National Scenic Byway in 1998.

"It's just beautiful out there," said DJ Janssen of Girdwood Ski and Cyclery. "It's all paved riding with some decent hills between here and the start in Indian. But it's definitely beginner-level riding."

Previously, riders could take the trail to Bird Point, with a lookout that juts into Turnagain Arm.

• The Glenn Highway Trail is not nearly as scenic as its southerly cousin, but it does offer a nice piece of fairly flat pavement for cyclists looking to log some miles. It also makes a day trip to Eagle River via bicycle a nice option.

Special sections editor Steve Edwards can be reached at sedwards@adn.com or 257-4316.

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