Alaska is renowned for its untamed wilderness. That means if you go too far in any one direction from one of the major cities, you’re likely to be immersed in stunning natural scenery like mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life by booking an incredible Alaska vacation rental situated less than five hours from Anchorage. Take a look at a few of the most serene destinations in the state.
Just under an hour southeast from Anchorage, Girdwood is a great, quick, last-minute getaway destination. Although it’s hopping during the winter with skiers and snowboarders galore, it’s a bit quieter during the summer months. However, located in the Chugach State Park, it has tons of outdoorsy possibilities for the warmer months such as hiking the Winner Creek Trail or the Upper Virgin Creek Trail, which culminates in a picturesque waterfall. The Winner Creek Trail meanders through a temperate rain forest with an easy elevation climb perfect for mountain biking, which you can rent at the Alyeska Resort Summer Mountain. If you’re into history, explore the local mining history on Gold Mine Safari Tours or take the tram up to the Roundhouse Museum. Combine both history and the outdoors on the Iditarod National Historic Trail. Once established to connect remote Alaskan towns, it’s now 2,300 miles of hiking and biking fun.
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2. Moose Pass
Moose Pass is just less than two hours south of Anchorage. This small town lies nestled within the sub-polar rainforest of the Chugach National Forest along the shores of the Upper Trail and Lower Trail lakes. The plethora of spruce and mountain hemlock, sparkling waters, and plenty of nature help rejuvenate you during a long weekend away. Step from the back porch of your vacation rental onto a number of hiking trails from the Crescent Lake Primitive Trail to the Primrose Trail. There are at least 11 close by that you can explore via feet or wheels. If you’d prefer to explore via kayak, rent one at Alaska Rivers Company or Adventure Guru’s Cooper Landing Boat Rental. For an air tour, check out Scenic Mountain Air.
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Located on the Kachemak Bay across from the Kachemak Bay State Park, Homer is four hours southeast of Anchorage. Start with a scenic drive down Sterling Highway as you make your way to your vacation rental. The road runs through the mountains and Chugach National Forest, down Kenai Peninsula, and along the coast for breathtaking views. After enjoying the views on land, enjoy those on the water with Gull Island Seabird Rookery and Eldred Passage, a bay cruise. Bring a pair of binoculars to spot local wildlife from bald eagles to sea otters and whales. Cross the bay to explore the Kachemak Bay State Park; water taxis are always going from Homer to the park. Once there, indulge in some hiking to Grewingk Glacier and Grewingk Glacier Lake. If you’re more of a low-key individual, try some fishing. This area is considered the halibut capital of the world and salmon fishing is a year-round thing in these parts. Even the town, small as it is, offers things to do such as browsing the art galleries lining Pioneer Avenue, walking along the Spit, going on a winery and brewery tour, and strolling Historic Old Town.
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Kenai, three hours south of Anchorage and midwaymic down the Kenai Peninsula, lies on the Cook Inlet and the mouth of the Kenai River. With public access to Kenai Beach and Old Town Kenai Park, you can spend days lounging on the beach or swimming or walking along Meeks Trail. Hiking to Crescent Lake in the nearby Chugach National Forest is one of the most popular activities, though you can explore in a more leisurely way with Alaska West Air tours. Don’t leave without grabbing a bite at Louie’s, which offers super-fresh seafood.
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Talkeetna is on the borders of the Denali State Park, a drive directly north of Anchorage just over two hours. While the population of the town is just a few hundred, it offers plenty of vacation rentals for those wanting to experience the Alaskan interior while staying close to home. Enjoy a number of outdoor activities from riverboat tours and float trips on Susitna River, zipline fun with Denali Zipline Tours, and hiking excursions with a number of services such as Denali Trekking and Alaska Nature Guides. While in town, snag a few scenic photos of Alaska at Aurora Dora or The Dancing Leaf Gallery.
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Cantwell lies within Denali National Park and Preserve, almost four hours north of Anchorage. While a snowshoeing expedition or dogsled tour through the mountains would be just the ticket, you can have just as much excitement hiking during the summer. The multitude of streams and rivers adds a picturesque touch to any exploration be it on a kayak, on horseback, or on your own two feet. If you prefer wheels, opt for a bus tour into the park where you can hear all about the local history and geology. Stay closer to home and opt for some berry picking with the kids or a boat ride on the Nenana River.
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Glennallen is three and a half hours east of Anchorage on the borders of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and on the junction of the two major highways in the state. Here you can stock up on provisions before exploring the biggest national park in the country: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. It boasts three major mountain ranges and a handful of the highest peaks in the United States. St. Elias Alpine Guides is a good hiking outfitter and guide service when exploring this great wilderness. If you’re in town during the winter, watch the hugely popular Copper Basin 300 Dog Sled Race, 300 miles of snowy slopes and mountainous terrain, and enjoy the Northern Lights.
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