Girdwood, Alaska

Photo: Alyeska Resort
Photo: Alyeska Resort

Spring has finally arrived in Alaska! The snow has (mostly) melted. Wildflowers are blooming. Grizzly bears have emerged from hibernation. Rainbow trout are biting. And kits are closely following behind their mothers. Isn’t it time you get a little fresh air?

Fly to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, on the southcentral coast. Don’t worry, you’re not staying here. Follow the Seward Highway south. Turnagain Arm, a narrow branch of Cook Inlet, is on your right. The glacier-covered Kenai Mountains are in the distance. Stop at Beluga Point to try to spot white whales. Pull over again at Windy Corner to watch the dramatic tide surge. Pass Bird Point and lots of Dall sheep on the hillside. Eventually, you reach Girdwood.

Girdwood is located in the Chugach Mountain valley. It was originally called Glacier City—just take a look around—and it was used as a supply camp for gold miners. It’s now home to the Alyeska Resort. The chalet-style hotel has native Alaskan artwork throughout the property and an aerial tram to take you high into the mountains. An indoor saltwater pool, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant also lure you to the resort. But they had you with the view.

Photo: Alyeska Resort
Photo: Alyeska Resort

You’ll have an even better view—of Turnagain Arm, the seven hanging glaciers, mountain streams, and towering Sitka spruce—from Mount Alyeska. You have two options to reach the top: hike the North Face Trail or ride the Alyeska Aerial Tram. The steep, 2.2-mile trail leads you over switchbacks around the now-bare ski trails. The tram glides over the forest in seven minutes. Either way, you reach the Roundhouse, an old warming hut that is now a museum. After exploring the small museum, go berry picking, hike on a glacier, have a snowball fight with the last snow of the season, and grab a patroller sandwich at the Bore Tide Deli.

Back at the resort, sit in the sauna and do laps in the pool. Then have an Alaskan glacial facial with arctic mud at the spa. You deserve it, if you hiked Mount Alyeska earlier. Eat a late dinner at Seven Glaciers. The Alaskan oysters and the king crab are local, though the buttery Chardonnay with which they’re paired comes from the Lower 48. And head to the Sitzmark Bar for an Alaskan Amber after dinner. With nearly 17 hours of sunlight right now, it’ll be too hard to sleep.

Over the next few days, you can pan for gold at the Crow Creek Mine. Mountain bike along the Girdwood Bike Path. Fish for King Salmon around high tide at Ship Creek. Visit moose, brown bears, caribou, and muskoxen at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Or hike that North Face Trail, since you probably rode the tram up Mount Alyeska the first time. You may even fall asleep before the sun sets after getting all this fresh air.

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