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Alaska Highway Drives from Anchorage

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Turnagain Arm Image
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Just south of Anchorage, the Seward Highway hugs the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm, arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in America. Chugach State Park's 3000-foot mountains jut up on your left.

On the right, the sprawling, sometimes four-mile-wide flats of Turnagain Arm seem to stretch like a plain to the opposite shores of Cook Inlet, where mammoth sloping mountains abruptly stop their flat expanse. Each turn reveals another scenic wonder. Take in a few of them in about two hours-plus, or make a day of it.

 

 

 

 


Our Favorite Tours & Activities
Potter's Marsh Image
Potter Marsh (Mile 117)
Photograph waterfowl from the boardwalk, read the wildlife displays, search for spawning salmon, or just soak in the sights and sounds of this peaceful marsh. Thousands of migrating birds rest here including trumpeter swans, rednecked grebes, golden eyes, and pintails. On still days, the surface of the water becomes a giant mirror that reflects the mountains and sky, making an idyllic photo.
Potter Section House Railroad Museum  Image
Potter Section House Railroad Museum (Mile 115)
National Archives photos and model railroads help you imagine the lives of railroad crews who lodged here long before the road existed. Chugach State Park offices are now here (907-345-5014). Check out the massive, 9-foot-high rotary plow out back, used to clear the snow-piled tracks.
Turnagain Arm Trailhead Image
Turnagain Arm Trailhead (Mile 115)
Just across the road, the mostly level trail contours the mountainside with spectacular views breaking through the trees. Follow it 9.5 miles to Windy Point, or cut out after 3.5 miles at McHugh Creek.
McHugh Creek Picnic Area Image
McHugh Creek Picnic Area (Mile 111)
A waterfall tumbles over boulders into a still pond impounded by a 70-foot cliff at this scenic spot. You'd never guess that the thundering creek is only five miles long. Hike the trail along the creek to its source at Rabbit Lake-3,000 vertical feet-or go in just a short distance to smell the lush forest. Across the highway, you may see windsurfers braving the waves of Turnagain Arm.
Beluga Point  Image
Beluga Point (Mile 110)
The point juts into the Cook Inlet, offering a sweeping panorama. Step up to the viewing scope to spot belugas chasing salmon that come in with the tide, or killer whales hunting belugas. Displays explain whales, tides, and the cycles of life in the silty waters below. You can walk the rocky beach below at low tide.
Windy Point Image
Windy Point (Mile 106)
You'll know you've reached Windy Point by the parked cars and people milling about with cameras. Other than Denali, this is one of the state's best spots to see mountain goats and magnificent Dall Sheep. They roam to the road's edge to feed on plants and lick salt residues. Or, look for them high above on the craggy cliffs where their surefootedness protects them from wolves and bears. You might mistake them for specks of snow - until you see them move!
Indian Valley Mine Image
Indian Valley Mine (Mile 104)
This well-kept secret was founded in 1910 by a 56-year-old vagabond who ran away from home at 12, joined the circus, and came to Alaska with the Gold Rush. The Cowles family will show you his 100 year-old cabin, teach you to pan for gold, and regale you with Alaska stories. Pet wild deer, pigmy goats, and exotic birds at nearby Indian Valley Meats.
Bird Creek and Bird Ridge Trail Image
Bird Creek and Bird Ridge Trail (Mile 102)
Only in Alaska can you drive down an empty highway at 11:30 at night, come around a bend, and suddenly see hundreds of people running around, camping, and fishing. This is the scene at Bird Creek from mid-July through August, when its mouth fills up with pink and silver salmon (and anglers) at high tide.

Bird Ridge Trail climbs 3,000 feet in a little more than a mile to magnificent views of the fjord-like Turnagain Arm. South-facing, it is one of the first trails to dry out in spring, even while surrounding mountains are still shrouded in white. Hike up just a few hundred vertical feet to look for flowers and see the views.
Bird Point Image
Bird Point (Mile 99)
A short boardwalk leads to the water to view the bore tide, a rushing wall of water up to 6 feet high. Turnagain and Knik Arms are the only U.S. locations where they occur regularly. Look for the bore 2.25 hrs after low tide here at Bird Pt (1.5 hrs after at Beluga Pt., 3 hrs at Girdwood, and 4 hrs at Portage). The bike path across the highway leads 7 miles into Girdwood along the old highway.
Girdwood Turnoff  Image
Girdwood Turnoff (Mile 90)
Just before the turnoff into Girdwood [link to Girdwood landing page], notice the ghost forest that met its doom during the 1964 earthquake when the land sunk as much as 10 feet and saltwater penetrated the soil. Girdwood began as a mining camp in the early 1900s, and today it's Alaska's premier resort town. The mall at the turnoff is your last chance for gas if you're continuing on toward Seward, another 90 miles south.
Old Portage  Image
Old Portage (Mile 80)
The Good Friday Earthquake sunk the earth 6-10 feet, submerging the former boomtown of Portage. An abandoned horse stable and cabin struggle to stand among the grassy wetlands. Photograph the standing "ghost forest," killed when saltwater flooded their roots.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Image
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Mile 79)
Visit Alaska's only drive-through wildlife park, sanctuary to orphaned and injured animals. Get close-up shots of bison, elk, deer, musk ox, moose, caribou, and eagles. Meet Mike Miller who hand-built the sprawling log cabin lodge (907-783-2025, $5 per person, $20 max per vehicle).
Turnagain Arm Image
Portage Turnoff (Mile 78.9)
A century ago, Portage Glacier filled Portage Lake. The glacier has receded from view, but you can put your fingertips on icebergs from the melting glacier, take a boat ride on the MV Ptarmigan to its face, and learn about glaciers at the visitor center. The drive through Portage Valley is yet another scenic adventure.
58 min from downtown 48.1 miles one-way
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