Into the wild: A staycation

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The tram at Alyeska Resort runs nearly all year round, and offers an easier way to get to the top of the mountain. From there, people can hike, mountain bike or enjoy the scenery from one of the resort’s many eateries during the summer. Photo credit: Young Kim

Now that it is summer break, many people are looking forward to a well-deserved vacation of some kind to celebrate the end of a school year or simply just to have fun. Visiting abroad can often be one of the more ideal kinds of excursions, but it isn’t always possible.

Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of alternatives in the state of Alaska. The outdoor adventures that Alaska has to offer make great plans for a “staycation,” or a stay at home vacation.

1. Get the bike out. There are over 120 miles of paved trails in Anchorage alone. Many will take you from one end of the city to the other, such as the Tony Knowles Coastal trail. At 11 miles long, this popular path can take you from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park while providing views of the water at the edge of the city. For more urban sights through neighborhoods, the Campbell Creek trail connects the lake on UAA’s campus and Dimond Boulevard.

2. For those who may prefer a more leisurely type of pace, taking a walk is always an option. A majority of the trails in Anchorage are multi-use and are open to bikers, walkers, joggers, skateboarders, etc. The choice is up to you — but don’t forget to follow trail rules, which can be found on the Anchorage Municipality’s website.

3. Take a hike. Considering the mountainous terrain of Alaska, it’s hardly a surprise that there are numerous destinations for hiking adventures. Whether you prefer the wild, scenic views from a high mountain or the stretches of woods within the city, there are plenty of places to visit. Flattop Mountain bears an American flag at its peak, coaxing climbers to make the steep 1.5 miles, and Lekisch Loop in Kincaid Park is very hilly.

4. Try zip lining. Alaska Zipline Adventures is located on Douglas Island in Juneau and they offer a variety of tours. Guests can visit the Eaglecrest Ski Area or visit Mendenhall Glacier. In Talkeetna, the Denali Zipline Tours show off many views of the Alaska Range and other features, including valleys and forests.

5. Visit the museum. The Anchorage Museum holds multiple exhibits that showcase the beauty and history of Alaska, and they even have programs that range from workshops to guest lectures. People of all ages can visit the Thomas Planetarium and learn about the solar system that we live in.

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Another great option for both state locals and tourists is a visit to the Denali National Park and Preserve. Alaska is home to North America’s highest mountain peak and it serves as a spectacle for residents and out-of-state visitors alike.

Vanessa Jusczak, the director of the Denali Chamber of Commerce, shared many recommendations that would suit all kinds of people. From tour buses to ATV tours, there is something available that caters to the various age groups and interests of all visitors. There are also multiple ways to view Denali, including the drive on the highway and even a plane or helicopter ride.

“Of course, the flyover just brings it to a whole new level… a new appreciation that you can’t get anywhere else,” Jusczak said.

Jusczak encourages people to stop and visit, especially if they have lived in Alaska their entire lives and haven’t experienced the park. While some are often passing through Healy on their way to Fairbanks or Anchorage, they aren’t seeing the real beauty of what the state offers, Jusczak says.

“You know, you’ll have dall sheep that walk right next to a tour bus or you’ll have bears that’ll lay right in the road…” Jusczak said. “So even if you see a bear once or twice a year or you see sheep way up on the side of a mountain… the closeness of the experience that you have in the park itself can’t really be matched anywhere else.”

For Alex Nanez, there is adventure waiting at every corner. The 22-year-old local loves taking spontaneous road trips to places outside of Anchorage, finding new areas of Alaska to explore or simply stopping to get pizza and ice cream.

Though Nanez appreciates random destinations, he does have his favorites to visit.

His top recommendation for someone looking for a weekend trip is camping on the Homer spit. Not only is the view amazing, but also the community, food and other activities add to the experience, he says.

“You get to park your car right behind, like, the fire pit and you put your tent so you’re facing out towards the water,” Nanez said. “In the morning, you just get to see that crazy, cool view of the water and just the sand between you and there.”

Despite his travels to other places in the world outside of Alaska, Nanez has found that the last frontier rarely compares to what he has seen elsewhere. He has no plans of leaving anytime soon and wants to continue discovering the land that has always been his home.

“It’s unlike any place you’ve been to and I’ve been to a lot of places in the U.S. So I’ve seen the crowdedness of L.A… the pollution of Mexico,” Nanez said. “And up here it’s just literally a breath of fresh air.”

A unique thing about Alaska is that its adventures are enjoyable all year round. The Alyeska Resort sits at the bottom of Mount Alyeska, which is a popular destination during the ski season. In the summer, its features can still be experienced such as the tram that travels from the hotel to the top of the mountain, and sea kayaking in Prince William Sound.

Within the city, the summer season also opens doors for more events in the downtown area. Among them is the opportunity to listen to live music every Wednesday afternoon in Peratrovich Park. Admission is free and the event goes until September 1. It’s one of the number of activities occurring this year and the internet is a great place to find more.

And although it is still “home,” a vacation within the city only brings a better opportunity for people to enjoy and appreciate where they live. According to Nanez, the long stretches of wilderness and nature show that it is just the beginning.

“I mean, you can literally explore one side to the other side,” Nanez said, “and it would take multiple lifetimes to get done.”

Whether you relish the outdoors and are up for backpacking across a mountain or prefer to visit the urban festivities in the city, there is something for everyone in Alaska this summer. Being closer to home for a “staycation” means no airfare, rental car fees, or other financial hassles that put stress in a typical vacation.