Hikers navigate the trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes. Photo by Scott Banks. Whether you live in Anchorage or are visiting the city with time allotted for outdoor adventures, you’ll find a variety of day or overnight backpacking trips in Chugach State Park, less than an hour’s drive away. With some route tweaking, you can elevate those excursions from awesome to epic. Either way, you’ll be happy you took the time to explore the area’s mountain playground. Williwaw Lakes 5.9 miles one way This gradually ascending hike leads to a stunning series of lakes strung like rosary beads along a u-shaped, glacially sculpted valley. Level tent sites abound surrounding the lakes, all with views of the 5,445-foot Mount Williwaw, which towers over the end of the valley. If you hike to the last lake, a 500-foot climb up the north side lands you at Walrus Lake, above and out of…

Katmai’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

STEPPING OUT OF THE BUSH PLANE INTO THE VALLEY OF TEN THOUSAND SMOKES, my shoes sink into the ash and pumice. A cold breeze carrying the vague smell of sulfur stings my face as I scan the valley for signs of life, finding none.

Arctic Alaska’s mysterious stone walls HIKING ACROSS THE ARCTIC TUNDRA ONE RECENT YEAR, I happened upon an unusual array of rocks, unlike anything I’d seen in more than three decades of exploring Alaska’s diverse wildlands. Upon discovering the piled stones, two thoughts ashed through my mind. Who would build rock walls deep in the Brooks Range wilderness, many miles from any settlement? And why? I knew that during their nomadic days, the region’s Nunamiut Eskimos had in places built “stone guards,” called inuksuk, along caribou migration routes. Intended to mimic humans, the stone gures helped the Nunamiut steer caribou toward areas where the animals could be more easily harvested. But these rocky forms were totally different. Built along one edge of a wide valley bottom in the central Brooks Range, they had been shaped into walls, not widely spaced cairns. And those walls were far too low—from a few inches…

Follow Alaska’s fall colors south to Lost Lake

[by Mollie Foster]

As spectacular as they are, it’s surprisingly easy to miss fall colors in Alaska. Once the leaves start changing hues, they only stay on the trees for two to three weeks, with peak foliage lasting only 48 hours in some areas.

When the tourist season is just too much [by Shelby Huff] BLESSED AS I AMTO CALL KETCHIKAN HOME, the amount of tourists who pass through this town on a daily basis can be enough to drive anyone away. As such, my friend Leo and I headed to the trailhead of the Traverse, a hike along the alpine ridges of Revillagigedo Island. To describe him as energetic would be among the most unhinged understatements of all time. As I watched him run laps around the parking lot, I remembered what my coworkers had told me, “Good luck keeping up with that energy.” That first night, we pitched our tent on a small hill above Blue Lake, and a heavy mist clouded the slumbering mountains around us. Below us, an A-frame cabin—the only semblance of civilization in sight—that had blown over during a windstorm sat 100 feet from its original perch. We…