Besides these hikes and bikes in Anchorage proper, more excellent nearby options are along Turnagain Arm and in Girdwood.
Eagle River Valley -- The Eagle River Nature Center, at the end of Eagle River Road, 12 miles up Eagle River Valley from the Glenn Highway exit (tel. 907/694-2108; www.ernc.org), resembles a public wilderness lodge, with hands-on nature displays about the area and daily nature walks in the summer and weekends year-round (2pm weekends, call for other times). Operated by a nonprofit concessionaire for Chugach State Park, it's open June through August daily from 10am to 5pm, May and September from 10am to 5pm except Monday, October through April Friday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm. There's a $5 parking fee.
The .75-mile Rodak Nature Trail, with interpretive signs, leads to viewing platforms over a beaver pond. The Albert Loop Trail is a 3-mile route; a geology guide from the center matches with numbered posts on the way. Both trails have good bird- and wildlife-watching. The 25-mile Crow Pass Trail, a portion of the historic Iditarod Trail, continues up the valley into the mountains along the river. You can make a dayhike loop of 6 miles or less by returning on the Dew Mound Trail. Continuing, the Crow Pass Trail eventually surmounts the Chugach in alpine terrain and passes near Raven Glacier before descending into Girdwood. There are campsites with fire rings along the way, and a mile up the trail, the center rents out a public-use cabin for $65 a night. A yurt on the Crow Pass Trail and another on the Albert Loop rent for the same price. Reserve well ahead for weekends. Availability is shown on the website.
Far North Bicentennial Park/Campbell Tract -- A rectangle totaling 4,730 acres of city park and Bureau of Land Management land brings wilderness into the city on the east side of town, a habitat for bears, moose, and spawning salmon. People use it for dog mushing and skiing in winter, and for exceptional mountain-biking and dayhiking in summer. The Alaska Botanical Garden and the Hilltop Ski Area are both within the park's boundaries. A good place to start a hike or ride through the woods is the Campbell Creek Science Center (tel. 907/267-1247; www.blm.gov/ak/sciencecenter), an educational facility operated by the BLM. Staff are often on hand to answer questions, and you can consult books and maps and look at an aquarium of native fish. To get to the science center from downtown, take Gambell Street (it becomes New Seward Hwy.) south to Dowling Road, go east (toward the mountains), turn right on Lake Otis Road, turn left on 68th Avenue, and follow 68th to its end, then left at the BLM Campbell Tract entrance sign. When the center is closed, you can park outside the gates and use another trail head. (Find a trail map on the website by clicking "Campbell Tract home page.")
Bears in the City -- Most cities don't have this problem, but during the summer of 2008, two serious brown-bear attacks occurred in one of Anchorage's city parks -- Far North Bicentennial -- and one more on a suburban street. The maulings were rare events in unusual circumstances. Fear of bears shouldn't keep anyone indoors in Alaska. To be safe, stay off closed trails, avoid running or biking in thick woods or late at night. If you're really worried, the staff at the information centers can answer your questions.
Flattop Mountain & the Glen Alps Trailhead -- There are many ways to reach the alpine tundra, intoxicating fresh air, and cinematic views in the Chugach Mountains behind Anchorage, but the easiest and best-developed portal is the Chugach State Park Glen Alps Trailhead. Even those who aren't up to hiking should go for the drive and a walk on a short, paved loop with incredible views and interpretive signs. If you are ready for a hike, you can start at the trail head for trips of up to several days, following the network of trails or taking off across dry, alpine tundra by yourself, but usually within mobile phone range. Camping is permitted anywhere off the trails.
Flattop Mountain is the most popular hike from Glen Alps and a great family climb, if a bit crowded on weekends. It's a steep afternoon hike, easy for fit adults and doable by school-age children. There's a bit of a scramble at the top, easiest if you stick to the painted markers on the rocks. Dress warmly and don't go in the rain, when slick rocks at the top could cause a fall.
For a longer or less steep hike or a mountain-biking trip, follow the broad gravel trail that leads up the valley from the Glen Alps Trailhead to several other great routes. Trails lead all the way over the mountains to Indian or Bird Creek, on Turnagain Arm, up some of the mountains along the way or to round alpine lakes in high, rocky valleys. You're always above the tree line, so you don't need to follow a trail if you have a good map. This is wonderful backpacking country.
To get to the trail head, take New Seward Highway to O'Malley Road, head east toward the mountains, then turn right on Hillside Drive and left onto Upper Huffman Road. Finally, turn right on the narrow, twisting Toilsome Hill Drive. Don't forget to bring cash or a check for the self-service day-use fee of $5 (not required if you are going only to the overlook and park in the designated spaces). When enough people sign up, a shuttle runs to Glen Alps May through October daily at 1pm, returning at 4:30pm, from Downtown Bicycle Rental at the 4th Avenue Market Place downtown. Evening shuttles also sometimes run. The round-trip fare is $22 adults, $15 kids under 12. Call tel. 907/279-3334 to sign up (www.hike-anchorage-alaska.com).
Kincaid Park -- Kincaid Park is an idyllic summer setting for mountain-biking and dayhikes. A former Nike missile site, its decommissioned bunkers now house recreational facilities and storage. Moose sightings are a common daily occurrence on wide dirt trails that snake for about 40 miles through the birch and white spruce of the park's hilly 1,500 acres of boreal forest, often with views of the sea and mountains beyond, including McKinley. Bears may also make an appearance. Trails open to bikes around June 1, or as soon as they dry, and a mountain-bike race series runs through the summer. Even on the busiest summer day, however, there is plenty of room for relaxed, solitary rambling or cycling. Within the park, wooded Little Campbell Lake is a picturesque spot for family canoeing, swimming, and fishing for stocked trout; there is no lifeguard. There's also an 18-hole Frisbee golf course. Note: The park gates are locked at 10pm, so get your car out before then or park in one of the lots outside the gates.
Thunderbird Falls & Eklutna Lake -- The hike to Thunderbird Falls is an easy 1-mile forest walk with a good reward at the end. You can see the falls without the steep final descent to their foot. Take the Glenn Highway north to the Thunderbird Falls exit, 25 miles from Anchorage. Continuing 10 miles up the Eklutna Lake Road, you come to an appealing state parks campground ($10 a night, $5 day-use fee) and the glacial lake for canoeing, hiking, and exceptional mountain-biking. The Lakeside Trail leads 14 miles to Eklutna Glacier; you can camp on the way, stay at the state park's Yuditna Creek Cabin at 3 miles, or stay in the communal Serenity Falls hut at 13 miles. Advance reservations are required for the cabin or hut. For the hut, you can reserve in person only at the public information center, 550 W. 7th Ave., Ste. 1260, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. Rental bikes, kayaks, and other equipment, and guided kayak and bike tours, are offered by Lifetime Adventures, with a booth at the trail head of the Lakeside Trail (tel. 907/746-4644; www.lifetimeadventures.net), open 10am to 6pm daily in the summer. For $75, you can kayak 8 miles to the other end of the lake and pick up a bike there to ride back; reserve 24 hours ahead for that.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.