Best Alaska Backpacking Trips for Adventurous Women

Skip the Alaskan cruise, and cruise the Alaskan wilderness instead! Elevation changes are only partly to blame when the stunning national parks, glacial landscapes, and granite mountains leave you lost for words. 

The Last Frontier remains true to its name: the untouched wilderness makes Alaska’s rugged terrain a mysterious adventureland home to some of America’s best backpacking trails. So strap on those crampons, grab your tent, and let’s explore Alaska the Explorer Chick way.

Where to go backpacking in Alaska

See our recommendations on a map! Get our map here.

Places mapped by Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

Talkeetna Mountains 

Are turquoise alpine lakes, massive glaciers, and gushing waterfalls your thing? Ummm, of course, they are! Then you’re gonna need to get going to the Talkeetna Mountains ASAP. This so-called “gateway to Denali” provides jaw-dropping views of the frickin’ gorgeous surrounding mountains without those pesky park fees. Meet you at Hatcher Pass Management Area, high in the Talkeetnas, kay?

  • Reed Lakes Trail. Archangel road | Hard | 2,200′ elevation gain | 9 miles round-trip | time | $5 fee. Follow an old mining road, ascend dauntingly steep switchbacks, and then navigate a bare rock route through the upper Reed Creek basin. Phew! From here, it’s just a short hike up the valley where you’ll kick back and enjoy the rushing waterfall views and incredible alpine terrain.
  • Gold Mint Trail. Mile 14 on Palmer-Fishhook Road | Moderate | 2,900′ elevation gain | 16 miles round-trip | 2-4 days | $5 parking fee. Let this Alaska hiking trail guide you by the Little Susitna River to the Mint Glacier Valley, where granite peaks will emerge from the ground beside you. Sleep at the first-come, first-serve Mint Hut cabin, pop a tent, or extend your overnight adventure with a scramble up Backdoor Gap.
  • Bomber Traverse. Reed Lakes or Gold Mint Trail parking areas | Hard | 6,000’+ elevation | 32 miles | 2-3 days | $5 fee. Hardcore Alaska backpacking pros only, please! This strenuous trail takes you to the site of the glacier’s crashed 1950s bomber. Grab ya spikes, trekking poles, warm layers, and a fearless attitude to complete this off trail hiking route!
  • K’esugi Ridge Trail. Little Coal Creek trailhead. Hard | 5,991′ elevation gain | 29 miles | 2-4 days | $5 fee. Enjoy stunning views of the Talkeetna Mountains from one of the state’s most popular trails. With four trailheads, you can choose your own way to experience backpacking Alaska.
backpacking alaska tour group

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park 

If you don’t hike through Wrangell-St Elias. National Park, what’s the point in your Alaska hiking trip anyway? After all, it is the largest national park in the U.S., annnnd a United Nationals World Heritage Site (BRB while we pick our jaws up from the floor)! So take in gold rush mines galore, go glacier trekking through ice caves, and then pinch yourself because, yup — it’s actually real.

  • Bonanza Mine Trail. Kennecott Mill Town | Hard | 3,959′ elevation gain | 8.5 miles | 6-8 hours | No fees. Head towards Root Glacier, and begin your steep climb up the historic Bonanza Mine Trail. Keep those eyes peeled for abandoned artifacts scattered along the way, and take in those spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Root Glacier/Erie Mine Trail. Kennecott Mill Town | Easy to moderate | 8 miles (round-trip) | 6 hours | 1385′ elevation gain | No fees. Follow the route towards the Root Glacier trail, continuing straight when the road splits (the right-hand path leads to Bonanza Mine) until you reach the Root Glacier access trail spotted with basic campsites. Strap on your crampons to explore the jaw-dropping glacier, then get back on the Erie Mine hiking trail for some aerial sights of the ice formations below.
  • Soda Lake Trail. Lost Creek trailhead | Moderate | 2,651′ elevation gain | 29 miles (round-trip) | 2-3 days | No fees. Warm-up your vocal cords for this Alaska backpacking trip: you can’t help but belt out some Fleetwood Mac the moment you spot landslide-formed Soda Lake! Be prepared for some river crossings and route finding, but enjoy the wildlife spotting, spruce forests, and picturesque beauty too.
  • Dixie Pass. Kotsina road | Moderate | 3750′ elevation gain | 18 miles round-trip | 3+ days | No fees. Dixie Pass is one of the best backpacking trails for wildlife encounters. You’ll get the true Wrangell-St Elias National Park experience as you weave through woods, beside a creek, through a canyon (cross your fingers that the water levels are low!), and finally to the actual pass.

Worthington Glacier 

Alright, so glaciers don’t make the best terrain for overnight Alaska backpacking trips, but you can book a guided tour of the icy landscape and then backpack the nearby hikes. Get going on a long distance traverse across the historic pack Trail of 1898, then gasp in awe of the gorgeousness of Chugach National Park. Like seriously, are the colors of alpine meadows and lakes more vibrant in Alaska?

  • Keystone Canyon Pack Trail. Old Richardson Highway Loop | Moderate | 250′ elevation gain | 2.6 miles one-way | 2 hours. No fees. Start the first section of the 1898 Trail hikes through a stunning forest, ascend some switchbacks, and quickly gain sight of the Lowe River valley and Keystone Canyon. But once you’ve snapped those dreamy shots, you’ll need your hands for a steep rope-guided descent before reaching Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Goat Trail. Bridal Veil Falls | Moderate | 500′ elevation gain | 3.2 miles round-trip | 2 hours | No fees. Continue on the Trail of 1898, and you’ll be treated to some wicked views of Keystone Canyon from high above the Lowe. And at the turning point, you’ll catch sights of Snowslide Gulch — just don’t try to cross the waters.
  • Wagon Road. Near St. Elias Guides Office | Easy| 350′ elevation gain | 6.6 miles round-trip | 4 hours | No fees. A bridge connected Goat Trail and Wagon Road until a 2006 flood destroyed the crossing. But the second of these hikes crosses the intact Bear Creek River bridge and offers some stunning views of the interior Alaska hiking terrain that you just crushed.
  • Thompson Pass. 19.6 Mile Old Richardson Highway. Moderate | 1,063′ elevation gain | 2.4 miles round-trip | 3 hours | No fees. Summit the unmarked path on Thompson Pass for some seriously sick panoramic views. Is this Alaska or the Alps?
  • Odyssey Trail. Near Thompson Pass | Hard | 4 miles round-trip | 2448′ elevation gain | 3.75 hours | No fees. Your feet will get wet, your navigation skills will be challenged, and your soul will be refreshed as you complete this southeast Alaska hiking trip. Outdoor enthusiasts will LOVE this off-path journey.

Columbia Glacier

Tucked in the heart of Prince William Sound, near Valdez, is the jaw-dropping Columbia Glacier. Sadly for us, this second largest tidewater glacier in North America is entirely inaccessible by hiking trails — it’s boat trips only if you wanna catch a glimpse of this stunner! So after working out your arms on a sea kayak to the glacier, plan a backpacking trip to experience the area in a completely new way.

  • Solomon Gulch Viewpoint Trail. Allison Point | Moderate | 931′ elevation gain | 4.3 miles round-trip | 2.25 hours | No fees. Take the steep climb up this Alaska hiking trail for a unique lake lookout point. Then take it easy as you cruise on the way back down!
  • Shoup Bay Trail Section B. Shoup Bay Park | Hard | 1,100′ elevation gain | 12.6 miles round-trip | 10 hours | No fees. Shoup Bay features two backpacking trails — and this one ain’t no joke. Unbelievable glacier and waterway visions galore on this route!
  • Lion’s Head View Trail. AT&T tower on Glen Highway | 991′ elevation gain | 2.1 miles round-trip | 1.74 hours | No fees. Take on one of the state’s best hikes on the Lion’s Head View Trail. Scrambling, steep rocks, and stunning scenes make this strenuous route an unforgettable experience.
  • Mineral Creek Trail. Mineral Creek Road | Moderate | 2,178′ elevation gain | 14.4 miles round-trip | 6.5 hours | No fees. Follow gold rush artifacts along this historic gravel road. Even those who fell asleep during history class savor those lush alpine meadows and rushing creek water.
  • Knik Glacier via Jim Creek. Butte. Moderate | 669′ elevation gain | 40.5 miles round-trip | 13.5 hours. No fees. Grab your boots! Sections of these trails involve stretches through muddy streams, but those incredible ice flows at the top make it all soooo well worth it.

Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound is a must-see destination while backpacking in Alaska, purely for the wildlife alone. With 3,800 miles of coastline and nearly 150 glaciers, the inlet is a pristine paradise. Look for breaching humpbacks, playful otters, and hungry bears catching a salmon lunch. Prince William Sound has it all!

  • Alice Smith Intertie Trail. End of Crater Lake Trail | Hard | 1,500′ elevation gain | 12 miles round-trip | 12 hours | $5 fee. If you have gas in your tank (AKA legs) to crush this multi-day trail, it’s a must-do. The protected Prince William Sound is nothing shy of picturesque from up here.
  • Power Creek Trail. Cordova | Moderate | 2,478′ elevation gain | 8.8 miles round-trip | 5 hours | $5 fee. Skip the tent for a night, and make your way to Power Creek Cabin for a peaceful stay above Chugach National Park. You’ll conquer switchbacks, pass gorgeous glacial streams, and maybe encounter moose, mountain goats, and more!
  • Portage Pass. Past Whittier tunnel. Moderate | 1,434′ elevation-gain | 4.3 miles round-trip | 2.75 hours | $13 Whittier tunnel ridge trail fee. See the Portage Glacier and Prince William Sound from above! Icy, rocky, snowy peaks make Portage Pass an instant classic among the state’s backpacking trips.
  • Heney Ridge Trail. Whitshed road | Hard | 1,909′ elevation gain | 6.1 miles round-trip | 3.75 hours | No fees. This popular Alaska hiking trail weaves along Hartney Bay, with aerial visions of Prince William Sound at the ridge’s peak. Keep an eye out for wildlife!

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip in Alaska

most scenic hiking trail

Invest in a really good pair of hiking boots

You cannot — and I repeat, cannot — wait until you’re at the trailhead to lace up your boots for the first time. So for the best (and blister-free) experience, break in a pair of ankle-supporting, traction-having, stiff insole boots before you land in Alaska.

Train your body for your adventure

It doesn’t matter what your backpacking bod looks like, but training for intense physical adventure is an absolute must. Instead of just working on those legs and booty (which is still super good hiking prep), endurance, flexibility, and HIIT will get you in peak condition (get it?). But don’t worry about doing it alone. Join our women-only EC Fit Challenges to get you trail-ready in a number of weeks.

Do you need a permit to backpack Alaska?

It totally depends on where you’re heading! Backpacking trips through Denali or the Upper Tikchik Lakes require permits, but you’re good to go anytime through Wrangell St Elias — just watch the large groups. Tenting along Resurrection Pass Trail or anywhere in the Kenai Fjords is also a permit and fee-less destination. But remember, you’ll need an Interagency Pass to access any national parks in America.

Are there bears (and other animals) in Alaska?

Biiiig yes! You’re heading into bear country, baby. Encountering wildlife should be expected on all Alaska backpacking trips. Don’t be surprised if you spot one during your hiking adventure, especially near lakeshores, game trails, or salmon streams. Always carry bear spray, stay loud, noisy, and visible, and store food properly to avoid an unwanted encounter.

Is alcohol allowed in Alaska? (Only the Important Questions Here)

Alcohol is allowed in Alaska (phew!), but the state’s Local Option lets towns set their liquor laws. So, buying, importing, importing, or drinking alcoholic beverages may be illegal, depending on where you are. Luckily, most Alaskan State Parks follow the same liquor laws as the rest of the state (AKA, it’s allowed), but a few have booze bans. So, your best bet is to research the local rules so you can (legally) get your buzz on.

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Hiking and Backpacking Gear for Alaska

alaska hiking

The Alaskan terrain can be pretty wild and ruthless at times. And when you’re out in the backcountry, you need to be ready for it all. Here are some essentials for hiking the largest national forests in the country:

Always follow any safety tips provided before you head to the backcountry. In Alaska, this means staying bear-aware and preparing for the unruly wilderness.

And let’s not forget the personal items you’ll need while out in the forests for days on end. Make sure you pack:

Alaska According to Explorer Chicks

The Last Frontier is a must-see destination for soooo many people, and Explorer Chick Eszter thinks it should be on everyone’s bucket list. After working in Alaska for an entire season, Eszter says the experience is amazing, but it’s the people who truly make it incredible. We believe it!

Ready to Get Exploring?

Time to discover your new favorite hikes in the Alaskan wilderness. Are you game? Join ten other strong-willed, determined adventure women exploring this stunning, challenging terrain. Hike, kayak, and climb frickin’ glaciers with Explorer Chick today!

Meet the Writer

megan wray writer

Megan Wray

Megan Wray is a queer, mixed-race Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based on Treaty 1 Territory. Passionate about pleasure, identity, and anti-oppression, Megan’s fuelled by meaningful chats about topics that aren’t “appropriate” for dinner table conversation. When she’s not writing, you can find Megan cooking vegan food, singing to live music, and trying to understand astrology.

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