My calves were screaming at me. It was mile 10 of my 22-mile roundtrip bike ride (35.4 km) and I was exhausted as I huffed and puffed my way through the last, all uphill mile. As I swerved around a tree that had fallen in the middle of the trail, I heard a rustling nearby. A couple of brown creatures stood a few feet away from me nibbling on that very tree. It was a pair of moose….a mama and baby! And you know what? I hadn’t even left Anchorage!
This was the end of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, part of the extensive network of bike lanes that span this Alaskan city and I’d just looped my way around the waterfront and right past the airport. In fact, I was so close to the end of the runway that planes taking off flew right over my head!
So just what is this famed Coastal Trail and why did everyone tell me I simply had to try it while I was in Anchorage? Officially, it’s an 11-mile one-way (17.7km) paved trail for “non-motorized vehicles.” Translation? It’s a trail for biking/running/walking/cross-country skiing (hey, this is Alaska, remember?).
Hugging the city’s waterfront, this is nothing short of a beautiful ride as the city quickly disappears among the trees you pass through (not to mention the fact that a railroad track divides the city from the trail… look out for the Alaska State Railroad trains as they pass by with their yellow and blue paint scheme!) as the coast and the majestic Alaska Range are visible on the other side! Heck, on a clear day, you may just be able to spot Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America!
The trail starts right downtown (conveniently located a few blocks from the Snow City Cafe, which would be an ideal place to fuel up before your journey) and ends in Kincaid Park, a steep climb up that’s way on the other side of the city, where I happened to come across the pair of moose. If you need a bike, there are plenty of vendors located on the corner of L Street and W 5th Avenue that will be happy to get you set up with their hourly rates. And with that, you’re off!
Don’t feel like you’re up for the full trip? No problem! There are plenty of spots to sit down and take a break along the way and plenty of trails that feed into the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail so you can jet off to a part of town that is slightly more convenient to you. There’s even a spur that takes you across Northern Lights Blvd/Benson Road so, if you plan accordingly, you could even bike back to any number of hotels around that part of town (including the Hilton Garden Inn, which was kind enough to host my time Anchorage). A map of Anchorage’s excellent bike trail routes can be found here.
For a state that puts such a huge emphasis on the great outdoors, a trip down Anchorage’s bike trails are an absolute must! It’s a chance to access a wonderful little piece of mother nature without ever leaving the city. A chance to witness wildlife up close and personal. And a chance to breathe in that wonderful fresh sea air and really get away from it all!
Oh, and about that pair of moose I spotted? Unfortunately, I have no photos to prove it. When encountering wildlife, always remember that it’s best to leave them be. If the mother senses that her child might be in danger, it could mean intense physical harm for you! Having heard all this stuff while I was there about how potentially dangerous wild animals are, I wasn’t taking any chances and just kept moving! Stay safe out there!
What About You?
Have you ridden the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail before? What about other epic bike trails in other cities?