While the state is known for its widespread wilderness, it is home to some of the largest city parks in Alaska. For those who don’t know, a ‘city park’ is a metropolitan or urban park inside a city. Alaska doesn’t have that many cities, as most of the state is home to small towns and villages.
However, the state does have three major city parks located in Anchorage. The city of Anchorage is located in south-central Alaska and is the city hub of the state. It’s the largest city, with over 223 parks or 10,946 acres of municipal parklands. This includes community, neighborhood, and natural resource parks.
So, what are the three largest city parks in Alaska? If you’re interested in finding out, then keep reading.
What Are City Parks?
First, let’s start by defining a city park and how it’s measured. City parks are much different from your standard park, as they need to meet certain criteria. A city park is defined as a naturalistic area inside an urban or metropolitan environment. While this doesn’t mean it has to be located directly inside a city, it must be in or around an urbanized area.
Often, city parks are located inside the heart of a city or just along the outskirts. However, Alaska is a bit different, as there are only a handful of cities in the state. So, the large city parks are unique to mainly one area in Alaska, the city of Anchorage.
That being said, Alaska has a total of 57 city parks as of 2023. Many of these city parks are located inside larger cities or towns. However, some are located in smaller areas. These shouldn’t be confused with State Parks, as these are controlled by the federal government. Instead, city parks are owned by a municipal, such as the city’s government.
#1: Chugach State Park — 495,204 acres
Chugach State Park is a short 25-minute drive east of Anchorage, AK, and sits in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The park spans over 495,204 acres and is home to over 60 glaciers. Chugach State Park has many towering mountains, trails, and outdoor activities. So, it’s the perfect place to explore the Alaskan wilderness without venturing too far from the city.
Amongst the outdoor attractions, many visit the area for a few key places. This includes the mountainous region of Bashful Peak, which sits at 8,005 feet and is the tallest peak inside the park. Others view Eklutna Lake, which spans over 12.7 miles alongside Eklutna Glacier Trail. Another lovely attraction is the Eagle River Nature Center, where visitors can view all Alaskan wildlife.
One of the most popular places for locals to go is Hillside. The Hillside Trail System is 20 minutes from downtown Anchorage, where Flattop Mountain is. The hike is often considered a challenge, as the peak is at 3,510 feet and has an amazing view of the surrounding area. Even if one does not want to take the hike but still wants to see the amazing view, one can use the Flattop Mountain Shuttle.
One of the last major attractions is Beluga Point, where one can view Beluga whales from July through August. Other animals are in the area, including Salmon and Sea otters. Some visitors will see moose roam below the platform inside the Campbell Creek Valley.
#2: Far North Bicentennial Park — 4,000 acres
Far North Bicentennial Park is a significantly smaller park than Chugach State Park but has its merits. It’s the largest park inside Anchorage, AK, and spans over 4,000 acres. The park saw major expansions during World War II and has continued to grow.
The area is a giant nature reserve full of trails alongside Campbell Creek. Whether summer or winter, the trail systems are an amazing view and are generally easy to walk through. There are over 100 miles worth of multi-use trails, which are perfect for seeing the surrounding nature.
In addition, the trail is right next to the Hilltop Downhill Ski area during winter. Many visitors come to Skii or look at the surrounding cityscape. During summer, many visitors enjoy heading to the Alaska Botanical Garden.
However, visitors need to be weary, as many wildlife animals tend to roam the area. It’s advised to keep your eyes open, as there are moose, black and brown bears, and foxes inside the trails. Carrying bear spray or playing music is always recommended, as it can keep visitors safe from wildlife.
Despite the wildlife sightings, the park trails remain the most popular once the snow falls, as many use the ski trails. In summer, mountain bike tracks are often used, as visitors can bike from one end of the city to another while submerging in nature. All trails are tree-lined, making it feel like you’re in the depths of Alaska’s wilderness, but in reality, you’re right in the city’s heart!
#3: Kincaid Park — 1,500 acres
Kincaid Park is a small park sticking out of Cook Inlet, yet it is still inside western Anchorage. Despite the park’s size, there are nearly 40 miles of trails, with 20 miles of biking trails. While the park may seem small on the map, it spans over 1,500 acres and is one of the largest city parks in Alaska.
Its landscape is very hilly, and the higher grounds overlook Mt. Susitna, which is right across Cook Inlet, Fire Island, and Mt. Denali. Many hikers come to this area to view the sunrise and sunset, as the view is breathtaking.
The park has more to offer than just trails and has a recreational center. Visitors often come to the Kincaid Outdoor Center to play sports on the open fields, enjoy activities at the rec center, or enjoy a hearty picnic in the sunlight.
Aside from the small amenities, the park is also a major venue for sporting and community events. Businesses or locals can rent out the Kincaid Outdoor Center, and visitors can often join in on the events. In addition, the park has officially hosted several important events, including:
- U.S. Olympic Teams for Nordic Skiing Special Olympics
- Alaska Ski for Women
- National Masters Nordic Skiing Championships
- NCAA National Nordic Skiing Championships
Inside the park are signs about roaming wildlife, which visitors can encounter. One wildlife that roams the park includes moose, black bears, foxes, and more. Bald eagles fly above the waters, and small snowshoe hares run alongside the ground.
Summary of the 3 Largest City Parks in Alaska
|Rank||Park||Size in Acres|
|#1||Chugach State Park||495,204 acres|
|#2||Far North Bicentennial Park||4,000 acres|
|#3||Kincaid Park||1,500 acres|
Alaska is a bit of a unique area, as most of the state isn’t urbanized. This leads us to only have a few areas we can safely consider large city parks. The state has over 57 city parks, most averaging only a few miles. So, don’t be fooled by Alaska’s significant size.
The three parks we’ve listed are the largest city parks in Alaska, and others are significantly smaller. The smaller ones are just as charming but don’t come anywhere close to the size of our top three picks. That being said, we hope you’ve learned more about Alaska’s city parks!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Naruedom Yaempongsa/Shutterstock.com
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