On our trip to Alaska as part of visiting all 50 states we stayed with a friend who owns a luxury cabin in the woods near the Chugach National Forest looking over the mountains. We used this as our home base for touring Alaska.
For being the states largest city, Anchorage still has an indefinable small town charm. The downtown area is largely skyscraper free with lots small tourist shops and a mix of restaurants.
We even found the house my father lived in when he was in Alaska in the 1950s and which miraculously survived the 1964 earthquake.
Every weekend there is a a farmer and artists market overlooking the train station where the state-run Alaska Railroad goes north to Denali and Fairbanks and south to Whittier and Seward.
Just outside of the downtown is hiking and biking trail which meanders along the coast and past the airport. While this area is full of families and joggers and bikers, it's not uncommon to see moose like we did.
Eagle River is a suburb of Anchorage at the edge of the mountains surrounding the region. At the end of road is a nature center. And it does have plenty of nature. Just getting to the nature center we saw a young male moose just hanging around the parking lot.
The center anchors one portion of the Historic Iditarod Trail which is a 25 mile hiking trail to Gridwood. Not being that ambitious, we just did six miles of the Dew Mound Trail which goes to a serene isolated lake. On the trail we didn't see any bears but saw plenty of bear evidence including sign posts shredded like a cat scratching post as well as the definitive proof of what the do in the woods.
Other easily accessible trails in the area include Eklutna Lake which is the municipal reservoir for Anchorage. This glacier-fed lake has kayaking, biking, and hiking. The area also holds some relics of Alaska's Russian past.
Between Anchorage and Eagle River is the Native Alaska Cultural Center which highlights the culture and history of the native inhabitants. The first thing you learn is that they aren't called Eskimos, or even Inuit. There are eleven distinct groups from five different regions.
Some regions even still hunt whales.
The grounds of the center have displays of native buildings and crafts.
Inside the building they have native artisans. A major function of the center is teaching local native teenagers the songs and dances of their heritage.
There are even more photos from both Anchorage and Eagle River as well as the Alaska Cultural Center.