Alaska is certainly one of the most - if not the most - unique places in America. The state is stunningly beautiful, untamed and wild, but not without convenient urban amenities, particularly in Anchorage. As for activities to enjoy, the opportunities for outdoor adventures lead the way. Though, annual events and festivals, art and cultural discoveries, locally-made libations and other attractions also draw a crowd.
Southcentral Alaska is the region United Country Real Estate | Alaskan Properties calls home. From the Chugiak-Eagle River area to surrounding parts of Anchorage Borough, and over to the Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula boroughs … there’s so much to love here.
Let’s take a closer look at the appeal of this part of Alaska to residents and visitors alike.
The icy beauty that reigns throughout Anchorage Borough, Alaska, has granted unrivaled outdoor adventures and magnificent scenery to residents and tourists for quite a while. The first people who settled the area, gathered around the Knik Arm for seasonal hunting and fishing, and exchanges with fur traders. The arrival of the Alaska Railroad in 1923 ushered in a new era with populations slowly growing over the next century. Eagle River and Chugiak, a neighboring community, were united as a borough and annexed to Anchorage in 1975.
Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson have been in operation since World War II and were merged into Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in 2010. With this convergence and the expansion of the Alaska Highway, Anchorage’s population boomed. As Alaska’s most populous city, it also became the economic center with defense projects, oil and tourism as the main sources of income.
While communities popped up all around the Eagle River-Chugiak area, national and state parks were established throughout the 20th century. These parks boast crystal blue waters backdropped by glorious mountains and glaciers, providing a habitat for diverse wildlife and bringing visitors to Southcentral Alaska. Recent trends show more people than ever are coming to see Alaska, taking cruise ships, staying at B&Bs, and enjoying recreation in the great outdoors.
Alaska has more land dedicated to national and state parks than any other state in the U.S. In fact, 60 percent of all land managed by the National Park Service is in Alaska. Kenai Fjords National Park is located just southeast of Anchorage and features more than 607,000 unspoiled acres of wilderness to explore on the Kenai Peninsula’s southeast coast. And you just might get a peek at the puffins, orcas, otters and other unique animals here.
One of the most popular spots in the area is Chugach State Park just southwest of Eagle River-Chugiak. The third-largest state park in the U.S., Chugach consists of a half-million acres of forested mountains and the dazzling Eklutna Lake and Eagle River. The rocky beaches and the breathtaking Flattop Mountain, as well as the other bluffs, provide hikers, kayakers and others unparalleled views for their activities.
Within the state park is the Eagle River Nature Center, an organization that maintains trails and facilities, preserves history and educates visitors. Additionally, the park is part of the larger Chugach National Forest, which has all kinds of campgrounds and places for recreation.
It’s not surprising given Alaska’s numerous and expansive parks that the state is big on outdoor sports and related activities. In and around Eagle River, Anchorage and elsewhere in Southcentral Alaska, you’ll find plenty of ways to stay active. The region has top-rated hiking trails, unmatched hunting and fishing spots, amazing skiing and snowboarding locations, rivers and lakes for boating, and more.
The 38-mile Resurrection Pass Trail is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. Plan on either a one-day or multi-day trip and witness the charm of the ridges, evergreens and lakes – including the Trout, Swan and Juneau Lakes, which are great fishing spots. Stay overnight in one of the public cabins to truly appreciate the great outdoors.
When it comes time for winter activities, Alaska offers incredible skiing. The Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage is a nice place to start, and Eagle River’s Artic Valley Ski Area is a family-friendly spot with skiing, snowboarding and even tubing hills. But if you want a more luxury experience, head to Alyeska Resort in Girdwood for a wonderland of winter sports fun, along with world-class dining and relaxing spa treatments. The resort is equally impressive with its summer offerings.
Southcentral Alaska includes the shorelines and uplands of the state’s gulf, defined by the Anchorage area, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, Copper River Valley and the like. The region is ideal for outdoor adventures, but there’s a lot more to enjoy here, including local foods and events, art and culture, and even places such as the Alaska Zoo (one of America’s top 10 zoos).
Some say the best window into one’s culture or community is through the cuisine, and Alaska has everything from local elk, yak and reindeer, to incomparably fresh seafood. Whether the vibe is simple eats at Snow City Café in Anchorage, high-end dining at Seven Glaciers in Girdwood, or authentic Tibetan cuisine at The Yak & Yeti, all bases are covered.
Locally-made libations are also a big deal, particularly in Alaska’s Southcentral region. You might check out the wineries and distilleries in the Anchorage area, or see what the brewery scene is like in the region. Aside from those adults-only outings, there are plenty of family-friendly events and festivals happening during the year. Anchorage’s Fur Rondy kicks off in late February, followed by Homer’s Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in May. The Chugiak-Eagle River area holds its Bear Paw Festival in July, as does Girdwood with its Forest Fair. By August and September, it’s time for the Alaska State Fair.
Science and history buffs will want to visit the Alaska Aviation Museum and Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, both in Anchorage. Or learn about the Dena’ina people’s history at the Anchorage Museum. Finally, if you’re in the mood for a live show, try the Anchorage Concert Association or the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.