We had a wonderful day in Anchorage with perfect weather in the 70s and sunny. This is such a cool city. The city is ringed by beautiful mountains and the vegetation is lush. The city itself has some funky neighborhoods and endless things to do from biking to nature tours to sea plane rides. We made this our bike and hike day. It proved a brilliant choice.
We began the day by going to a local favorite: the Snow City Cafe. It is generally viewed as the best breakfast in Anchorage and has that funky Anchorage feel. There was a long line but we had called for a reservation, which I recommend. The food was very good, including their signature disk of stuffed french bread below. We really liked the hash browns. It was a great way to get a solid meal before a touch bike and hike.
We looked around for bikes and spoke with the three main companies (two are one block from Snow Cafe). They all seemed good choices but we preferred Downtown Bicycle. The rates were very reasonable and you should be able to rent bikes for $35 or less. Downtown Bicycle has a large selection of bikes and an excellent staff (the other two companies had just one person). The founder and owner Peter Roberts (shown below) is incredibly knowledgable about bikes, hikes and everything Anchorage. He carefully selected bikes to match our level of skills. The package comes with a lock, helmet, and repair kit. Peter lays out bike routes with you on the map and gives you an idiot-proof set of directions. We choose to do the famed Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which is the best known and loved of the four greenbelt trails located in Anchorage. It is roughly 13 miles from the bike store on 4th Street near the federal building. It was a few blocks down 4th Street from the Snow Cafe.
You can get on the start of the trail just down the street from the Snow City Cafe by going down 5th Street. While I have not biked in over three years, the trail is doable for those who have let their biking skills lapse. You go over gently rolling hills and straight segments into wonderful wooded areas with the coast just off to your right. In the distance are the Chugach Mountains, Denali (Mount McKinley), Mount Susitna (Sleeping Lady), and Fire Island. Long mud flats and marsh land run along the coast. You begin to rise up the trail in the second half with some steeper rises and ending with a very steep climb up the hill to the end of the trail. (I walked the final stretch). The last couple miles are some of the best areas to spot moose and bear. We did not see any on the way up. However, once we made it to the top, we took the mountain bikes into the surrounding trails which were very challenging. What is hilarious is that I had just told Jack not to go to fast on the dirt trail out of concern of his literally running into a moose. I was explaining how to respond to a charging moose (and used to backpack around moose a great deal on Isle Royal National Park). Jack had stopped to say something when I came around the corner and saw that he was standing a foot away from a large moose. We both slowly pulled back to her the female moose her space (hence the longer distance of the shots below). However, it was wonderful to see the moose eating off the trail. Since she was not moving, I decided to take us down a hill and off trail to avoid trying to pass the moose. Having scored our moose of the day, we returned on the coast trail. The drawback of the trail is that it is near the airport so you constantly hear large jets or sea planes. Indeed, there is one spot for aviation fans where you can stand under planes just before they touch down. While I would do without the planes, the sight seeing spot was pretty impressive as that massive jets fly over head. The trail is a wonderful excursion for the day. If you do a little hiking, it will take between 4-6 hours. Obviously, you can spend much more time depending on how many hikes you want take. You have a very good likelihood of seeing moose or bear or both. Nice workout and awesome sight seeing.
After the trail we decided to go to a local favorite for dinner the New Sagaya City Market on 13th and I St. Locals raved about the place as a way of getting different foods at a low price. We were frankly not impressed and decided not to eat there. It is an excellent store, but the salad bar and hot plate options are not that impressive and not worth the ride. We returned the bikes and were going to a favorite pizzeria when Peter Roberts pulled up from a tour on the Flat Top trail. He asked why we were getting pizza in Anchorage and strongly suggested a salmon dinner. The restaurant Peter suggested was Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse. It was a great recommendation. The bar is a local favorite with a huge number of beers and a long menu. We had the Calamari, which was incredible. I had the salmon dish and Jack had a hamburger –both were very good. This is a fun choice if you are finished a bike & hike before lunch or dinner.
One point of caution however. A year ago, Anchorage shutdown Uber and forced a settlement over wages. I understand the complaint against Uber but this is a city that could use some competition. The result is just two taxi companies: Yellow and Checkered. Our experience in getting taxis was horrible. We called a Yellow taxi to pick us up at the bike shop and called three times but the taxi never came. We walked to Humpy’s and then the restaurant called Yellow taxi to pick us up. They called Yellow four times and I called them twice but the taxi never came after over an hour waiting. Frankly, this strikes me a city in desperate need for some competition. Unfortunately, the bus service is not particularly good in the city so you have to either rent a car or throw yourself at the mercy of these two companies (Checkered taxi finally rescued us).
We will be returning to Anchorage in a few days, but our first full day in Anchorage was wonderful. Tomorrow we rent a jeep and head to Denali National Park.