Anchorage: Biking On The Coastal Trail

While most travelers only think of Anchorage as a pit stop, I already knew what I'd be doing once I get my bearings of the city back in my head. Two years ago I biked here and that's exactly what I'm doing again. Just a short walk from where I'm staying is Downtown Bicycle Rental. This being such a beautiful autumn day to enjoy the outdoors, I wasn't surprised to find I wasn't the only one renting a bike.

"Listen up guys", the grey-haired man at the bike rental shop began as 6 of us customers listened while he unfolded a trail map. "Since you all will be going to the same area, lemme just talk one time and show you what you'll expect on the trail which is currently being rehabilitated." He is of course referring to the famous Tony Knowles Coastal Trail - a favorite not only among cyclists but also inline skaters, joggers and those who simply love to walk.

Map courtesy of Anchorage Daily News

Having previously biked a part of this 11-mile trail, I was expecting to merely just wing it on my return. What are the chances of me getting lost anyway when the path is paved and there are markers aplenty? When I found out there's an ongoing resurfacing work on the trail with some sections "closed", I was about to try the Ship Creek Trail, one of the alternate biking paths in the city. But then, with five other outdoor enthusiasts wanting to try Anchorage's most scenic biking route, I couldn't help but go with the flow.

I watched this man highlight the trail map with a marker, noting detours and obstacles along the way. Soon a couple of bikers who've just completed their ride mentioned how they got to bike almost all the way to Kincaid Park - the trail's endpoint - despite the renovation work. It's a weekend anyway so no workers were actually doing any kind of work. "You just have to slow down at those barricades, squeeze in and then go for it again", was one of the rider's advice.

Beware these mud flats! Someone actually died here last summer
Downtown Anchorage as seen from the coastal trail

After paying $16 for 3 hours of rent (additional hours are charged extra after) and getting a supply of complimentary bike lock, helmet, repair kit and map, I was good to go. As always, it's completely exhilarating and liberating to feel that rush of cool air while on a bike - especially knowing I'll be on a trail as popular as the Tony Knowles. It wasn't long before I found myself right where it officially starts.

Past bridges, along rail tracks, through tunnels, along mud flats - the parade of scenery may have looked all familiar but they were all just as beautiful as I remembered them. Locals and visitors alike have been using this trail since it opened in the 1980s. It's only this year that repairs are being made. Just before reaching the Earthquake Park ( in remembrance of the devastating 9.2 magnitude earthquake which struck Anchorage in 1964) did I start seeing orange barricades with signs "trail closed" on them.

One of the many cargo planes heading off to Asia
Reindeer burger. Really good.

Just as what I was told earlier, there were detours but then seeing how everyone else after me merely slowed down and went though a gap in the barricades got me joining as well. I knew it wasn't the right thing to do given these closures were really meant because of safety concerns. For the next few miles I got more vigilant looking for obstacles along the route. There was none thankfully. Soon I found myself at the end of the runway at Anchorage airport. This was the farthest I biked the first time, a favorite spot for plane spotting.

Past the runway is Point Woronzof with a spectacular view of Cook Inlet and the snow-capped Tordrillo Mountains. There's actually a turn-off close by where I could bike to a paved road parallel the runway for unobstructed views of airplanes taking off. My interest though at this point was seeing some wildlife as I was about to enter the more forested part of the trail. It took some time before I finally got to see a pair of moose almost hidden amongst the trees.

At milepost 5.5, things got rough as the trail's old asphalt has been completely removed. My progress was so hampered and thinking I wasn't supposed to be here in the first place, I decided to make a U-turn at this point. My ultimate quest to reach Kincaid Park has to be shelved when I hopefully get another chance to revisit Anchorage. As a consolation, I gobbled up on Reindeer burger back in downtown after returning the bike.


  1. just throwing this out there..... a friend/co-worker just got back from a biking holiday in France's Loire Valley....is that something you might be interested to do some day?

    1. I love staying active while on a trip but preferably something that involves more than just a biking.

  2. I love biking whenever I could, but I haven't taken any photos. How did you take the first one? Did you have a GoPro? And the scenery's lovely. I would love to run there!

    1. Wish I had a GoPro but I merely allowed my camera to dangle from my neck, slowed down a bit and with one hand took the shot.

  3. Two questions: what are mud flats? Are they like bogs or quicksand? And, I saw you had pictures of moose. Do they approach humans, or if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone too? I am currently walking the entire length of the Berlin Wall Trail, and there was one time in which I saw a couple of deer cross the path right in front of me.

    1. Mudflats or tidal flats act like a quicksand to anything heavy (like humans or animals). You can read more about a recent death here: Tides wait for no man on mudflats off Alaska's biggest city

      Seeing a moose was part of the reason I wanted to bike again on the coastal trail but I was told to be be careful as they can demonstrate aggression when startled or annoyed or you get close to a calf.

  4. Hi Dennis, the coastal trail looks very scenic. Love that picture of the trail with the snowy mountains in the background. Tpp bad you didn't get all the way through, but I think the sight of those moose made it worth it. Reindeer burger sounds very exotic!! :)

    1. It truly is scenic Marisol that's why I biked there again. There are other routes but the Tony Knowles tops them all. I'm afraid I might have to go back to Anchorage one day again to finally get to Kincaid Park by bike!
      Not only does it taste good, reindeer burger is less fat than beef so it's also healthy!


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