The Alaska Range mirrors the gentle curve of the Gulf of Alaska, embracing the popular coastal communities of Southcentral Alaska. More than half of Alaska'a residents live in this recreational paradise. Here autumn puts on a gorgeous show.
Anchorage, a 2000-square-mile repository of Alaska history, wilderness, glaciers, and wildlife, is the southern hub of a busy transportation network linking the diverse regions of Alaska. A day's journey by highway or Alaska Railroad takes you north to Fairbanks, and Mount McKinley/Denali National Park and Preserve, south to the Kenai Peninsula, or east to Prince William Sound. Only minutes away, Portage Glacier, Mount Alyeska, and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, offer limitless year round opportunities for enjoying the Alaska outdoors. Scheduled and charter aircraft provide instant access to wilderness (Anchorage's Lake Hood Air Harbor is the largest float-plane base in the world). The winter includes the exciting festival of Fur Rendezvous in February, the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race the first Saturday in March and winterlong skiing, skating, sledding, dogsledding and performing arts opportunities.
North of Anchorage lie many historic communities. The first reached along the Glenn Highway is Eagle River. Visit the local Natural History Museum found right downtown or drive up Eagle River Road for a spectacular view and a lovely nature walk from Eagle River Visitors Center into Chugach State Park. The Native "spirit houses" and hand hewn Russian shrines found just a few miles beyond Eagle River at Eklutna should not be missed.
Farms nestle under craggy mountains in the Matanuska Valley, a 20 minute drive beyond Eklutna. Visit the Palmer State Fair here in August to view Alaska size vegetables such as cabbages up to 96 pounds. In nearby Wasilla and Big Lake, you'll find ample opportunites for fishing and boating. Visit the unique Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry near here. A 50-mile scenic loop between the George Parks and Glenn highways takes you over Hatcher Pass to Independence Mine State Historic Park, where you'll find an interpretive center, plus buildings and equipment from two historical gold mines. Carved by ancient glaciers, Hatcher Pass offers trails for summer hikers and winter skiers.
South of Anchorage, pan for gold nuggets and visit historic mining buildings at picturesque Crow Creek Mine. Continue south to the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center for interpretive displays of Portage Glacier. Then, put your car, camper, or just yourself on the Alaska Railroad for the scenic 30-minute trip to Whittier and the fabulous recreational opportunities of Prince William Sound. Sailing, fishing, kayaking, hiking and wildlife vie for your attention in this wonderland of islands, glaciers, and fjords. Take a flightseeing excursion to view sprawling Columbia Galcier. Ferries sail between Whittier and Valdez, southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (tours available). Alaska ferries also call at the fishing port of Cordova, former shipping depot for Kennecott Copper Mine ore.