World-Class Walks: Exploring the lesser known branches of Anchorage's trail system.

Author:Newman, Amy
 
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Nobody anticipates summer quite like Alaskans. Months of darkness, mountains of snow, and freezing temperatures yield, seemingly overnight, to long, sunlit days and, with the kids out of school, time to travel to the Lower 48 and beyond for vacation.

Summer 2020, however, is shaping up to be more than just a little bit different.

As this article is being written, Alaskans are hunkered down at home. Every resident or visitor who enters the state-whether by land, sea, or air--is subject to a mandatory 14-day home quarantine, causing many to cancel travel plans. The cruise ship industry, which brings more than 1 million visitors to the state each summer, has canceled excursions through at least June 30; airlines have reduced flights in and out of the state; and all but the most essential services are closed.

Which means the majority of Alaskans will be staying put this summer, and their only form of escape will be to venture out into our collective backyard--provided they remain the socially acceptable 6 feet apart from everyone they meet, of course.

And with the number of tourists drastically reduced (if they come at all), locals will have the run of Anchorage--which makes it the perfect time for the city's residents to become acquainted with all the municipality's outdoor options.

"I don't like the word 'staycation,' but I think this is a great opportunity for Alaskans to just regroup and remember just how spectacular our state is," says Erin Kirkland, who runs the Alaska travel website AKontheGO. "I tell my kids all the time, 'People save up their money for a lifetime to come here."

Whether we're hunkered down well into summer or eventually able to travel freely, make it a point to skip Anchorage's usual outdoor hotspots and explore the city's equally spectacular but less traveled gems instead.

Before Heading Out, Head Online

Before heading out on summer adventures Outside, most people scour the internet and crowdsource suggestions on social media to discover the best activities their destination of choice has to offer. Channel that same energy and enthusiasm into planning your local jaunts.

"I would encourage people to do their own research because there are so many different options," says Wendy Sailors, development specialist at the Division of Outdoor Recreation at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "The research part is the fun part."

The DNR website has downloadable maps and brochures for Chugach State Park and the Hillside and Turnagain Arm Trail systems, as well as the trails around Eklutna Lake and the Eagle River Nature Center, she says. The site also lists...

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