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enjoying the outdoors in alaska overnight
June 2, 2011 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Alaska some weeks from now, and I will have a car. I decided it would be fun to stay up the whole night and experience the sunset and the following sunrise during a single, continuous outdoor experience. Where is a good location for this, in or near Anchorage?

I want to be outside by myself, walking around some of the time, listening to music with headphones. I'd prefer a quiet area. I want to avoid disturbing human and non-human residents. Walking around a nice neighborhood could work. It would also be appealing to go to a park that offers some open sky, and is not explicitly closed overnight. Darkness in my immediate area would be nice but not important. I'd feel more comfortable being near civilization.

I am aware that locations further north from Anchorage will have even shorter nights during summer, but I want to stay near Anchorage for this. Once I get there, I will do my best to monitor weather forecasts and choose the best night available for this.

So, do any locations come to mind? Has anyone had a similar experience that they could share?
posted by germdisco to Travel & Transportation around Alaska (18 answers total)
 
When: Anchorage sunrise and sunset times As to where, I've enjoyed sunsets via a rental bike and finding a spot on one of the Anchorage Bike trails.
posted by gregoreo at 9:44 AM on June 2, 2011


The hike up Flat Top mountain just outside of Anchorage is really nice. You can do it while the Sun is up, stay at the top (it will be cold and maybe snowing, even in June) while the Sun goes "down", and hike back down afterward. I did this hike in the late afternoon around mid-June a few years ago. And, as a bonus, you get full bars and 3G on AT&T.

There is also a paved trail that goes along the shoreline. You could walk, run or bike on that and get a nice sunset view.

On an unrelated note, while you are in Anchorage, be sure to visit Humpy's and the Anchorage Museum.
posted by hammurderer at 10:10 AM on June 2, 2011


The paved trail along the shoreline is called the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and has many entrance points, I highly recommend it.

There is a parking lot at a bluff located behind the airport and is very close to the Coastal Trail, offering great views of Cook Inlet and downtown Anchorage.

Point Woronzof is just a little further behind the airport with awesome views and access to the beach and locals go there all the time. But because it's behind the airport, they close the gate at 11pm. You should be able to walk from the bluff to Woronzof though.

Kincaid Park is an awesome large park in town at the south end of the Coastal Trail with great opportunities to enjoy nature and view the sunset/sunrise, but beware the park gates close at 11pm and you won't be able to get your vehicle out until 10 the next morning.

Flat Top is an awesome hike very close to Anchorage. It feels like you're in the middle of nowhere, but you're just a few minutes to town. If you're not interested in climbing the mountain (it's a pretty easy climb), there are some awesome views and smaller hikes from the Glen Alps Trailhead at the base of Flat Top.
posted by rhapsodie at 12:42 PM on June 2, 2011


Whittier, AK has a small population (200 people, almost all in one large building), is fairly remote (float plane, cruise ship or drive through the 2nd longest tunnel in North America are the ways to get there) and is only an hour drive from Anchorage. The tunnel goes underneath the Portage Glacier, which you can hike up to with only minor difficulty. Not a huge tourist spot, plus most don't bother hiking that far up. Being that far from a major city means much less light pollution, giant cruise ship aside.
posted by now i'm piste at 12:53 PM on June 2, 2011


Get in the car and head the 4 hours to Homer. Camp on the beach along spit and watch the sea change moods with the day. Me mail me if you want details.
posted by Fuzzy Dog at 2:42 PM on June 2, 2011


Another vote for the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail; you could start at a park that has the best sunset view, then wander the trail and end up at a park with the best sunrise view. I'm partial to Elderberry Park downtown, myself, but it is in a fairly built-up area.

Note, however, that the Coastal Trail can occasionally be a little sketchy late at night. Here are some safety tips from the city.

On preview, Homer is indeed absolutely gorgeous at any time of day, if you're willing to drive that far (the drive itself is also spectacular.)
posted by fermion at 2:45 PM on June 2, 2011


Be very careful on the trails. Just yesterday, a woman was attacked on the coastal trail around 3am. The trail system in general is great, but you have to be aware of your surroundings.

Flat Top is wonderful and would be perfect for this.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:08 PM on June 2, 2011


Homer is a great idea. There's also the option of the ski resort town of Girdwood, which has quiet neighborhoods. And nature is close by should you wish to seclude yourself in it.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 3:16 PM on June 2, 2011


Also, on the outskirts of Anchorage there's the ever-popular Arctic Valley.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 8:55 PM on June 2, 2011


Great suggestions and links; thanks all! Here are responses to some of the many suggestions:

Chugach/Flat Top: that location sounds appealing! I guess my main concern would be the weather. I will try to make at least a brief evening visit there.

Humpy's: ahhh, a pub suggestion. That's a definite yes.

Tony Knowles Coast Trail/Point Woronzof/Kincaid: Thanks for mentioning these. Being near the airport would be fine; I could do some planespotting if I got bored. I wondered about Kincaid park, but getting my car locked in would be crappy. Is any adequate parking available just outside Kincaid?

Whittier: Wow, this place sounds positively fascinating!

Homer: This location also looks appealing, and I love scenic drives. I probably won't camp there, though.
posted by germdisco at 11:16 PM on June 2, 2011


The gates for Kincaid lock at 10, not 11, which is totally ridiculous on gorgeous summer evenings. And they lock precisely at 10; not sure why the park service is so invested in that but they are. If you are, say, locked inside with 50-60 other people on the first nice day of the summer, APD WILL send someone out to help, but they will take their sweet time while you enjoy an inpromptu party with the other stuck people.

Since you asked, unless they've changed the set-up very recently they can't lock you into the Raspberry Road lot which is just before the gates (see this map). It looks like that and the park might officially close at 11. but I would find it really hard to believe that anyone is there to enforce it. You could park in one of the neighborhoods along Raspberry Road before the gate (on Serenity Dr. or similar) and walk there along the very nice bike trail that runs the length of the road if you were concerned about the parking lot "closing," however. It would be a little bit of a walk but it sounds like you're game for that.

Flattop is great, but it is very cold up and windy up there, even in the middle of summer. If you are going to be there after sunset, think (lots of) layers and do, seriously, bring a warm hat and gloves.

Whittier/Portage often have way lousier weather than Anchorage (saw sideways rain in Portage today, and was genuinely concerned the wind would blow my well-strapped kayak off the car- Anchorage was more or less fine) and Portage Pass would be a much riskier choice comfortwise than the Anchorage options, even than Flattop.

If you are looking for any other Anchorage info, feel free to MeMail or ask further followups; I love it here.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:27 AM on June 4, 2011


Darn it, link is for the muni Kincaid page. The map is here.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:12 AM on June 4, 2011


Thanks for the details, charmedimsure! A bit of a walk into Kincaid park would indeed be fine; I'd rather play it safe with the parking situation. I'll give this a more detailed look when the trip approaches.
posted by germdisco at 11:24 PM on June 9, 2011


BTW I am seeking vegetarian dining and grocery options, especially those available during the evening and night. I am arriving in the evening, and am a bit apprehensive about getting a satisfying fill my first night. After that, I'll have easy access to groceries and restaurants.

I have been Yelping it up, and already came across: Acai Alaska, Fred Meyer, Middle Way Cafe, Midnight Sun Cafe, Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge, Natural Pantry, Side Street Espresso, Snow City Cafe, Thai House, Tofu House, Urban Greens.

Comments or additions for that list would be very helpful!
posted by germdisco at 11:25 PM on June 9, 2011


And... Whittier. How should I deal with the tunnel and its availability for automobile traffic?
posted by germdisco at 11:25 PM on June 9, 2011


The tunnel into Whittier is about an hour from Anchorage, depending on where you're coming from. Traffic going INTO Whittier leaves on the half-hour (11:30, 12:30 etc.) and the charge for a regular vehicle is $12. There's a fifteen minute window for traffic every time they open it on either side. Traffic out of Whittier leaves on the hour and there is no fee. The schedule is here. There's a walk through the tunnel on June 19th, so the schedule is weird then.

I'm a vegetarian and your odds here for food are not terrible if you know where to go.

Carr's and Fred Meyer are well-stocked groceries with reasonable natural foods selections that are everywhere. New Sagaya (midtown) and New Sagaya City Market (downtown) have a smaller but very high-quality (and more expensive) niche, lots of veggie options there (including deli sandwiches, pizza etc. fresh to go). Natural Pantry has a lot of woo vitamin and hippie stuff and is quite expensive but definitely has a wider variety of fake meats etc. than anyplace else. They sell fresh veggie sandwiches and soups that are okay but, in my experience, not awesome.

Downtown:
Super-great breakfasts and lunches at Snow City.
Great lunches with about 5 veggie options for you at Midnight Sun Cafe
Good coffee at Side Street and any Kaladi Brothers (citywide).
Good but overpriced sandwiches at Urban Greens, they have a few veg. options
Fancy cocoa at Modern Dwellers but not much else
Not a lot of veggie options, but at least one good vegetarian option available for lunches or dinner at some more upscale places: Glacier Brewhouse (with great local beer), Orso (1/2 price appetizers after 9), Ginger and the Snow Goose (which has one of the only good patios downtown for a sunny evening- you might call about choices before you go, though, the last time I was there they were really messing with the menu).

Westside/Spenard:
Great breakfasts/lunches at Middle Way Cafe
Great lunches/dinners (and sometimes brunches, I think, although I haven't tried them) at the Spenard Roadhouse..
Great lunches/dinners at the Beartooth (there's a cheap side and a fancy side, both with very tasty options and a wide array of non-meat options, this is my favorite place in town to eat) with great local beer
Good Nepalese food at Yak and Yeti, lots of choices
Generally good music and mediocre but acceptable food with a lot of beer options at the Tap Root Cafe (the Aphrodite plate is actually quite good for a veg option, I've been disappointed with most other stuff there).
Peter's Sushi Spot has good sushi and decent tempura, go during their happy hour for a ton of half-price rolls (some veggie).

Mid-town:
The Moose's Tooth has great pizza, great salads- pretty packed most of the time but if you go there before 5 or after 9 it's not terrible.

Eastside:
Thai Kitchen way out on Tudor is my favorite Thai food in town- extensive vegetarian menu, service kind of sucks. Very cheap.

Southside:
Midnight Sun Brewery has great beers and snacks, you could definitely make a lunch or dinner out of it. I stop there a lot after hikes at the Glen Alps trailhead.

Anchorage closes up early for dining most nights, frustratingly so. The Bear Tooth, Moose's Tooth, Glacier Brewhouse and Spenard Roadhouse, however, all serve at least until 11.
posted by charmedimsure at 6:10 PM on June 10, 2011


Oh, and if you are passing through or in Girdwood at any point, you should stop at Jack Sprat's. Great food, particularly awesome yam fries.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:12 PM on June 10, 2011


Wow, thanks for all of this info! And thank you for coming back to contribute to the thread again. I was worried that I waited too long.

That is an impressive and helpful list. I'm lucky to find another vegetarian from the area. I'll update my contact list and include your comments about the businesses. It sounds like I have some workable options if I arrive on time and hustle out of the airport.

I could've mentioned that I don't eat cheese though, due to lactose intolerance, so pizza is usually out. I'm going to try the Daiya mozzarella shreds sometime soon. And I hear that Tofurky makes frozen vegan pizza, which I also want to try.

There's a great local company called Amy's Kitchen that makes frozen vegan burgers. Their products made me realize that I could make it as a vegetarian. I've been exploring additional options in the meantime.

$12 to drive through the tunnel to Whittier is a bit surprising, but if the conditions are nice, I'll do it.
posted by germdisco at 10:27 PM on June 10, 2011


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