A Weekend in the Bike Park

Alyeska Bike Park

2021 marks 11 successful years of bike park operations in south-central Alaska! Lifts will spin beginning June 11th and operate into the second weekend of September. Bear Cub Quad and Ted’s Express will be the main lifts for the majority of the summer until Glacier Bowl Express comes online in August (once the upper mountain trails melt out from the snowiest winter in 10 years). Stop by the Daylodge Bike Hub for tickets, rentals, lessons and riding gear.

Day one – The Warmup and Lesson

Whether you’ve ridden bike parks before, or it’s you’re first time, warming up and easing into the first day is always important. As true as the old saying goes, riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike. However, throw mountain terrain and obstacles into the mix and that old saying all of a sudden has different variables and exciting challenges come into play. Downhill biking is fun for all ages, ability levels and experience levels, but a refresher lesson with a PMBIA certified instructor can be very beneficial for a summer full of trail riding. Checking in at the Daylodge at 10:30 a.m. on a Friday to meet up with one of our instructors may be a little nerve-racking at first but soon you’ll discover that the laid-back vibes and welcoming atmosphere of the Mountain Learning Center eases  and makes worries fade away. After picking out one of our Kona DH bikes that will be your champion downhill steed for the weekend you head to the Bear Cub Quad for some beginner terrain. Christmas in July, CheeChako and Gummy Worm trails all offer mellow single track perfect for easing into the weekend of riding. After a handful of runs on each of these manicured trails, step it up on Big Spruce and Rollover, still accessible from Bear Cub chair but a step up in the difficulty. Balancing, braking, turns and jumps, this isn’t difficult at all and you take to it quite naturally. With more time on the trails, your speed and confidence increase, what a thrill!

After the two hour lesson ends you stay out on the trails with some friendly local riders you met along the way. These folks have tons of riding experience and they’re happy to share their favorite trails and spots on the mountain. After hours of riding it’s time for a beer and a bite at the Sitzmark, featuring the Alyeska Brewski on draft and fresh bites from Girdwood Izakaya, a local food truck owned by local chef Toby Englert (who’s also a hero mountain biker himself). You’ve made new friends and had fun on a bicycle in ways new to you. 

Day two – Putting the Lesson to the Test

You’re feeling pretty good about the skills you learned in your lesson the day before. Well rested and excited for more you meet back up with your instructor for a full mountain tour. You grab your trusty Kona Operator and head for Ted’s Express and make your way up to the higher trails. The first thing you notice is that many of the upper mountain trails are above alpine and out of the woods, WOW, that view! The Turnagain Arm is beautifully distracting so stopping to take a few shots with your phone is a must. You’ve become so comfortable in fact that you enter Alyeska’s famous “Dirt Coaster” located on the Treat’s Trees Knoll. Featuring deep banked turns and jumps with the background to boot, the Dirt Coaster is a crowd favorite, with good reason. Just below the higher alpine trails you discover two of Alyeska’s newest trails, Tanaka Grasslands and Canyon Lands. These intermediate trails suit your riding style as your confidence and skill-set have increased dramatically since taking lessons. You lap Ted’s Express until 6 p.m. and finally come down from the mountain, happy, tired, but exhilarated!

Day three – Time to Race!

After spending two full days on your Kona bike in the Alyeska Bike Park your confidence is through the roof and the stoke for more is high. It also happens to be the last Sunday of the month which means one thing, IT’S RACE DAY! The Alyeska Cup Downhill Race Series is a four stop series with race venues all over the mountain, and on this particular Sunday, the race venue is through a trail system you mastered the day before, Gear Jammer > Bermuda > Smooth Sailing > Race Trail finish. Up for grabs are prizes from Alyeska Resort retail shops, gift cards and larger prizes from Alyeska sponsor Anchorage Fracture and Orthopedics. The field is set and the start vibes are fun, friendly and welcoming. The local riders who race this series offer helpful insights on strategy with this particular event. You’re up next, in the starting block you feel calm and cool, you know the course and the lessons taught you everything you need to know. The gate drops and you pedal pedal pedal! Into the first trail, Gear Jammer you strategically brake into the corners and pedal out of the turns in the tight trees. Next onto the Bermuda trail, you know if well and remember all the bumps and dips into Smooth Sailing. Popping out from the forest and into the open space of Race Trail the finish is in sight. A series of berms and rollers are the only thing between you and the crowd of spectators at the base area ringing cowbells and cheering you on. Crossing the finish you feel great, you tried something new and loved it! Aprés race you meet up with other riders and discuss your day over a beer and review results, you can’t believe how well you did, congrats! The hook is set and you can’t wait to come back for more biking. 

Hiking & Trekking

Travel on foot is often the most rewarding way to explore the expansive system of nature trails in Alaska. The Girdwood Valley is filled with endless walking and hiking trails. Summer Trail Maps are available at the Concierge Desk and Tram Ticket Office. For other trail options in the area, view the Girdwood trail map or the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club map.

 Alyeska Resort Hiking Maps

Trails that start right from the resort include:

  • The North Face Trail – The 2.2 mile steep, advanced trail starts right from the hotel. Featuring a mix of road and single-track with switchbacks, the North Face trail ascends the 2,000 vertical foot slope of this classic ski terrain. Hikers, who make it to the top, can take a complimentary descending ride on the aerial tram too.
  • Upper Tram Terminal Trails – Advanced trails, like Mighty Mite and the summer work road, are accessible via the aerial tramway and offer high-alpine style terrain and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and Turnagain Arm.
  • South Bowl Trails – Intermediate to advanced trails being at the Alyeska Daylodge base area and climb up through Tanaka, Race Trail and Chair 3 work road. Take these trails to the top or conclude at the aerial tram for a free ride down.


Hike the North Face Trail from Alaska.org on Vimeo

Additional trails in the Girdwood valley area:

  • Winner Creek Trail – The most accessible hiking trail is Winner Creek, which begins near the base of the aerial tram. This trail offers a leisurely way through a lush rainforest environment. The first half-mile of the trail is on boardwalk surface; after that point, the trail becomes an easy dirt path with some uneven surfaces in places. Near the two-and-a-half-mile mark on this hike, there is a beautiful river gorge with a bridge and hand tram that allows you to pull yourself across the creek.
  • Upper Winner Creek Trail – Less developed than Winner Creek Trail. Start on Winner Creek Trail and follow signs to Upper Winner Creek. This trail contours the valley along the South side of the creek for approximately 8 miles of outstanding views and level tread.  
  • Winner Creek Extension Trail – Access the trail from the hotel pond courtyard. The path will end at Verbier Way near Challenge Alaska. 
  • Multi-Use Nordic Loop – Multi-use trail can be accessed at end of Arlberg Avenue by The Hotel Alyeska. 
  • Girdwood to Indian Bike Path – Easy walking on a paved bike path provides a mellow out-and-back trail
  • California Creek Trail – Trail follows creek through old growth forest. Use Beaver Pond Trailhead on Crow Creek Road and keep right.
  • Crow Pass Trail – Trail ascends from the Crow Creek Trailhead on its way to Crow Pass. The trail then follows Eagle River through forest on its path to the Nature Center. The full length of the trail generally takes two or more days, and can be traveled in either direction. Shorter day trips from either trailhead are possible.
  • Iditarod National Historical Trail – Girdwood valley portion of this famous trail follows Glacier Creek to Winner Creek area. Parts of the trail are not usable by recreationists since various roads and highways were built along the historic route. The Crow Pass Trail is that portion of the trail which can be used for outdoor recreation use. The south end of Crow Pass Trail is in Chugach National Forest, with the majority of the trail in Chugach State Park.
  • Virgin Creek Trail – This short trail can be accessed from the end of Timberline Drive and ends at the scenic, 15 ft. high Virgin Falls. 

Portage Valley trails:

  • Portage Pass Trail – Good day hike for all ages, and provides spectacular views of Portage Lake and Glacier, the surrounding sub-alpine terrain, and Passage Canal. Trail starts on the Whittier side of the tunnel.
  • Williwaw Nature Trail – Easy walking trail, following a salmon spawning channel. Watch for spawning salmon mid-July through fall.
  • Trail of Blue Ice – Offers an easy walk or bike outing for all ages. Trail passes through spruce forests, crosses salmon streams teeming with spawners in late summer, and ties into the Williwaw Nature Trail. Large cottonwood trees loom overhead in places, and dense alder and willow thickets are found elsewhere. Views of surrounding mountains and glaciers vary with each twist and turn of the trail.
  • Gary Williams Moraine Nature Trail – This trail is a short, easy stroll. Many signs along this small loop trail help the visitor to understand the process of glacial advance/recession and its effects upon the landscape.

One Day Summer Itinerary

Summer in Alaska is unlike anywhere else in the United States. The daylight is plentiful, the air is clean and the surroundings are pure nature, it truly is something that needs to be experienced first-hand.

A one-day itinerary encompasses stunning views, local trails of the surrounding wilderness, locally sourced cuisine and relaxing options after a day of exploring the wild surroundings.

11 am – Alyeska Aerial Tram to the Top of Mount Alyeska

In the summer months, our tram is a five to six-minute ride with an elevation gain of 2300 feet. Along the way, you will experience jaw-dropping views of the Turnagain Arm, seven hanging glaciers and endless peaks deep into the Chugach Range. Keep your eyes on the lockout for bears, moose and beavers, as you fly overhead. Once at the top, (if you can tear yourself away from the top-of-the-world views) check out the Roundhouse Museum, Alaska’s only mountaintop museum and interpretive center. Learn about the history of Girdwood and how citizens collected enough money to buy the land for the original ski hill!

Noon – Grab a delicious sandwich at the Bore Tide Deli

While you’re at the top of the mountain, swing into the Bore Tide Deli for one of the signature sandwiches, soups and a locally brewed beer or specialty cocktails. The restaurant gets its name from a phenomenon that occurs in very few places on earth, the Turnagain Arm being one of them. With such a large difference between high tide and low tide, the incoming tide creates a standing wave that lasts for over 11 miles and can be just serval inches tall, or several feet tall! 

1:30pm – Winner Creek Trail

One of the most relaxing things to do in the area is to take an easy hike through the hemlock rainforest Alyeska calls home. Winner Creek is a perfect hike for those looking to be surrounded by nature. The 2.5 mile trail winds its way through the moss-covered forest to the confluence of Winner and Glacier Creeks. The Winner Creek Gorge boasts several impressive waterfalls and foot bridges for photo ops. 

Relax before dinner – Spaaaaahhhh

The sun is high most of the day in the summer time but don’t let all of the daylight exhaust you, retreat to the resort for the perfect wind down from the days events with a massage treatment from the Spa at Alyeska. A 50 minute massage will have you feeling great, relaxing your muscles and rejuvenating your mind.

Dinnertime

The reward for a day full of activity and adventure is a wonderful meal after the sun goes down. The perfect one-day, Alaskan itinerary at Alyeska Resort is capped off by your choice of health-conscious, seafood fare at Sakura Asian Bistro, or pizza and meat-centric dishes at Aurora Bar & Grill. Your meal will be the perfect place to reflect on the memories made and start planning what your next epic day of Alaska adventures will be!

Beholding the natural wonders which Alaska is blessed with requires a lifetime of passion and commitment; the state and its majesty is that vast and abundant. But a carefully curated one-day itinerary can introduce visitors to the sights, history, culture, cuisine and experiences that keep attracting adventure seekers to the Last Frontier, and Alyeska Resort is the perfect base from which to enjoy it all!