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The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail follows the coastline of Anchorage along Knik Arm and Cook Inlet. Many rest areas provide scenic views of Anchorage, the surrounding mountain ranges, and tidal inlets. You're also likely to encounter wildlife along the way, especially moose. The Alaska Railroad tracks parallel the trail for about 1 mile (a configuration known as rail-with-trail), just past the northern trailhead, and passenger and freight trains are a common sight.
The entire trail is paved and suitable for biking, running, walking and skiing. From downtown Anchorage, the northern half of the trail offers a relatively level grade. Toward the southern end of the trail, travelers will find three notable hills as they approach Earthquake Park, Point Woronzof and Kincaid Park. The trail is marked by mileposts every 0.5 mile with the exception of the first 1+ miles.
At the northern end of the Coastal Trail, the Ship Creek Trail is mere blocks away, beginning near the Alaska Railroad depot. Visitors can hop on a tourist train to ride north to famed Denali National Park and onward to Fairbanks, or head south to Seward, a popular port for cruise ships.
The Coastal Trail intersects the Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail at Westchester Lagoon, a little over 1 mile from the former's northern trailhead. The trail skirts the lush shoreline of the lagoon, which offers an unparalleled opportunity for birdwatching, including shorebirds, waterfowl and even eagles.
Wildlife viewing is most abundant along the southern half of the trail, where the trail departs the more populated areas and is surrounded by birch trees and evergreens. The trail skirts Anchorage Airport between mileposts 3.5 and 7.5, and trailside benches provide the opportunity to watch the planes come and go.
The southern terminus of the trail is in Kincaid Park, where a plethora of recreational amenities are available, including soccer fields, a disc golf course, a fishing lake and an archery range. Trails for mountain biking, hiking and cross-country skiing crisscross the 1,400-acre park, and its chalet houses a Nordic ski center.
Parking is readily available in the parks along the Coastal Trail, including (from north to south):
I saw a moose closeup on the wooded section of the coastal trail past the airport. The views of Anchorage and the mountain range across the water are breathtaking. Surface is smooth, it gets somewhat hilly at Earthquake Park (with a very interesting exhibit) and the airport runway. Mileage markers are somewhat confusing since mile 0 is not at the downtown terminus, but at Westchester Lagoon about 2.5 miles from the Alaska Railroad Depot, then runs along the water to the airport then through dense forest for another 9 miles or so for a total of 11 miles.
After arriving at noon on the cruise train from Seward we first went to Flattop Mountain on the shuttle bus from Downtown Bicycle Rental on 4th Ave. See my review of the Flattop Mountain Trail for details. Make sure you make a reservation, call again on the day of your reservation, and also get back on time on the return trip so they do not leave without you. The owner, who operates the shuttle, is quite a character and his included tour of Anchorage is informative and sprinkled with a good portion of humor and opinion. Everyone was extremely helpful and polite. the even let us use a backpack for free. They give you a discount if you rent bicycles on the same day, so I also rode the Coastal Trail on a rental bike and thoroughly enjoyed it. They take great care to fit you with the appropriate bike and gave us detailed instructions regarding all the trails with free detailed maps.
Ran here in 2007 from Kincaid Park north.That was a great experience.In August,2016 while on vacation;I ran from Earthquake Park towards Anchorage one day and Earthquake Park towards the Airport the next day.This trail affords you views of snow capped Mountains,Cook Inlet,and miles of heavy forest lined with Birch,Aspen and other trees.Running towards the Airport is more hilly.I've run in hundreds of places in the USA due to work travel.This trail is one of the most scenic.Considering Anchorage's winters of ice/snow,the asphalt trail is in excellent condition.If you are in Anchorage,run this trail.You will be happy you did.
Biked the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail 8-23-15. The weather was perfect -- sunny to partly cloudy and cool, with a slight breeze.
The trail is beautiful -- meandering through and alongside residential areas, wooded parks, and the coastline. The tide was out, so numerous birds were feeding in the marsh -- saw several Sandhill Cranes, a bonus! Snow-covered mountains were visible in the distance. We could see Denali (Mt. McKinley to some) from Pablo's Bike Rentals on the corner of 4th and L Streets! A fairly rare sight. Pablo's Bike Rentals' pricing is comparable to others in Anchorage (see note below about bike rentals).
There are a couple of steep hills if you're traveling the paved trail from downtown to Kincaid Park. Some folks choose to ride from Kincaid Park to downtown to lessen steep climbs.
One of the most amazing experiences we had was stopping at the end of the runway at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and watching the jets take off!! You could actually "feel" the plane as it left the runway and roared overhead. It was incredible!
If you'd like a cool souvenir, Downtown Bicycle Rental, Inc. (333 W. 4th Avenue, Anchorage) has great bike jerseys designed specifically for Alaska and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Cotton t-shirts are available, too. We had to have both! We will rent bikes from Downtown Bicycle Rental, Inc. next time we're in town. They are a wealth of knowledge and extremely helpful.
We'll definitely make this spectacular biking trip, again. I highly recommend it to everyone who has an interest in biking or walking.
Nice trail, saw moose right next to trail, very scenic.
"My wife & I visited the Tony Knowles Coastal trail last summer. The very smooth asphalt trail was very scenic. The bay can be seen along most of the trail. The first 5 miles through Anchorage is about like any other USA city with the Anchorage skyline view while following the coast through the different neighborhoods. Suddenly, the next 6 miles we found ourselfs going through a wooded raw-wilderness area. My wife & I ran into three mooses that day. We had to wait for one of them to leave the trail before we could pass by. We also found Earthquake Park to be quite informative with the history of the 1964 earthquake. Any cyclist bound for Alaska should not miss this unique trail. "
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