Biking the Trail of Blue Ice

The Anchorage area has a ton of great bike trails. There’s the Moose Loop (a loop of all the paved bike trails in Anchorage totaling 32 miles), Bird to Gird (a paved trail that runs 12 miles from Bird to Girdwood along Turnagain Arm), and the lakeside trail at Eklutna Lake (13 miles of unpaved trail along a gorgeous lake). But my favorite bike trail is the Trail of Blue Ice, a mostly unpaved trail that runs along the roadway leading to Portage. This trail is 5 miles long point to point and mostly flat, making it a fun and easy bike ride for all ages and abilities. Plus, the views are amazing! The trail is named for the incredible views of glaciers that you see all along the Portage valley. None of them are down by the trail, but it’s still amazing to be able to look up and see glaciers above you everywhere you turn.

My first ride on this trail happened last summer. My friend and I left our babies at home and biked 10 carefree miles out and back. Well, almost carefree. That morning, a bear had been hit by a car and was wandering around the area angry and hurt. Not the best time to be on the trail, but it was a busy day out there and we had our bear protection with us. As we biked we made a ton of noise to let anything on the trail know that we were coming and ended up having a chill and bear-free day. I have the best memories of biking through fields of fireweed and I’ve been dying to get down there ever since. So when a group of moms mentioned that they wanted to do the trail with kids I was so excited! I knew Elliott would love the views and it would be an easy ride.

That week was a hot and sunny week in the Anchorage area, so when I picked my gear for this ride I was thinking about how hot I would be (especially after this hike with Elliott the day before). I thought about getting out the Chariot bike trailer for him to ride in, but I knew he’d love being in the Yepp Mini bike seat up front with me. Plus the weather was supposed to be great. At the last minute I grabbed a few extra layers just in case we needed to change after getting super hot on the ride. As we drove down to Portage I began to notice an area of angry looking clouds at the end of Turnagain Arm. As we got closer I realized they were in Portage valley, right where we were going to ride! When I parked at the visitor’s center and got out of my car the wind was ridiculously strong and the clouds above us kept us from feeling any warmth at all. I definitely should have had the Chariot but now he had to ride in the wind with me! I was grateful for those extra layers as I dressed us in everything we had in the car. Portage is known for its crazy windy weather so I should have been a bit more prepared, even with the mild weather nearby.

The good news is that we started our ride with the wind at our backs. As soon as we rode into the forest the wind was practically gone, and I felt relieved that Elliott wasn’t going to have to deal with wind for the entire day. The sun also started shining and stayed out for the rest of the ride, keeping us a lot warmer than we had been at the parking lot. The other good news is that the amazing views started right away! Within a mile we found some gorgeously blue manmade lakes to explore. There were some construction vehicles near the lake that Elliott liked looking at too.

The trail starts out paved from the visitor’s center side of the trail, but within a mile and a half the trail becomes a gravel trail. It also has sections of boardwalk and a lot of unique bridges to ride over. It was exciting seeing the trail change every few minutes. The trail is mostly flat with a few small hills, so it was easy to pedal along with Elliott on the front of my bike. As always, he loved pointing out “wawa” (water) and all the dogs he saw on the trail. He also learned how to say rock after I pointed out all the big boulders we biked past! We decided to ride nonstop until the end of the trail, and then take our time on the way back to explore a few side trails and gorgeous snack spots. We had lunch at the lake beneath Explorer Glacier, which was one of the most scenic spots on the ride. Letting the kids run/crawl around and explore that area was a perfect way to break up the hours of riding.

My legs were already tired from doing two hikes that week, so by the end of the flat 10 miles round trip I was definitely done for the day! And I somehow timed it perfectly because Elliott was able to stay awake for the entire ride and started getting cranky in the last few minutes (he napped on the ride home). Overall the ride was fast, fun, easy, and gorgeous! I’d highly recommend this trail for moms pulling kids, kids biking on their own, and bikers of all levels. Since this trip I’ve actually gone back again and explored even more of the area on bike. This is definitely one of those trails that I could do every week and never get sick of it!

Things to know:

  • The trail is located in Portage, about one hour south of Anchorage. It is near the town of Whittier but is accessible without going through the Whittier Tunnel.
  • The weather in Portage can change fast so be prepared for anything! I learned this the hard way and although things worked out for us it could have been a much colder and wetter day for us if the weather hadn’t improved.
  • Bears frequent this area. We saw warning signs along the trail letting us know that a bear in the area had broken into a camper’s tent and was looking for food. Carry bear spray or other protection and make lots of noise to let bears know you are on the trail.
  • There’s lots of little side trails to explore! Some of them lead to backpacking campsites. The main one I’d suggest taking is the Williwaw Nature Trail. The junction is right after the manmade lakes (if you’re biking from the Portage Lake side) and it takes you across the road and past some gorgeous blue lakes before bringing you under the road and into the campground. It adds about 1.5 miles to the trail.
  • There’s also a parking area at Moose Flats so you could start your ride from that side! There’s picnic areas, lots of places to fish/kayak/enjoy the views, and some outhouses. In my opinion, starting from that side means that you’ll have a slight uphill on the way to Portage Lake and a slight downhill on the way back, which is my favorite way to do a ride!
  • If you bike out and back the trail is 10 miles, but there are a lot of places to start/stop along the trail and various parking areas if you need to make the ride shorter and some side trails if you want to make it longer.

Where is the prettiest place you’ve ever ridden your bike? Have you ever seen wildlife on a bike ride?

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