COULD THERE BE anything more precious than the moment a little boy takes off on his bicycle for the first time, unaided by grownup hands? AK Kid did so the other day, pedaling furiously down the street, smiling broadly and yelling back “This is the best day of my entire life!”
For us, however, it was more than just a fantastic moment of truth for our son, it was a glorious new possibility for family fun, wide-open and waiting. Both my husband and I are avid bicycle tourists; I cycled around Europe and much of the Pacific Northwest, and AK Dad has pedaled umpteen Seattle to Portland tours, as well as the more difficult Cycle Oregon adventure. We had been anxiously anticipating the first family bicycle ride where no one was encapsulated in a Chariot or snapped to a Tag-A-Long, and here it is, helmet, gloves, and mini-mountain bike at the ready.
I’ve written before about the wealth of bicycling options available in the greater Anchorage area; from Eagle River to Girdwood, paved trails abound for kids of all ages to pedal and push their way around, up, and down. It’s over 200 miles of pedal powered fun, and the rest of Alaska has followed suit with a broad range of fam-friendly biking that now, finally, we can pursue. Since AK Fam is southeast-bound, here are a few of our discoveries:
Juneau has a fine, paved bike path that stretches from the downtown area all the way to Mendenhall Glacier, some 13 miles away. Offering a lovely view of the area’s wetlands and waterfowl, not to mention a really cool view of the airport, this trail is suitable for all ages. Rent bikes from a number of different vendors, most found on the waterfront near the cruise ship dock, grab a helmet, and away you go.
Sitka, too, provides some great family biking opportunities and an easy way to see this historic town with kids. Start in the downtown area and head east along the Sawmill Creek Road path, stopping at the beautiful Sitka National Historical Park on the way. Crossing over the Indian River, this park is a beautiful example of the melding of cultures and is easily accessed by foot or bike. If you want a more challenging ride, continue out Sawmill Creek Road all the way to Whale Park, a few miles in the distance but worth the ride, as the park sits on a little clef of land where views of Sitka Sound are lovely.
We found in our pre-trip research the delightful town of , where Alaska’s history is rich and deep, and where outdoor fun is but a step away from the ferry dock downtown. A fun ride that surely will appeal to older kids is the Nemo Loop Bike Route, departing from the downtown and winding through scenic forested land and a petroglyph beach where time seems to stand still. At 13 miles one way, it’s long, but with crushed gravel surface it should be appropriate for the casual mountain bike. Shorter is the Petroglyph Park ride, an easy one-mile trek out of town to the famed rock formations that offer a glimpse into Alaska’s distant past. Everybody can do this one, and it’s going to be fun for us to inspect the replicas and make some rubbings to bring home.
It’s hard to discern what we’re most excited about - AK Kid riding his bicycle, or the family vacation. I’m glad we have the chance to combine the two as we pedal Alaska together.