These Are the Best Spots for Hiking and Camping in Alaska, According to a Professional Traveler Who Quarantined There

"I truly believe that the desire of exploring and adventuring will continue when the pandemic is done."

Juno Kim on a hike in Alaska at Cooper Landing
Photo: Juno Kim

Juno Kim is taking quarantine in stride. In fact, she’s taking many of those strides right now as she quarantines in her home state of Alaska.

The professional traveler returned to the 49th state in April, just as the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world. But rather than sitting and wallowing in sadness over the fact that she could no longer travel the world, Kim decided it was high time to explore her own backyard.

During the quarantine, I’d like to think that we all learned what’s really important in life: people to care for and the pleasure of being in nature,” Kim shared with Travel + Leisure. “After living almost a quarantine-life in Korea for two months, two weeks after I got back to Alaska, I certainly appreciated our great outdoors...and spending time with people in my life.”

Throughout the crisis, Kim notes, Alaska’s parks and trails remained open. After her own 14-day required self-quarantine, she was “able to get outside and thoroughly enjoy the fresh air. Even right now, although I'm in a semi-quarantine stage, I can still go for a hike and camp in the wilderness. We are quite fortunate.”

When asked for trails and places she believes hikers should visit in Alaska, Kim revealed a few favorites.

Chugach State Park: Chugach State Park is one of the largest state parks in the nation, clocking in at more than 495,000 acres. Within the park, there is something for everyone, from easy out and back trails to day-long 13-milers for a bigger challenge.

Gull Rock Trail: This nearly six-mile trail is located along the south shore of Turnagain Arm. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the trail has “gradual ups and downs with occasional short, steep sections and travels through spruce/birch forest with numerous openings affording views overlooking Turnagain Arm and mountains beyond.” The trail is typically free of any snow by May.

View from Denali Highway, mountains and greenery with a river running through to mountains.
Juno Kim

Denali Highway: “It's a perfect place for social distancing for sure,” says Kim. The Denali Highway is, in fact, a 135-mile dirt and gravel road. But off the roadway, hikers will find plenty of land to explore. As notes, “ can create a four- to seven-day wilderness experience without the expense of a fly-in. Dozens of hiking and four-wheel trails lead back into the wilderness. Clearwater streams cross the highway in many places, where you can cast a line for grayling and other fish. The landscape photography opportunities are endless.”

Kim also explored the Kenai Peninsula, especially Cooper Landing, this season. As for her plans to continue traveling once it's deemed safe again, Kim still isn’t quite sure.

“There are so many unknown factors that I can't make a decision on my own,” she says, noting that she’s happy exploring Alaska and waiting it out.

Kenai, Cooper Landing hiking trail view in Alaska. Green trees, river with moose crossing and mountains in a distance.
Juno Kim

“I truly believe that the desire of exploring and adventuring will continue when the pandemic is done,” Kim adds. “We might change the way we travel, and maybe that's for the better. We'll make more conscious decisions. We’ll care more about the environment. We’ll think more about people. As much as we suffered from the pandemic, I hope we as a group come out stronger and better. And I believe that we will.”

Want to hear more from Kim? Check out her interview in the latest episode of our podcast, Let’s Go Together.

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