There’s no question that fat biking is exploding in popularity. Question is, where is it fun—and permissible—to ride? Here are five of my favorite fat bike rides in the Anchorage area.
Far North Bicentennial Park (North of Campbell Airstrip Road)
Trails in this section of Far North Bicentennial Park meander through birch forest in a labyrinth of loops and mazes. Access these trails from Mile 1.1 Campbell Airstrip Road or the Bivouac parking lot about a mile farther east.
A combination of single- and double-track crisscross this delightful park on dollops of gently rolling terrain. These trails are superb in winter when snow fills root wells and the two small lakes are frozen, opening terrain otherwise inaccessible in summer.
The trails are suitable for beginner to intermediate snow bikers. Trail maps are mounted at major intersections to help with route finding. If you get lost, travel in the uphill direction to grab the Tank Trail leading back to Bivouac trailhead. Ride downhill to find yourself back at Mile 1.1 Campbell Airstrip Road.
These multiuse trails share acreage with the Alaskan Sled Dog and Racing Association, so it helps to become familiar with the dog mushing trails and avoid them at all times. Sled dogs run silently when they are working and they travel at high speeds. In addition, the dogs’ fragile legs are vulnerable to injury when footprints and tire ruts impact the trails. Dog mushing trails are single purpose for these reasons.
BLM Campbell Tract
The Bureau of Land Management has an inholding of land in the middle of Far North Bicentennial Park. Trails in this area are well trafficked and maintained by BLM and the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage.
Beginners and intermediates can link together wide multiuse trails and skinny, ribbon-like single-track. Study the maps before you go to avoid using the single-use dog mushing and cross-country ski trails. Access is available at the Smokejumper and Abbott Loop trailheads.
Eight miles of lung-busting single-track built by the nonprofit Singletrack Advocates suits intermediate and advanced fat-tire riders on Anchorage’s hillside. These trails are at their best a few days after a snowfall when snowshoers, runners and skiers have laid first tracks.
Once the trails are packed down, get ready for a workout with sustained climbing and technical descending that will challenge your fitness and skill. Catch your breath at the expansive vistas of the Anchorage Bowl, Mount Susitna and Denali.
Access these trails from the overflow parking lot at Hilltop Ski Area or from the Chugach State Park Prospect Trailhead. Parking fees apply in Chugach State Park.
Chugach State Park
When the trails in Anchorage are crowded, head for the mountains in Chugach State Park. It can be rather tricky to figure out which trails are open to fat biking. In general, trails open to mountain biking in summer are legal to ride in winter. In years where adequate snow cover opens the park to snowmachining, fat bikes are welcome where snowmachines are allowed.
Each year, park management designates one additional trail to be open to fat tires by permit. To obtain a permit, email the Chugach State Park office at email@example.com. The permit must be prominently displayed on your bike at all times so that other trail users can see it. To avoid potentially hefty fines, know which trails are open to bikes before you go and display your permit.
Access to Chugach State Park is best from the Prospect, Upper Huffman and Glen Alps trailheads. Avoid congestion at Glen Alps by parking at the lower trailheads. Parking fees apply. For an epic workout, ride the Hillside single-track then continue on to Chugach State Park.
The same wonderful folks who created the Hillside Singletrack carved out 16 miles of lusciously curvy, bumpy trails in Kincaid Park located on the west side of town. Singletrack Advocates grooms the Kincaid Singletrack, making them just as much fun in winter as they are in summer.
Access this winter riding playground at Jodphur, Raspberry or Kincaid trailheads. If you’re lucky enough to live along the Coastal Trail, hop onto Middle Earth to access the new Kincaid North Singletrack.
No matter where you ride this winter, dress for the conditions, head out with a pocket of trail maps and be prepared to smile a lot because there will be many other trail users enjoying our winter wonderland.
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