It probably implies too much to say that leaving Anchorage, Alaska, is the best part of Anchorage, Alaska. But if you take that as a slam on Anchorage, it might be that you’ve never driven the Seward Highway out of town.
Sure, Anchorage didn’t strike us as a destination city. It’s mostly a functional place of recent vintage. Born less than 100 years ago as a railroad construction port, expanded during the Cold War with the introduction of Elmendorf Air Force Base and later because of nearby oil discoveries, Anchorage isn’t terribly quaint, particularly lively, or steeped in history. It does, however, have some pretty terrific Middle Eastern food (seriously, stop by hole-in-the-wall-good Falafel King when you’re in town). More strikingly, it serves as the anchor leg to what is quite possibly the most beautiful drive in the United States.
Now we don’t claim to be experts, but driving through the U.S. is one of the things we’ve spent most of the last four years of our lives doing. During that time we’ve traveled up the California and Oregon coast, traversed Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway, and ascended Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road. After all of that, we still think the 127-mile stretch of pavement connecting Anchorage to Seward is the most incredible we’ve ever seen.
It’s stunning mountain vista after stunning mountain vista, all the way through. And what sets it apart, and in our view above, other domestic alpine terrain is that many of these mountains are framed by water. Two thirds of the drive winds along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. It’s what a drive through the Rocky Mountains would be like if they were cleaved in half by a giant fjord.
And of course there’s Alaskan wildlife along the way. Our first-ever moose sighting occurred just fifteen minutes outside the city center in Potter Marsh.
Not bad for a day’s commute.