Often families post online asking for recommendations for a good hike for little ones close to the Anchorage area. My first suggestion is always Reflections lake.
Out of all the hikes we have been on Reflections Lake is likely the one we have visited most often. It is always at the top of my list when suggesting hikes for small children.
Reflections is a 1 mile Loop hike around Reflections Lake and boats amazing views or Pioneer Peak. The trail is mostly flat. Where there are hills, there is usually a path to the side that offers a less steep option. There are multiple rocky/muddy beaches along the trail, benches, and a viewing tower about halfway around. The parking at Reflections Lake is free and there are outhouses available close to the trailhead.
Take AK-1 N (Glen Hwy) and cross the Knik Bridge. Exit toward Knik River Access. Turn Left, continue straight and follow road. There is a small parking area and roadside parking.
There is no parking fee at this location. Outhouses are located at the trailhead. This trail is stroller friendly.
I would guess that we have walked this hike around 50 + times since we moved to Alaska a little over 3 years ago. Often we join the weekly Hike it Baby hike that is held at this location (currently on hold due to COVID). We have seen this location in all seasons and all weather. We have splashed at the edge of the water in the summer, enjoyed the colors of the leaves in the fall, walked across it’s ice in the winter, and helped to restock the fish in the spring!
There is something to be said for taking your children to the same place to hike week after week. They get to know the location. They find special places and develop favorite spots.They observe first hand the cycle of the year, seeing how things change with the seasons.
During the spring we enjoy searching for snails along the muddy beaches. You can find so many of them! We have also been lucky enough to throw a few fish into the lake when it was being restocked! In addition we get to watch the migrating birds return.
Throughout the spring we watch as the wild roses appear and then bloom during the early summer. In addition, fireweed and wild irises pop up around Reflections Lake during this season.
The valley is beautiful during the fall! I have noticed that the leaves out there turn a little bit sooner than those in Anchorage. Reflections Lake is a beautiful place to get family photos done! It is also a great place if you are looking for rose hips!
During the winter the lake freezes over. However, if you are not familiar with frozen lakes, please be careful. Along the far side of the lake are a couple of hot springs. The ice in this area is NOT safe to walk across.
It is common to see people ice fishing at Reflections Lake during the winter months.
We also enjoy walking to the small island during the winter. Here the kids enjoy jumping, climbing and sledding off the small hill that is the island.
Though Reflections Trail is mostly flat, there are a couple of good sized hills that are great to sled down when there is snow on the ground.
Some of our year round favorites are included the boardwalk and beaver dam. Every kid I’ve ever met loves running down the boardwalk. Just make sure they stay away from the edge. My son has launched himself off the boardwalk twice.
A couple years ago we started noticing evidence of a beaver felling trees. You can view the beaver dam from the bridge. We have seen the beaver swimming around the lake a few times. However, if you think you see the beaver pay close attention to his tail! There is also a muskrat that shares lodgings with the beaver in his dam!
Another reason Reflections Lake is at the top of my list is the lack of wildlife we have seen close to the trail there. I feel pretty comfortable going to Reflections Lake on my own with my children. I have never seen any evidence of bears at Reflections Lake. In addition, I have only seen moose there three times, and only at a distance from the viewing deck.