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Alaska’s a great state for big mountains and big views. Big trails? Not so much. That may be about to change as the state explores building a long-distance path that could draw thru-hikers up north.
This year’s Alaska state budget includes funding for the first phase of the Alaska Long Trail, a proposed 500-mile route that would run from Fairbanks to Seward. The current plan for the trail would start by linking existing paths running through the Talkeetna Mountains and Chugach State Park, as well as adding infrastructure like bridges over some of Alaska’s many rivers, and eventually adding new miles of path.
This year’s trail budget money—$13.2 million, drawn from COVID relief funds—will go towards trail connection and development projects that have already been approved and just lack funding, like connecting the Coastal Trail and Ship Creek Trail in Anchorage and adding a bridge over the Nenana River outside Denali. Alaska Trails, which has advocated for the Alaska Long Trail’s creation, envisions the path eventually running 2,000 miles or more, from Fairbanks to the North Slope.
Supporters believe that the new trail, like the Appalachian Trail, could draw in hikers and keep them in Alaska (and spending money) longer; Anchorage Daily News reports that Tim Dillon, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, testified to the state’s legislature that extending the tourist season by just one day could add $100 million in revenue for the state.