America's Best Trail Towns: Homer, AK

In Homer, playing outside is a way of life.

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Little Homer sits way out on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, where fishing boats crowd a harbor framed by Alaska-big peaks. The town attracts a diverse crowd: “Homer is half fishing village and half artist colony,” says Taz Tally, a local photographer and guidebook author. But unlike in rougher Alaska towns, outdoor recreation is more a way of life than a tourist-season blip. “There’s definitely a vibrant culture of people who love to be outside,” says Libby Bushell, founder of the Homer Wilderness Leaders nonprofit. Hikers, paddlers, and skiers come out to play in Kachemak Bay State Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, and the Chugach National Forest.

Why You’re Here Between the glaciers, tundra, moose, grizzlies, and wolves, Kachemak Bay State Park, a 400,000-acre preserve sitting right on Homer’s doorstep, is one-stop shopping for your life list. The 18-mile ramble from the Glacier Lake Trail to Humpy Creek ties it all together in just four days, taking you past a calving glacier, into a high alpine zone with enormous mountain views, and along a series of cold-but-swimmable lakes. Hike up to Grewingk Glacier Lake, then connect to the Saddle and Alpine Ridge Trails for a night (or two) exploring the high country. Backtrack and take a hand tram over the Grant River to Emerald Lake, then follow the loop trail to Portlock Plateau. Set up your tent with excellent views of Kachemak Bay. Trailhead Glacier Spit Permit None

On the Town

PUB Alice’s Champagne Palace replenishes lost calories with burgers and pulled pork mac & cheese. 195 E. Pioneer Ave.

TREAT Hit Two Sisters Bakery for sticky buns and chocolate bread, plus savory fare. 233 E. Bunnell Ave.

SEE A few miles northwest of town, the 2-mile Diamond Creek Trail leads to a wildlife bonanza on a cliff-framed beach. “There are always a bazillion eagles down there, and I’ve seen whales, seals, and sea otters,” Bushell says. Sterling Hwy.