As you drive out of Anchorage, you’ll soon parallel Knik Arm, while the Chugach Mountains stay to your right. Small communities dot either side of the road, but Eagle River and Eklutna offer the best access to the mountains. Both communities are worthy of a day trip from Anchorage, but to escape the hustle of the city, you can use these small towns as a base for exploring both Anchorage and the wilds around it.
Eagle River has something of a city center; the Eagle River Town Square is off Business Blvd, and has just about every business you’ll need. The Bear Paw Festival is worth the trip just for the ‘Slippery Salmon Olympics,’ which involves racing with a Hula Hoop, serving tray and, of course, a large dead fish. Most people, however, come here for the drive down Eagle River Rd or to take a hike.