Alaska is home to three million sparkling lakes, but you won’t want to swim in cement-fringed and square-edged Lake Hood. Three miles southwest of Anchorage, this lake serves as the runway for one of the world’s busiest seaplane hubs. Large swaths of wilderness and remote Alaskan communities are made accessible by seaplanes departing from Lake Hood. Nearly 200 daily flights hydroplane off the water when its not frozen over—to the delight of on-lookers—ferrying supplies or passengers on quests to find grizzlies, caribou, secluded fishing spots and wild mountain and glacier landscapes.
Across from the Five Fingers docks, the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum tells the story of the importance of aviation to the vast state. Bush planes have been instrumental in Alaska’s recent history, and the museum is an homage to both pilot and craft with twenty-five planes housed inside its hanger. The nearby Ted Stevens International Airport for land-based planes is close enough to share an air traffic control tower and the Alaska Airmen’s Association, headquartered in a nook on the lake’s western side, hosts a popular airshow there each May where they raffle off a plane. Fun fact: An Island in the middle of the lake was once home to three pigs named Curly, Larry and Moe tasked with eating eggs and destroying nests of interfering waterfowl.
The best stationary spot to watch the seaplanes is the Lake Hood Swimming Beach (now a misnomer) on the north shore; a popular walking and biking trail rims the lake. Guests at the B&B-style Lake Hood Inn (4702 Lake Spenard Dr.) can watch the planes take off and land from the front porch. Many seaplane “flightseeing” tour companies departing the Anchorage area for popular spots such as the Kenai Fjords National Park, Denali and more depart from Lake Hood, with most bookings handled at independent company offices or online.