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Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Westchester Lagoon at Sunset

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Westchester Lagoon probably isn’t on the short list of tourist attractions in Anchorage, but it is a nice little pond with a small park, located in a residential community southwest of downtown.  It’s also an excellent place to access the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail — an 11-mile paved bicycle path that runs along the Cook Inlet, from downtown Anchorage to the airport.

Location

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail follows the coastline from downtown Anchorage, around the Anchorage International Airport, to Kincaid Park.  You will find Westchester Lagoon and Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park along West 15th Avenue, west of Minnesota Drive (Also known as the Spenard Thruway or Walter J. Hickel Parkway).

My Visit

On my first visit to Alaska, I witnessed several amazing sunsets.  There’s something indescribable about watching a sunset at 11 p.m. or midnight — a sunset that lasts for hours.  I was hoping to recreate that magic on this trip to Alaska, a year later.

After a very long day of hiking and driving, I would have been perfectly happy to stop for the night and get some rest.  I had, after all, flown across the continent the day before.  But, I was determined to photograph some extraordinary sunsets, so I hit the road, looking for a good spot.

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After driving through downtown, I zig-zagged through the residential neighborhoods along the coast, until I found Westchester Lagoon.  I noticed that, at this spot, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail passed underneath the railroad tracks, allowing for a better view of the coast (to the west, and north — which happens to be where the sun sets in Alaska in late spring and early summer).

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Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park is located on the north side of the lagoon.  It was surprisingly lively at 11 o’clock at night.  Clearly, Alaskans ignore the clock to soak up as much daylight as they can, at this time of year.

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The lagoon provided a nice reflection of the Chugach Mountains, on the other side of town.

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I met up with the coastal trail…

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…and passed underneath the railroad.  I didn’t know it at the time, but there is a second passage on the south side of the park, as well.

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The trail runs along the edge of the mud flats that stretch out into the Cook Inlet.  There are a few good viewpoints along here (other areas are overgrown).

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The sunset wasn’t as brilliant as I had hoped, but it was interesting.  A few narrow beams of light broke through the clouds…

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… and streamed across the mountains on the far side of the inlet.

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Once I was pretty sure that the sky wasn’t going to get any better, I headed back to my Airbnb accommodation for the night.  Of course, in late May, it never gets completely dark at night, even when it’s cloudy.  Check out the Drivelapse video below to see how bright it is, even after 11 p.m.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a convenient place to access the coastal trail in Anchorage, or you’d just like to feed some ducks on a relaxing pond, it’s worth your while to stop by Westchester Lagoon.  Otherwise, this small community park does not need to be high on your vacation priority list.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a time-lapse look at the drive into, and out of, Anchorage, including my stop at Westchester Lagoon:

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