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The Kenai Peninsula
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The Kenai Peninsula


Kenai National Wildlife Refuge & Chugach National Forest

Seward Highway (AK1/AK9)--Seward to Portage



Kenai Fjords National Park

Sterling Highway (AK1)--Seward Highway Junction to Homer

Northwest Kenai





Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Area


Kenai Fjords National Park

Location/Size: South coast of the Kenai Peninsula, stretching southwest of Seward. 669,000 acres.

Main Activities: Boat tours, glacier flightseeing, sea kayaking, hiking, backcountry-cabin stays.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Seward/vehicle access from Anchorage via Seward Highway (AK 1, AK 9), scheduled air service from Anchorage, scheduled ferry service from Valdez and Kodiak; Homer/vehicle access from Anchorage via Seward Highway and Sterling Highway (AK 1), scheduled air service from Anchorage, scheduled ferry service from Kodiak and Valdez. Park access: tour-boat access from Seward; flightseeing and charter air access from Seward and Homer; foot and ski access via Harding Icefield Trail at Exit Glacier; sea kayak access via drop-offs from Seward and possibly from Rocky Bay via Seldovia.

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: Visitor information, nature trail, and Harding Icefield Trail at Exit Glacier; visitor center in Seward. Reservable backcountry cabins, primitive camping only.

Headquarters and Information: Headquarters, P.O. Box 1727, Seward, Alaska 99664, 224-3175, www.nps.gov/kefj; Visitor Center, 1212 4th Avenue. Open Memorial Day–Labor Day daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays in winter.

The majority of the visitors to Kenai Fjords National Park experience this magnificent preserve via a half-day boat tour from Seward. Every morning and afternoon, boats head out through Resurrection Bay, around Aialik Cape, and into Aialik Bay. Some duck into Holgate Arm to watch Holgate Glacier calve cascades of ice into the sea. On longer trips, the boats circle the seal-basking sites and bird rookeries of the small islands off the point. It’s about as touristy as Alaska gets, but it’s a wonderful trip. If your time is limited, this option should be near the top of your list. See the appendix for tour-boat listings and reserve in advance for high season.

Ah, but there is so much more! The park is named for the fjords, bays, and many small inlets that line the southeast coast of the Kenai Peninsula, most of which rarely receive a tour-boat visit. Inland, the contiguous wilderness lands of Kenai Fjords National Park, Kache-mak Bay State Wilderness Park, and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge preserve most of the Kenai Mountains west of Seward. De facto wilderness preserves in the Chugach National Forest continue the protected lands to Prince William Sound and beyond.

Much of the Kenai Mountains are covered with ice. The road to Seward passes between two major icefields, the Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park to the west, and the Sargent Icefield in Chugach National Forest to the east. Several tidewater glaciers flow from 700-square-mile Harding Icefield, meeting the sea in Aialik Bay, Northwestern Fjord, and McCarty Fjord. Sea kayaking any of these fjords on multiday trips provides access to seals, sea lions, otters, eagles, berg paddling, glacier walks, remote camping, and solitude. Outfitters and flying services in Seward and Homer can set you up (see the Appendix), while road-based put-ins are possible via Seldovia or Seward. Exposed headlands make long-distance trips challenging for novices. Inquire with the Park Service about backcountry cabins with coastal access.

Flightseeing over the icefields is a great option if you’re short of time. The stark images of barren summits rising from a sea of snow and ice are windows back into the ice ages. Weather sometimes complicates such opportunities. Flightseeing companies operate from Homer and Seward (see the Appendix).

Exit Glacier

One of the best road-accessible glaciers in the state, Exit Glacier is easily reached by car or tour from Seward. About 2 miles long with a drop of 2,700 feet, the glacier is just one tiny finger of the vast Harding Icefield. The 9-mile Exit Glacier Road (closed in winter) heads northeast from Mile 3.7 of the Seward Highway, offering many glacier views as it follows the Resurrection River. Where Exit Creek meets the Resurrection, the road turns toward the glacier and enters Kenai Fjords National Park. From the ranger station and visitor center there are short and easy paths to the ice.

The best option at the site is the steep, rugged, and often slippery Harding Icefield Trail (3.5-plus miles, 2,500'-plus gain)—the park’s only trail. The route follows the glacier flank right up to the icefield, offering views that get bigger the higher you go. You can walk, ski, or snowshoe on the icefield—or perhaps begin your 40-mile ski to Tustamena Lake and a floatplane pick-up. Check at the ranger station about trail conditions since snow can clog the upper reaches well into summer. RT—half–all day.