Encompassing 1,047 square miles (2,711 square kilometers), Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park is named after its numerous glacial-carved fjords—beautiful ice valleys that sit below sea level. The fjords run down the mountains into the iconic Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States with 40 tidewater glaciers flowing into it. The stunning landscape is also a wildlife-watcher’s dream, thanks to its abundant marine animals, birds, and other native wildlife.
The most popular way to visit the park is on a glacier cruise. This is the best way to see the largest variety of marine wildlife, as the park’s icy waters and dense woodlands are home to numerous species of native animals. Adventurous visitors can take an aerial tour of the park, kayak on the fjords, hike to the top of the 8.2-mile (13.2-kilometer) Harding Icefield Trail, explore the trails around Exit Glacier, and go fishing in the park’s backcountry.
Things to Know Before You Go
- To visit the park on a cruise, choose a full-day or a half-day excursion.
- Many cruises offer a buffet lunch option; sample Alaska salmon and other local delicacies for an upgraded price.
- Be sure to bring a camera to snap memorable photos of Resurrection Bay’s rugged coastline and wildlife.
- Even in summer, the weather can be fickle. Be prepared by bringing a light hooded jacket, or warmer layers in cooler months.
- Most fjords cruises are wheelchair accessible, but it’s best to check in advance.
How to Get There
Kenai Fjords National Park is located just outside of Seward in southcentral Alaska, 126 miles (203 kilometers) south of Anchorage. By car, take Seward Highway (AK-1) south from Anchorage. It will become AK-9 around mile 35 (87 miles/140 kilometers from Anchorage), with AK-1 heading to Homer and Kenai. Continue on AK-9 to Seward. The Alaska Railroad connects Anchorage to Seward during the summer months (May through September).
When to Get There
The best time to visit Kenai Fjords National Park is between May and September, when the weather cooperates to provide views of the surrounding glaciers (including the impressive Bear Glacier) and mountains—and to be warm enough for visitors to want to be outdoors. Although the park is often inaccessible during the winter months, Seward is accessible year-round via the Seward Highway, a National Scenic Byway.
Wildlife in Kenai Fjords National Park
A cruise is the best way get your fill of wildlife viewing, as the park’s waters and forests are home to mountain goats, black bears, bald eagles, harbor seals, sea lions, puffins, porpoises, and humpback and orca whales. Along most cruise routes you’ll have the chance to see abundant wildlife like whales, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, eagles, mountain goats, and many types of seabirds. Cape Resurrection, at the end of Resurrection Bay, is home to both Steller sea lions and thousands of nesting seabirds. Most boats stop close to the sea lion colonies and seabird rookeries, providing excellent photo opportunities.