Kenai Fjords National Park Travel Guide
Updated August 2023, Kenai Fjords National Park was originally published in February 2023
Kenai Fjords National Park is located on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska and offers stunning scenery and some of the state’s best coastal wildlife viewing opportunities. Home to the renowned Harding Icefield, one of the largest icefields in the country; Exit Glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska; and countless ethereal fjords.
Kenai Fjords is also a wildlife enthusiast’s dream. Along with a wide range of birds, the park’s coastal waters are also home to orcas, humpback whales, sea otters, seals, and other marine animals. On land, keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats, moose, and bears.
Kenai Fjords was first declared a national monument in 1978 and later became a national park in 1980. The park has a total size of 669,984 acres.
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Kenai Fjords National Park Travel Guide
How to get to Kenai Fjords Naitonal Park
The nearest major city is Anchorage, which is about a 2.5-hour drive from Seward and the Exit Glacier Visitor Center. Renting a car is your best option for traveling around Alaska as it gives you the ultimate freedom. Alternatively, you can take the Alaska Railroad or bus to Seward, the closest town to the park in the summer.
Getting Around Kenai Fjords
You can see the park by boat, driving, or even flightseeing.
The best way to get around Kenai Fjords National Park is by boat tour or water taxi, as much of the park’s highlights are situated along the coast. If you’re looking for a great Kenai Fjords tour option check out Major Marine’s cruises on offer around Resurrection and Aialik Bays.
More of a do-it-yourself-er? Why not hop on a water taxi? Water taxis can get you pretty much anywhere along Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park.
I usually use Seward Water Taxi myself for getting to various destinations in Kenai Fjords, Miller’s Landing offers water taxi services as well. If you have a larger group, you could look into hiring a water taxi for the day to go on a custom cruise of the park. We did this for my best friend’s bachelorette party in 2021 and this was by far the best day I’ve ever had on the bay.
You can see some of Kenai Fjords National Park by car, but only a very limited area when comparing it to cruising the coast. The only road into the park leads to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center. Take the road off of the Seward Highway that leads to Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield Trailhead.
Though it’s expensive, flightseeing can be one of the best ways to see Alaska in general. Several flightseeing tours are available around the Seward area that take in a bird’s eye view of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Things to do at Kenai Fjords
The main attraction in Kenai Fjords is the park’s famous fjords which are teeming with wildlife and calving glaciers, which you can explore on a boat tour. You’ll see glaciers, whales, birds, otters, and more, all set in absolutely stunning landscapes. Additionally, there are hiking trails, camping opportunities, and ranger-led programs available.
Kenai Fjords Day Cruises
In my opinion, a Kenai Fjords boat tour is the best option for seeing the most of the national park on limited time. The other great thing about them is that you’re guaranteed to see glaciers and wildlife as you take in the wild landscapes of the Alaskan coastline.
The Hike to Exit Glacier or Beyond to Harding Icefield
There are several hiking trails in the park, ranging from easy strolls to strenuous hikes. Popular hikes include the Exit Glacier Trail, a gentle walk leading to a glacier viewing area, the Harding Icefield Trail, which offers spectacular views of the icefield, or for the more adventurous the trek to Caine’s Head from Lowell Point.
Don’t want to go at it alone? Check out this guided hike to the Harding Icefield or this guided hiking and kayaking combo trip to Caine’s Head.
Wildlife Viewing Around the Fjords
As mentioned before, Kenai Fjords is a wildlife fanatic’s paradise. Home to a staggering array of wildlife, including humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, seals, sea lions, gulls, eagles, black and brown bears, mountain goats, and more. Be sure to follow park guidelines and keep a safe distance from wildlife.
Kayaking in Resurrection Bay or Aialik Bay
Want to experience Kenai Fjords coastal waters slowly and more intimately? Exploring the park by kayak is the best way to do this.
You can rent kayaks in Seward if you didn’t pack yours to Alaska with you, or you can check out different sea kayaking tours on offer.
World-Class Sport Fishing
It’s no secret that Alaska is known to be one of the top fishing destinations on Earth. With that said, Kenai Fjords and its surrounding areas offer great freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. Check out different fishing charters on offer in the Seward area.
When to Visit Kenai Fjords
The park is open year-round, though the best time to visit is during the summer months (falling between May and September). At this time the weather is at its warmest, wildlife is most active, and plenty of boat tours are available.
Weather conditions can vary widely depending on the season in Alaska. The summer months offer the most comfortable temperatures and longer daylight hours, giving you ample time to see what all Kenai Fjords has to offer. The only downside is that summer is the busiest and most expensive time to visit.
If you want most of the benefits of a summer visit but fewer crowds, consider the shoulder seasons. The park is less crowded in late spring (May and early June) and early fall (September and early October, and the weather is usually still quite nice.
Don’t mind a little cold? Winter is a stunning time to visit Kenai Fjords National Park. It seriously is the most beautiful time of year there with pastel sunrises and ice-covered beaches.
Just know that many amenities are limited or even closed this time of year. With that all said, there are a few things to do unique to the winter including cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding.
Hotels and Campgrounds Near Kenai Fjords National Park
There are no lodges or hotels and only one campground inside Kenai Fjords National Park, so it’s best to plan to stay somewhere nearby. For the biggest variety of accommodation options, Seward is going to be the best place to base yourself.
It’s important to note that lodging around Kenai Fjords National Park can book up quickly in the summer months, so it’s a good idea to make reservations well in advance.
This town is the closest to the park entrance and has a range of lodging options, from hotels and B&Bs to vacation rentals and campgrounds. Some popular options include Harbor 360 Hotel, the Seward Windsong Lodge, Hotel Seward, and Miller’s Landing.
Cabins & Lodges Along Resurrection Bay
Mostly accessible only by boat unless you opt for a place in Lowell Point, Resurrection Bay offers several lodges and cabins, such as Kayaker’s Cove, the Fox Island Wilderness Lodge, Angel’s Rest on Resurrection Bay, and the Aialik Bay Cabin.
Campgrounds in & around Kenai Fjords National Park
While there is only one campground within the park aside from backcountry camping, there are several campgrounds near the park, both public and private.
Inside Kenai Fjords National Park itself, there is tent camping at Exit Glacier Campground with 12 sites. The Exit Glacier Campground is on a first come first serve basis.
In addition, there are several private and public campgrounds in Seward and scattered along the Seward Highway.
What to Pack for your Trip to Kenai Fjords National Park
What to take with you to visit the park will vary widely depending on what you plan to do in the park and what time of year you visit.
In general, layering clothing is going to be a lifesaver while exploring Kenai Fjords. Other must-pack items include a rain jacket, rainpants, hiking boots, a day pack, and rubber boots. Don’t forget your camera and binoculars to capture your trip and get closer views of wildlife.
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