Kenai Fjords National Park
Stunningly Beautiful Kenai Fjords
Glaciers and puffins are on the Kenai Fjords itinerary. The entire Kenai Fjords National park encompasses approximately 580,000 acres of spectacular scenery and diverse wildlife. To the west, it shares a boundary with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and also abuts Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park at its southwestern end. You can explore the fjords by boat. A seaworthy craft and rough water boating experience are required. The area is exposed to the sometimes tempestuous Gulf of Alaska, and few landing sites exist. Many people choose to ride a charter boat. Day-long trips are scheduled during the summer season. Be prepared for cool, wet weather. The driest month is May but June normally begins the travel season as spring storms cease and temperatures rise into the 50s and 60s.
Exit Glacier is the easiest to reach of the more than 23 named glaciers that twist off in all directions from the Harding Icefield.
The Exit glacier Bridge provides vehicle access to within one-half mile of the glacier. Nine miles from the Seward highway, the Exit Glacier Ranger Station and picnic site are located next to the parking lot which can accommodate large motor homes and trailers.
A half-mile trail takes you to the base of Exit Glacier. Approximately two to three miles of nature trails provide good views of the glacier and surrounding area. Pets are not allowed on the Exit Glacier and Harding Icefields trails.
Be careful! The glacier is active. Be on the lookout for falling rocks and ice, and observe all warning signs. A 3 mile steep, rough-cut, Harding Icefield trail follows the glaciers flank providing breathtaking views of the ice field, Exit Glacier and the valley below. Allow all day for this hike. This is day use only. Overnight backpacking is prohibited. The Harding Icefield Trail started out as a primitive route for mountaineers and in recent years has been overwhelmed by the number of hikers scrambling up it. The trail traverses fragile alpine areas and some hikers have caused severe damage to the trail and surrounding environment by taking shortcuts and tramping vegetation. During periods of rainy weather the trail must sometimes be closed to prevent catastrophic damage.
Kenai Fjords National Park’s wildlife is as varied as its landscape. Mountain goats, moose, bears, wolverines, marmots and other mammals have re-established themselves on a thin life zone between marine waters and icefield’s frozen edges. Bald eagles nest in the tops of spruce and hemlock trees. A summer burgeoning of life occurs in the fjords. Steller sea lions haul out on rocky islands at the entrances to Aialik and Nuka Bays. Harbor seals ride the icebergs. Dall porpoises, sea otters, and gray, humpback, killer, and minke whales ply the fjord waters. Halibut, lingcod, and black bass lurk deep in these waters, through which salmon return for inland spawning runs. Thousands of seabirds, including horned and tufted puffins, black-legged kittiwakes, common murres and the ubiquitous gulls, seasonally inhabit steep cliffs and rocky shores.
The Chiswell Islands are located at the mouth of Aialak Bay in the Gulf of Alaska and offer superb marine wildlife viewing opportunities. More than 50,000 seabirds representing 18 different species nest on the rocky islands each summer. From the puffins nesting in crevices of borrows to the murres perching precariously on narrow ledges, you can observe each seabird species making their living in their own unique way. In addition, the only Steller sea lion rookery (pupping area) that can be legally and easily approached is located on these islands. Other marine wildlife species you may want to see on or around the islands include sea otters, harbor seals, Dall’s and harbor porpoises as well as humpback, orca, and minke whales.
Kenai Fjords National Park Location:
Kenai Fjords National Park is about 100 miles south of Anchorage. Access is by highway, air, rail and water. Park headquarters is in the coastal city of Seward, which is just outside the northeastern corner of the park. The western coast of the Gulf of Alaska forms the coastal (eastern) boundary of the park.
The park encompasses nearly 65% of the Harding Icefield, plus the fjords, islands and peninsulas of the Kenai coast. The icefield is a remnant of the Ice Age – a surviving expanse of Pleistocene glaciation. Numerous valley glaciers flow outward from the icefield, some reaching the sea, others ending in lakes or on bare ground. Along the coast glaciers have cut deep bays into the mountainous shoreline, creating a series of deep fjords. Heavy vegetation of almost rain forest proportions covers the tops of cliffs rising a hundred feet or more above the ocean. The coastal area has abundant aquatic life, including seals sea lions, sea otters and migrating whales. Sea birds in large numbers occupy the coastal cliffs in summer. Seasonally, littoral resources such a shellfish are easily accessible. Salmon runs are also abundant. These resources proved attractive to prehistoric and historic groups of people.
The Seward area has an abundance of places to fish. You can fish from land or a boat in Seward. This region of Alaska is particulary noted for its strong runs of trophy Silver Salmon. The finest salt water fishing for halibut, red snapper, and rock cod is also available. Try the beach behind the Seward Sea–Life center for easy fishing or charter a boat.
Road access via the Seward Highway; scheduled bus service from Anchorage; Alaska Marine Highway from Kodiak, Homer, Cordova and Valdez; Alaska Railroad from Anchorage.
Accommodations in Seward:
11 hotels/motels, 37 bed and breakfasts, 25 lodges/cabins. 20 restaurants/cafes/snack bars.