Located on the Kenai Peninsula, 10 miles northeast of Soldotna and 130 miles from Anchorage, Sterling is a full-service community geared toward visitors who are preparing to venture into the surrounding wilderness of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
In and around Sterling, campgrounds, state access sites, and trails are plentiful, but the crown jewel of local outdoor recreation options is the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Things to do
Sterling serves as the base for anglers and canoers who arrive every summer to land trophy king salmon or paddle the wilderness waterways of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. A number of charter fishing guides operate in the Sterling area and often use drift boats to float clients down the Kenai River. Four species of salmon - king, sockeye, pink, and silver - spawn up the Kenai River at various times during the summer.
Sterling is the gateway to the Swanson River and Swan Lake Canoe Routes, a chain of rivers, lakes, streams and portages in the northern lowlands of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The trips are perfect for novice canoeists, as rough water is rarely a problem and portages do not exceed half a mile in length on the Swan Lake system or a mile in the Swanson River area. The Swanson River system links more than 40 lakes and 46 miles of river, and a one-way trip is 80 miles, beginning at Swan Lake Rd and ending at Cook Inlet in Captain Cook State Recreation Area. The easier and more popular Swan Lake Route connects 30 lakes with forks in the Moose River over 60 miles.
The area around Sterling has been home to Kenaitze Indians for more than 2,000 years. An archaeological site containing prehistoric house pits was uncovered at the Izaac Walton State Recreation Site just west of Sterling. The recreation area is a great spot for boating, picnicking, and camping.
Morgans Landing State Recreation Area is a 279-acre park just west of Sterling that features a 42-site campground and gravel trails down to the Kenai River. Morgans Landing offers excellent bank fishing opportunities to the Kenai River and chance to hook a king salmon from mid-June through July, and other species the rest of the summer.
A couple of dining options, a gas station, and a handful of accommodations including lodges, hotels, B&Bs, and an RV Park are located in Sterling, with additional visitor services available in nearby Soldotna.