Kenai Fjords National Park
This glacial wonderland features stunning scenery, incredible wildlife, and ocean adventures.
Created in 1980 to protect some of the most incredible and impenetrable wilderness in Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park spans over 600,000 acres outside of Seward. Snow and ice cover 60 percent of the park: lining the edge of the park is the vast 936-square-mile Harding Icefield. From the massive icefield, countless tidewater glaciers pour down, carving valleys that fill with seawater to form stunning fjords.
THINGS TO DO
Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the most popular of Alaska’s national parks and provides both leisurely and adventurous activities for visitors, including boat tours, kayaking, camping, public use cabins, fishing, beach combing, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, ranger programs, flightseeing, and mountaineering.
To see tidewater glaciers and the park's abundant marine wildlife up-close, join a full-day or half-day boat tour departing from Seward that explores the areas, rugged coastline, islands, towering mountains, and stunning fjords, including Aialik Bay and Northwestern Fjord. Enjoy spectacular whale watching and marine wildlife viewing from the vessels, with possible sightings of orcas, humpback whales, fin whales, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters, Steller sea lions, and seabirds. For the truly adventurous, the coastal fjords are a kayaker's dream, and many visitors utilize drop-off services from water taxis or join guided tours to spend days paddling among icebergs in protected fjords.
The park is home to only a few trails found at the end of Exit Glacier Road, which spurs off the Seward Highway just outside of Seward. At the end of this 8 mile-long road is the impressive Exit Glacier, along with the Exit Glacier Nature Center and trails that offer views of the glacier and the impressive Harding Icefield. Hikers can ascend 1,000 feet over 4 miles along the Harding Icefield Trail for breathtaking views alongside and above the icefield. Experienced mountaineers equipped with skis, ice axes, and crampons can continue on to explore the icefield. For an easier, more accessible hike, take the one-mile Glacier View Loop Trail from the Exit Glacier Nature Center to view Exit Glacier from the valley floor.
Also along the road is Exit Glacier Campground, the only formal campground in the park, and the southern trailhead for the Resurrection River Trail that heads 16 miles north into Chugach National Forest. For those interested an overnight wilderness adventure, Kenai Fjords National Park is home to several public use cabins and lodges accessible by boat during the summer months.
The rugged coastline and stunning fjords are home to a diverse array of plants and animals. Land mammals such as black and brown bears, lynx, mountain goats, moose, porcupines, wolverines, and marmots can be found in the area. The nutrient-rich glacial waters are home to abundant marine wildlife including orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, minke whales, fin whales, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters, Steller sea lions, and harbor seals. The park is also a welcome habitat for migratory and resident birds. Over 190 species have been found in the area, including puffins, cormorants, common murres, pigeon guillemots, kittiwakes, and eagles.
Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses three main areas: Exit Glacier, Harding Icefield, and the coastline. Exit Glacier, a half-mile wide river of ice, is the easiest section of the park to access. The 700-square-mile Harding Icefield is one of only a few remaining icefields in the U.S. and is also the largest icefield entirely within U.S. borders. The park’s rugged coastline includes beautiful tidewater glaciers and abundant marine wildlife.
Kenai Fjords National Park was established as a national monument in 1978. It became a national park in 1980 to preserve the fjord and rainforest ecosystems, Harding Icefield, abundant wildlife, and historical and archeological remains.
FACILITIES AND CAMPING
Although Seward serves as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, the park has only a few designated trails. Most of the development is in the Exit Glacier Area, home to the Exit Glacier Nature Center, hiking trails, and the Exit Glacier Campground. The small campground is the only established campground in the park, with 12 walk-in tent-only campsites available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The only other development in the park are three public use cabins along the fjords, and a wilderness lodge. Aialik Cabin is on a beach perfect for whale watching while Holgate Arm Cabin has a spectacular view of Holgate Glacier. The Willow Cabin is located near Exit Glacier and is available to rent year-round.
The Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center is located near the Seward Small Boat Harbor and has interactive exhibits, maps and books, and rangers who are happy to discuss the best ways to explore the park.
Seward is 130 miles south of Anchorage and can be reached via the Seward Highway year-round or the Alaska Railroad during the summer months. Many cruise ships also use Seward as a port-of-call. In Seward, visitors can access the park on tour boats, water taxis, air taxis, and on foot from the Exit Glacier area.
Explore more things to do in Seward.
For more information, visit the Kenai Fjords National Park website.
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