This glacial wonderland features stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and aquatic adventures
Created in 1980 to protect some of the most incredible and impenetrable wilderness in Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park spans 601,839-acres outside of Seward. Snow and ice cover 60 percent of the park, and lining the edge 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 and icebergs the size of small houses.
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, bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ranger programs, flightseeing and mountaineering.
To see the 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 rugged coastline and 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 utilize a drop-off service from a tour boat to spend days paddling among icebergs in protected fjords.
The park is home to only a few trails and 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 backcountry adventure, the park is home to several remote public-use cabins and lodges accessible by boat during the summer months.
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, and to provide visitor access.
Kenai Fjords National Park includes 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 Ice Field is one of only four remaining ice fields in U.S. and is also the largest ice field entirely within U.S. borders. The park’s rugged coastline includes beautiful tidewater glaciers and abundant marine wildlife.
This seemingly harsh terrain is home to a diverse array of plants and animals. Land mammals such as black and brown bear, lynx, mountain goat, moose, porcupine, wolverine, 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 welcoming habitat for birds, where a total of 191 species have been documented.
Getting to Kenai Fjords National Park
Seward is 130 miles south of Anchorage and can be reached via the Seward Highway or the Alaska Railroad during the summer months. Many cruise ships also use Seward as a port-of-call. In Seward both tour boats and charter air services provide transport.
There are no fees for entrance to Kenai Fjords National Park or camping. There is a nightly fee for the park's three public-use cabins which should be reserved in advance.
Explore more of Alaska's national parks and public lands here.