Alaskans know the Kenai is called Alaska’s playground for a reason. From dipnetting and fishing charters to wildlife viewing, hiking, and camping the Kenai offers so much to do! This #playcation itinerary is a multi-day excursion along the Sterling Highway from Anchorage to Homer and back. You can do this trip in four days, or spread it out to explore at your own pace.
From Anchorage, head down the Seward Highway Alaska Scenic Byway. There’s always time to stop to look for Dall sheep and belugas – or to stop in Girdwood for a quick bite. But this day is all about the water and wildlife! If you’re looking for a wild ride, take a guided river rafting trip down the Sixmile River near Hope and its Class V rapids – or, take a more leisurely float down the Kenai River out of Cooper Landing. While in Cooper Landing, explore the area’s Native heritage at the K’Beq Heritage Site, then in the evening, drive the Skilak Lake Road to look for wildlife in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Camp near Skilak over night or overnight in a lodge in Cooper Landing.
Today is about exploring the roads less taken, and you’ll have plenty of options! Head down the Sterling Highway toward Sterling and the Swanson River Road. Paddlers will love to explore the Swanson River Canoe trail, which is accessed at the end of Swanson River Road and the Swan Lake Canoe Trail at the end of Swan Lake Road. These canoe trails can easily take a day or more to explore.
Another side trip is the Kenai Spur Highway from Soldotna. Stop by Old Town Kenai and the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center, where you can find out about even more of the area’s hidden gems. The Kenai Spur Highway will loop you back to the Sterling Highway via Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof. Stop to look for birds and have a picnic lunch at the Kenai River Flats State Recreation Site.
Back on the Sterling Highway, stop in Ninilchik for stunning views of Cook Inlet and the original Ninilchik town site from the grounds of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church, then head down the Anchorage River Beach Road to Anchor Point State Recreation Area to look for bald eagles and have your photo taken at the most westerly point of the U.S. Highway System.
Continue on to Homer and overnight at a lodge or campground.
The world – or at least Homer – is your oyster today! Take a morning fishing charter, head across Kachemak Bay for a day of hiking in Kachemak Bay State Park, or fly to Katmai or Lake Clark National Park for a day of bear viewing. Wander the shops along the spit or explore the exhibits at the Pratt Museum (check for current hours). Although the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center is not currently open, you can still wander the interpretive Beluga Slough Trail down to Bishop Beach and look for shorebirds.
Homer to Hope. Heading back up the Sterling Highway, stop to see some of the sights you may have missed on your way. Stop for a picnic lunch at Tern Lake, the junction of the Sterling and Seward highways, before continuing north on the Seward Highway. You’re not done with your adventure yet! Turn down the 18-mile Hope Road at Milepost 56.3 of the Steward Highway to reach the historic community of Hope. Stretch your legs hiking the Gull Rock trail or check out part of the Resurrection Pass Trail, a 39-mile backcountry trail that connects Hope and Cooper Landing. Have dinner at a local restaurant, then overnight at local cabins or camp at Chugach National Forest Porcupine Campground before heading back to Anchorage in the morning.