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 at the foot 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 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 coast. 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. Terrestrial animals, such as black and brown bear, beaver, coyote, mountain goat, river otter, moose, gray wolf and wolverine, cover the land, while marine life is as diverse. The glacial waters are home to sea otters, porpoises, sea lions, harbor seals and whales. The park is also a welcoming habitat for birds, where a total of 191 species have been documented in the park.
Both roadside and backcountry visitors can find enjoyable activities in Kenai Fjords National Park. Activities include kayaking, camping, public use cabins, fishing, beach combing, bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, boat tours, ranger programs, flightseeing and mountaineering.
To see the tidewater glaciers and the park's abundant marine wildlife visitors, take advantage of tour-boat cruises along the coast, dipping into such sizable fjords as Aialik Bay, Northwestern Lagoon, McCarty Fjord and North Arm, as well as sailing beneath mountains exceeding 6000ft in height. Possible wildlife sights from the side of a vessel range from sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals and Dall's porpoises to Orcas, minke, humpback and fin whales. For the truly adventurous, the coastal fjords are a blue-water kayaker's dream and many utilize a drop-off service from a tour boat to spend days paddling projective fjords.
Hikers can ascend to views of the Harding Icefield from a trail at Exit Glacier, and experienced mountaineers equipped with skis, ice axes and crampons can continue on to explore the icefield. Icefield crossings, which take successful mountaineers up to two weeks to complete, or the eight-mile Harding Icefield Trail, are popular options for visitors.