6 Things to Do in Soldotna
Set on the Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna is paradise for anglers seeking trophy salmon and halibut. And when you’re not casting, the town offers an abundance of year-round Alaska vacation fun, from wildlife viewing and camping to lively festivals and a full roster of winter sports.
1. Fish for Salmon and Trout
At the Soldotna Visitor Center, find info for local guides who can help you choose your fishing adventure. Learn more about the iconic salmon runs on the Kenai River and connect with local fishing guides to help you hook legendary catches. From providing the equipment and gear to transportation and sportfishing licenses, expert guides make fishing in the Kenai River a breeze.
While at the visitor center, check out local Les Anderson’s 97-pound world-record Kenai River king salmon. Look for four types of salmon, including king, red, silver, and pink, that run May through November. Any time of the year, scour the water for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. Set up at one of the area campsites or venture down the easily accessible trails from nearby hotels, lodges, and RV parks. Embark on a floatplane fishing excursion to discover some of Alaska’s best hidden gems.
2. Camp on the Kenai
Cozy up to Mother Nature at one of the many accessible campsites, RV parks, and lodges that combine the best of the great outdoors with the comfort of Soldotna’s modern amenities. Known as a “wilderness in the city,” Centennial Park’s riverfront campsites include firepits and picnic tables. The Klondike RV Park & Cottages are located near the river and minutes from downtown.
Take time to explore the area’s many hiking and biking trails, suitable for every activity level. Stop to smell wildflowers along the trails or learn to forage for mushrooms and berries and marvel at Alaska’s renowned nature from the mile-long elevated Kenai River boardwalk. Although many trails are easy to navigate, local guides can help you find the best experiences for your ideal Alaska vacation, including birdwatching, bear-viewing, hiking, or canoeing trips. Visit the Pioneer Gardens and Purple Heart Memorial at Soldotna Creek Park for beautiful flower arrays and fluttering butterflies.
3. Explore the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Located between Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Kachemak Bay State Park, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to protect the region’s moose population. Today, it is Alaska’s most visited wildlife refuge and draws half a million visitors each year who come to fish, hike, and camp.
As you stroll the trails and overlooks, keep an eye out for moose, lynx, beaver, caribou, and other Alaska animals. The diverse terrain features alpine trees, boreal forests, rocky islands, and miles of lakes and rivers filled with king salmon and other fish. Paddle through the expansive waterways on the refuge’s canoe-trail system or take a guided fishing trip down the Kenai River. Choose from day trips, overnight fly-outs, or all-inclusive getaways to remote fishing lodges to truly experience the Soldotna-area wilderness. From fresh blankets of snow in the winter to days filled with 18 hours of sunlight in the summer, the refuge offers limitless outdoor activities year-round.
4. Jam at the Kenai River Festival
Celebrate life along the Kenai River at the annual Kenai River Festival in summer. The family-friendly event draws more than 8,000 visitors from across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond for the live music, food, and craft beverages. The KWF Kids Zone will entertain the little ones with hands-on, educational activities to teach kids about the river and its ecosystems. Beginners and competitive runners will enjoy the scenic views from the 5K and 10-mile Run for the River that supports the Kenai Watershed Forum’s conservation efforts.
Food vendors and brewers from across the state come to showcase their delectable bites and beers at the Alaska Artisans Market and beer and wine garden. The free, three-day music festival features more than 15 performances by rock, country, blues, and bluegrass artists. See why life on the Kenai Peninsula is worth celebrating at this uniquely Alaska event.
5. Experience Soldotna Progress Days
Live music, parades, and barbecue draw locals and visitors alike to the annual Soldotna Progress Days, held on the fourth weekend in July. The long-standing annual event celebrates the Soldotna community with a full weekend of family-friendly fun. The festivities include a community parade around town, arts and crafts vendors, and food kiosks. You’ll also find local crafts, dance performances, and high-speed car races. And if that’s not enough for you, add in concerts and a rodeo chock-full of events like bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, and more. Get ready for a weekend you’ll never forget!
6. Bundle up for Winter Activities
Soldotna has many places to sled, snowboard, snowshoe, or cross-country ski, but one surprising hot spot for winter recreation is Skyview Middle School. Behind the school you’ll find a hill for sledding and the entrance to manicured trails maintained by Tsalteshi Trails. This volunteer Nordic skiing association maintains more than 20 trails all year long, providing access for cross country skiers, runners, hikers and mountain bikers. Each winter, Soldotna Creek Park and A.R.C. Lake Park welcome skaters to their natural rinks.
Those brave enough to embrace the cold can enjoy frosty brews from the annual Frozen RiverFest in February. The outdoor festival draws brewers from across the state to the beer garden and has featured the likes of ski races, dog sledding, fat tire biking, snowmobiling, bonfires, regional cuisine, fireworks, and live-music performances.
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