RV driving over a turquoise river in Alaska
Photo Credit: ATIA, Michael DeYoung

Kenai Peninsula Road Trip

Kenai Peninsula Road Trip

Strikingly beautiful, easily accessible, and packed with outdoor opportunities like fishing, hiking, rafting, and wildlife viewing, the Kenai Peninsula is an adventure playground the size of West Virginia. Take a road trip to explore the peninsula’s mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, and bays.

Day 1: Girdwood

Though not technically part of the Kenai Peninsula, the ski town of Girdwood sits right above the peninsula and makes a beautiful starting point for your scenic road trip. Girdwood is only a 45-minute drive from Anchorage along Turnagain Arm, but you could make that journey last several hours by stopping to photograph the views, watch the tide surge, catch a glimpse of a Dall sheep, or even hike one of the steep trails off the highway.

Filled with excellent restaurants (including one at the top of a aerial tram), mellow forest hiking trails, and a world-class resort, Girdwood is a place to relax, take in the incredible mountain and glacier views, and pamper yourself.

Day 2: Hope

Head south from Girdwood for the 50-mile drive to the former mining town of Hope, which sits on the far side of Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. The road makes sweeping curves along the coast before diving straight into the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula and taking you past Six Mile Creek, a popular whitewater rafting destination. Hope’s small museum pays homage to its gold rush roots, and you just can’t beat the combination of seaside views, friendly people, and live music that come together in Hope almost every weekend. Hiking and mountain biking are both popular pursuits in the nearby mountains.

Day 3: Seward

Seward is located another 75 miles down the road from Hope. Once an old railroad town, Seward is now Southcentral Alaska’s most popular port of call for visiting cruise ships. It's also the gateway to scenic Kenai Fjords National Park and home to the famous Mount Marathon race; the namesake mountain looms over the gridded downtown streets and small-boat harbor.

Take a half-day or full-day cruise through Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, where you’ll have a chance to see glaciers and wildlife like humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, and puffins, or make the 12-mile drive to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center and wander the easy trails near the toe of the glacier. If you have time, tackle the challenging hike past the glacier to the Harding Icefield, a sheet of ice that is one of the last remnants of the polar ice age.

Day 4: Kenai

Now that you’ve seen some of the prettiest scenery on the eastern half of the Kenai Peninsula, it’s time to head to the west side of the peninsula. It’s a 105-mile drive from Seward to the fishing town of Kenai. As you drive through the mountains, you’ll cross churning, salmon-choked rivers colored steel blue by silt from melting glaciers. Eventually, the mountains begin to give way and you emerge to a relatively flat, lake-pocked landscape. World-class salmon fishing, plenty of locally brewed beer, and a self-guided walking tour through “Old Town” all await your arrival in Kenai.

Day 5: Ninilchik & Homer

Take it slow as you make the 80-mile drive from Kenai to Homer, stopping to enjoy the wide vistas over Cook Inlet and the active volcanoes that line its far coast: Mounts Redoubt, Illiamna, and Augustine are readily visible. Take an hour to walk around the small town of Ninilchik and appreciate one of the most-photographed buildings on the Kenai Peninsula, the Russian Orthodox Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord chapel. As the road descends into Homer you’ll be treated to a wide panorama of Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit - all yours to explore for the next couple of days.

Day 6: Homer

Spend the day taking in Homer’s relaxed, salt-of-the-earth vibe. Wander the 4.5-mile Homer Spit and explore art galleries and gift shops, dine in the town’s fabulous cafes, and stop in at one of the iconic bars to lift a beer with the locals. If a day on the water sounds enticing, fishing charters and kayak tours are bountiful here, or you can take a water taxi across the bay to Kachemak Bay State Park to go hiking. In the evening, watch a play or listen to live music; Homer is as famous for its arts scene as for its fishing and its food.

Day 7: Seldovia

Take a day ferry across Kachemak Bay to tiny, forested town of Seldovia, only accessible by boat or plane. Here, you can walk one of the local hiking trails, visit the historical boardwalk, pick some wild berries to snack on, and visit the Russian Orthodox church. Take the afternoon ferry back to Homer, where you can either make the five- or six-hour drive to Anchorage tonight, or spend one more night in Homer before starting on your way back. 


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