Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park

Enjoy an Alaskan Escape in Kenai Fjords National Park

July 23, 2012, 11:32 am

Story and Photo By Heather Crowley

Alaska is the largest state in the union, one of the most remote and in the running for most beautiful. Perhaps the last true wilderness in the country, Alaska contains a coastline 50 percent longer than both the east and west coast of the lower 48 combined, which provides some of the most stunning areas for outdoor exploration. Home to the most acreage of national parks in the country, the Alaskan clientele, and native wildlife, is slightly more rugged than your average.

When traveling to Alaska, it is important to keep in mind that most national parks are not within close proximity to one another and not always accessible by car. The vast, open spaces require you to plan your travel ahead of time. Some locations are only reachable by boat, airplane, dogsled, bus, rail or other means of transportation that require prior arrangements.

Situated on the Kenai Peninsula in Southern Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park plays an important role in protecting and preserving resources that cannot be found in any other location on earth. If youa re coming from Anchorage, be sure to drive the Seward Highway for spectacular mountian views. The town of Seward acts as a gateway to the park and the little maritime town provides a perfect spot to grab a tour.

The only way to see most of Kenai Fjords National Park is by boat. Hop one of the tour boats that depart from Seward and cruise out along the waters of Resurrection Bay. Depending on the landmarks you’d like to see, you can choose the length and route of your tour. With tours ranging in length from a few hours to a full day, be prepared to take in views of Bear Glacier’s massive scope. You’ll get the opportunity to spot humpback whales, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, Stellar sea lions and much more. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance! Both Major Marine and Kenai Fjords Tours offer tours with NPS park ranger narrations.

Indigenous to the icy waters of Seward, species such as the Stellar sea lion faced extinction not long ago in the 1960s. In 1980, the area received government protection and now acts as a crucial protected habitat where threatened and endangered species can rebound.

If a boat tour does not suit your fancy, there is another part of the park you can explore. Get up close to one of the most intense portions of the park that does not require a boat: Exit Glacier. From the Nature Center, hike the 1.2-mile Edge of Glacier Trail to stand feet away from the hulking, blue ice. The moderately strenuous hike is worth the effort when you stand next to the massive, ancient Exit Glacier. The air coming off the glacier feels as if someone left a giant freezer door open, which you can feel when you’re 75% of the way up the trail. Experts estimate that the glacier may be completely gone in a century.

Another option is to take a flightseeing tour over the vast expanse that is the otherworldly 300 square mile Harding Ice Field. The field falls within the boundaries of the park and is home to 38 glaciers. Be sure to plan this in advance.

The key to having a great time in Alaska: be patient and be prepared. Make reservations ahead of time when possible and bear in mind that sometimes the weather won't always be perfect. For more information on planning, visit Travel Alaska. And while you're there, don't forget to use Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder to help you discover even more amazing park locations.

Comments

It's been almost ten years since our visit to Alaska.  We were blessed with good weather most of the week.  On the last full day of our trip, we explored Seward in the morning, took a 4-hour Resurrection Bay tour in the afternoon, hiked the Exit Glacier trail in the waning hours of the day, and enjoyed the Northern Lights as we returned to Anchorage in preparation for flying home the next day.  Even now it remains fresh in our minds as one of the best days ever.  We recommend it!