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Aug 15, 2021| Top Activities & Things To Do

Top Things to Do in Kenai Fjords National Park

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There are many things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park despite nearly 51 percent of the terrain being covered in ice. It’s home to Harding Icefield, stretching for 700 square miles with ice up to a mile thick. it feeds more than 30 glaciers, which are the star of the show, but there are many other reasons to visit. Wildlife enthusiasts can look forward to watching everything from harbor seals, sea otters, Stellar sea lions, and whales in the water to mountain goats, moose, and bear on land. Puffins might whiz by you while bald eagles soar through the skies. 

Combined with stunningly scenic vistas, the photo-ops here are nearly endless. But, of course, it’s an outdoor adventurers’ haven too, with many recreational activities that can be enjoyed among the breathtaking scenery. Kenai Fjords hiking is truly out of this world. One thing is certain, you won’t be bored with a visit here, but you might have to narrow down your itinerary to squeeze it all in. This guide will help you decide where to go and what to do in the park to make the most of the time you have. 

Kenai Fjords vs. Resurrection Bay

Visitors can reach Exit Glacier by car, with the park entrance less than two miles from the town of Seward. If you don’t have your own vehicle, shuttle services, and taxis are available to get you here. But ideally, you’ll want to take a tour to optimize your time and take in as much as possible. When deciding which to take, the most important choice is whether you want to tour Resurrection Bay or take one that goes all the way into the park. 

A cruise on Resurrection Bay south of Kenai Fjords is shorter, five hours at most, and brings lots of opportunities to spot wildlife while plying the calm water. The downside is that while you might see glaciers, they’ll be far in the distance. On the other hand, the best Kenai Fjords tour not only brings you through Resurrection Bay but cruises into the park for a full day (around nine hours), bringing especially dramatic scenery and closer glacier sightings.

Things to Do in Kenai Fjords National Park

As mentioned, the list of things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park is long. To help make planning easier, here’s a look at the most popular activities and tours available. 

Kayaking

Kayaking in the ocean is a fabulous way to explore this unspoiled wilderness area, sneaking in quietly to avoid disturbing wildlife, unlike a noise-generating boat, which increases the odds of spotting animals on land and in the water. It’s a world-class experience to paddle among one of the state’s most scenic areas. Tours are open to all activity levels and age groups and often depart right from the Seward Boat Harbor via water taxi. From there, you’ll typically head to Aialik Bay which is close to Aialik Glacier, for the paddling portion of the trip, where you might hear the thundering sounds of a glacier calving in addition to unforgettable wildlife viewing.

Whale Watching

Cruises into Kenai Fjords National Park provide some of Alaska’s best whale watching opportunities, an experience like no other. While gray whales are only here in the spring, passing through the Gulf of Alaska on their annual migration, humpbacks and orcas are often here in large numbers from May through August and can be spotted anytime between April and October. Occasionally you might see minke or fin whales too. 

Wildlife Cruise

There are various cruise options, typically ranging between 3.5 and 8.5 hours, bringing the chance to discover wildlife in Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. Some cruises are designed for particular interests like bird watching and photography, and there are excursions with educational programs for the kids. The expert crew will search for animals like Dall porpoise, bald eagles, sea otters, harbor seals, stellar sea lions, and whales while providing full narration. If the weather cooperates, you might see alpine glaciers too. 

Glacier Landing

If you want to get even closer to a glacier, take a Glacier Landing tour. A 30-minute excursion, you’ll start with a bird’s-eye view in a helicopter, flying over the breathtaking landscape before getting out and touching the ice. There will be plenty of photo-ops too, and you won’t want to forget your camera. Helicopter tours can land on Bear or Godwin glaciers.

Flightseeing Tour

A flightseeing tour from Seward brings awe-inspiring views of Resurrection Bay, the Kenai Mountain Range, and glittering glaciers. You’ll see a lot more from above, with dramatic views that can include wildlife sightings too. You might spot a humpback whale lunge feeding or a brown bear fishing for salmon. A flight over the Harding Icefield provides a sense of just how vast it really is. 

Hiking

Hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the top experiences, particularly the Harding Icefield Trail. The 8.2-mile round trip trek leaves from the Exit Glacier area and features not only Exit Glacier, but forest, heather-filled meadows, Resurrection River, and a window into past ice ages, with a horizon of snow and ice stretching as far as the eye can see. Gaining 1,000ft every mile, this hike is strenuous, and it takes up to 10 hours to complete. 

Off-Season Activities

Winter begins early in Kenai Fjords National Park, generally in early November, with the snow sometimes lasting through May. When the road to Exit Glacier is closed, it’s accessible by snowmobile, cross-country skiing, fat bikes, and dog sledding. In the Exit Glacier Area, you’ll find a warming hut with benches and a wood stove. In addition, the National Park Service operates two visitor centers in Seward’s Small Boat Harbor and Exit Glacier, which are open from May 29 to September 6 from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

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