Travel info to visit Kenai Fjords National Park (in 2022)

A journey to the Ice Age


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Seward, AK 99664, United States

GPS: 59.849228464397, -150.18687845269

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Visit Kenai Fjords National Park, which is located on the Kenai Peninsula, south of Alaska. Founded in 1980 on the fringes of the city of Seward, it is the smallest national park in this American state despite its vast area (4,500 km²). More than half of the surface of this protected area is covered with snow or ice all year round.

Meeting ground between the ocean, the fjords and the mountains, Kenai Fjords National Park has some 40 glaciers formed during the Last Glacial Period. The best known of them, Exit Glacier, rests in the Kenai Mountains through the Harding Icefield, the largest in the United States (2,800 km² including the many glaciers it feeds). However, the large coastal areas of Kenai Fjords National Park have been inhabited since ancient times by the Alutiiq. These native Amerindian people from Alaska, also called the Pacific Yupik or Sugpiaq, live mainly from fishing and move in wooden kayaks called anyaq. By basing its way of life on the cycle of the seasons, the Alutiiq succeed in taming the inhospitable areas of the Kenai Fjords region subject to great natural upheavals (glacier melt, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, harsh climate and strong temperature differences between the seasons). Thirty archaeological sites discovered in Kenai Fjords National Park suggest that the establishment of the first indigenous peoples dates back over 6,000 years.

The constantly changing Arctic landscape of Kenai Fjords National Park is particularly rich in wild habitats for the observation of marine fauna and migratory birds. Its coasts and the cold waters of the North Pacific are a breeding ground for large marine mammals such as seals, sea otters, orcas, Steller sea lions or gray whales and humpback whales. Excursions by boat or kayak offer the best conditions for observing the park’s wildlife while safely exploring the environment of the most remote fjords and glaciers. Obviously, the profusion of natural sites (glaciers, lush forests, coves, bays, capes and virgin islands) of Kenai Fjords National Park is an invitation to Ice Age adventure.

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  • The forty glaciers of the park including Bear Glacier (the most massive) and Exit Glacier (the only glacier in the park to be easily accessible by road then a network of short and marked paths)
  • Harding Icefield, the largest icefield in the park (more than 700 km²)
  • The wild coasts, coves and coastal fjords; the rock formations of Resurrection Bay and Porcupine Bay; the ephemeral waterfalls visible on rainy days
  • The day trips or cruises by boat from Seward; the hikes on Harding Icefield (12 km round trip Harding Icefield Trail) or along the bay (7 km Caines Head Trail)
  • Fishing (salmon), kayak (on Aialik Bay, Bear Glacier Lagoon, Resurrection Bay and Fox Island), ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, dog sled, mountaineering and panoramic flight; the whitewater rafting trip on Six Mile Creek (in the Chugach National Forest) ; the activities for children aged 4 to 12 offered by the park services (Ranger Junior program) ; the NPS Kenai Fjords Journal App for teenagers from 13 years of age
  • The marine fauna (whale, dolphin, penguin, fish, sea otter, seal, sea lion…) but also the populations of American black bear, grizzly bear, mountain goat, lynx, wolverine…; the presence of numerous migratory or marine birds (cormorant, puffin, bald eagle, peregrine falcon)…
  • The aquarium, the exhibits, the research and rehabilitation services of the Alaska SeaLife Center
  • The Seward’s Mount Marathon Race on July 4 and the traditional salmon fishing tournament in August (August Silver Salmon derby); The scenic roads of Seward Highway and Sterling Highway
  • The sublime landscapes of the Chugach National Forest, located north of Kenai Fjords National Park (between the cities of Seward and Anchorage); the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge based not far from the locality of Soldotna
  • In the 18th century, the Alutiiq people began trading with Russians established in Nanwalek (exchange of fur for tobacco, pearls and iron tools). This community of Amerindians, made up of several Yupik branches, was the victim of massacres by Russian settlers (including the Awa’uq Massacre in 1784).
  • The Seward region was the scene of a terrible earthquake in 1964 which devastated 90% of the city as well as many fjords. Its magnitude 9.2 is the largest ever recorded in human history, after the 1960 earthquake in Valdivia, Chile (magnitude 9.5).
  • Glaciers at Kenai Fjords National Park have tended to retreat sharply since the 2010s with heat temperatures recorded in the past three years. 2019 is the hottest year ever recorded in Alaska and the Bear Glacier has shrunk by almost a km in less than a year.
  • According to studies, global warming is twice as fast in this American state compared to the world average due to melting ice and rising temperatures in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Although Alaska’s glaciers account for less than 1% of of the world’s total land ice, the melting of its glaciers totals 7% of the water causing the rise in sea and ocean levels on the planet.
  • Privilege the months of May to September to go to the Kenai Peninsula, the roads can potentially close when covered with snow and ice.
  • Seward’s seaside resort, gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, is accessible by road (Seward Highway), by plane or by train from the city of Anchorage. Starting point for boat trips, the city of Seward can also be joined by sea from the west coast of the United States.
  • Remember to book your activities and accommodation in advance due to the small number of reception facilities.
  • When you arrive, go to one of the park’s information offices (in Seward or on the Exit Glacier Road) to find out the practicability of the trails (the most popular is the Harding Icefield Trail to be programmed on a whole day). Guided hikes are regularly organized by the park rangers (please bring warm clothes).
  • Although most of the glaciers and wild areas of Kenai Fjords National Park are difficult to access, Exit Glacier can be reached by road during the summer and in snowmobile, dog sleds, snowshoes and cross-country skiing during the winter.
  • In partnership with Google Earth, Kenai Fjords National Park is exploratory virtually on the web in the company of a National Park Service ranger who will make you walk on a glacier, descend a crevasse or even sail in a kayak through the icebergs.

Where to eat

  • Nature's Nectars
    (invigorating coffee)
  • Woody's Thai Kitchen
    (very tasty Thai food)
  • The Cookery
    (fresh and local food)

Where to go

  • Halibut Cove
    (floating village)
  • Kachemak Bay
    (great biological diversity)
  • Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor...
    (natural history museum)

Where to stay

  • Best Western Plus Edgewater...
    (very well located)
  • Seward Windsong Lodge
    (peaceful and family place)
  • Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge
    (in the middle of nature)

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