The Ultimate Guide To Kenai Fjords National Park

The Ultimate Guide To Kenai Fjords National Park

Alaska
The Ultimate Guide To Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park, home to unfathomably beautiful nature, is one of the Nation's splendid national parks!

Kenai Fjords National Park, comprised of several glaciers, icefields, a beautiful coastline, lush forests, and abundant wildlife, is a world of beautiful nature! 

Kenai Fjords National Park, located on the Kenai Peninsula in southcentral Alaska, is home to a monumental tract of land featuring a surreal glaciated landscape comprised of several fjords, approximately forty glaciers, many small islands, forested lands, icefields, and numerous sea & land animals! The Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park, named after President Warren G. Harding, is one of the most expansive ice fields in the US and also the most popular attraction of Kenai Fjords National Park!

Kenai Fjords National Park, once sparsely occupied by the Native Americans who used the area for fishing, hunting, logging, and mining, was first designated as a National Monument in 1978 and later redesignated as a National Park in 1980 to preserve and protect the natural resources, wildlife, and the innate beauty of the area. The landscape at Kenai Fjords National Park continues to be shaped by glacial actions and tectonic uplifts and has suffered two major catastrophic events – a major earthquake in 1964 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, impacting the pristine shorelines of Kenai Fjords. However, the Park has made a significant recovery since then and is now open for tourism! 

Hike the couple of trails at Exit Glacier and enjoy the rugged shoreline and glaciers on board a day cruise or a scenic flight!  

Seward, the closest town to Kenai Fjords National Park, is located about 130 miles south of Anchorage and serves as a perfect base for a trip to Kenai Fjords National Park. The Exit Glacier is the Park’s only section accessible via automobile and has two maintained hiking trails, but the rest of Kenai Fjords National Park is best explored from the fjord using a boat tour or by air using helicopter rides, most of them departing from the town of Seward. If you’re looking for more adventure, you could also go kayaking the pristine waters of the fjord or go backpacking on the Harding Icefield! 

Here is my ultimate guide to Kenai Fjords National Park, featuring essential trip-planning information, best ways to explore Kenai Fjords National Park, including day cruises, train rides, & scenic flights, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Kenai Fjords National Park!

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Planning Your Trip To Kenai Fjords National Park

Planning Your Trip To Kenai Fjords National Park

Visiting outside the brutal winter months, flying into Anchorage and then driving or taking a train to Seward, staying overnight at Seward, and taking one of the day cruises is the best way to explore Kenai Fjords National Park! 

Best Time To Visit Kenai Fjords National Park: Winters are pretty long and brutal in Alaska, and unless you’re going skiing or snowmobiling, you should avoid winter and spring for sightseeing and outdoor activities in Kenai Fjords National Park or anywhere in Alaska. Summer, particularly June through August, is the peak season in Alaska, with most cruises and parks open for the season. However, summer is also the busiest season, and a summer trip to Alaska or Kenai Fjords National Park should be planned ahead of time. If you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures, visiting during the shoulder months, May & September, is a great way to beat the crowd at Kenai Fjords National Park.

Time Required At Kenai Fjords National Park: One of the most popular ways to explore Kenai Fjords National Park is onboard a day cruise departing from Seward that takes anywhere between 4 to 9 hours based on the type of cruise you choose. However, there’s a lot more to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, including a couple of fabulous hikes at the Exit Glacier, kayaking, and scenic flights, so I highly recommend spending a minimum of a couple of days at Kenai Fjords National Park. If you’re pressed for time or wish to just do the day cruise at Kenai Fjords National Park and are driving to Seward or taking a train to Seward from Anchorage, I would still recommend staying overnight at Seward. 

Getting To Kenai Fjords National Park: The best and most convenient way to get to Kenai Fjords National Park is by flying into Anchorage International Airport and driving or taking a train to the town of Seward. 

  • Flight: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), Anchorage, Alaska, located approximately 125 miles from Seward, is the closest international airport to Kenai Fjords National Park.
  • Train: The Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic route offers seasonal services to Seward, which takes about 4 hours 30 minutes and is a great sightseeing experience in itself.
  • BusThe Park Connection offers motorcoach trips to Seward from Anchorage on its Seward Express route and takes about 3 hours.

Guided Tours Of Kenai Fjords National Park: There’re primarily three guided tour options in Kenai Fjords National Park (1) Kenai Fjords National Park Day Cruises offered by – Alaska CollectionKenai Fjords Cruise, and Major Marine Tours (2) Helicopter Tours with ice field landing offered by Alpine Air Alaska and Seward Helicopters, and (3) Guided Kayak Tours offered by Sunny Cove Kayaking and Kayak Adventures Worldwide.

Lodging & Dining Near Kenai Fjords National Park: While camping is definitely an option at Kenai Fjords National Park, you will also find quite a few good hotels and bread & breakfasts in the town of Seward, which serves as a great base when visiting Kenai Fjords National Park. Most of the Kenai Fjords National Park day cruises offer lunch and have concessions onboard, but you will also find a decent amount of restaurants and local eateries in the town of Seward. In a later section of this post, I have reviewed the lodging and dining options near Kenai Fjords National Park in detail.

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Things To Do In Kenai Fjords National Park

Things To Do In Kenai Fjords National Park

While the day cruises are the most popular & comfortable way to explore Kenai Fjords National Park, you could also hike a couple of trails at Exit Glacier, go kayaking, or take a scenic flight at Kenai Fjords National Park!

Exit Glacier: Located about 12 miles northwest of Seward, Exit Glacier is the only section of Kenai Fjords National Park that’s accessible by road and is home to two maintained hiking trails in the Park. The Exit Glacier is a valley glacier extending out from the Harding Icefield, which has significantly receded over time due to climate change and global warming, which is clearly visible while hiking the trails at Exit Glacier. Exit Glacier has a Nature Center featuring a few exhibits related to the area, an information desk, and a campground with 12 primitive tent campsites. Exit Glacier is most popular for its two hiking trails – 

  • Glacier Overlook Trail: Featuring spectacular panoramic views of Exit Glacier, the Glacier Overlook Trail is a 2.2 miles moderately strenuous roundtrip hike starting near the Exit Glacier Nature Center.
  • Harding Icefield Trail: The most popular trail at Exit Glacier, the Harding Icefield Trail is a strenuous 8 miles roundtrip hike starting near the Exit Glacier Parking lot, featuring forested land and impressive views of the Harding Icefield with year markers along the trail highlighting the receding glacier. 

Kenai Fjords National Park Day Cruise: The sightseeing day cruises departing from Seward are the most popular and comfortable way to explore Kenai Fjords National Park as they feature spectacular views of the deep fjord, waterfalls, towering rock walls, wildlife, and close up views of the glaciers, all in the comfort of heated decks and ample open viewing space on the bow, aft and promenade decks on both sides of the ship. Several different sightseeing day cruises are offered at Kenai Fjords National Park, including Kenai Fjords Tour with Fox Island, Resurrection Bay Tours, Northwestern Fjord Tours, and Whale Watching Tours. These tours last anywhere between 4 – 9 hours based on the tour you select and generally include a meal. 

There’re primarily three tour companies that offer day cruises of Kenai Fjords National Park, and while we used Alaska Collection and have firsthand experience of their Kenai Fjords National Park Tour, the other tour companies also follow an almost similar route and offer a similar experience. Here’s the list of companies that offer sightseeing cruises of Kenai Fjords National Park – 

Kenai Fjords National Park Kayak Tours: if you’re up for an adventure, there’s nothing better than paddling the pristine waters of Kenai Fjords National Park and exploring some of the untouched areas of the fjord and the rugged coastline. However, navigating the bay requires proper gear and knowledge of the area, and I highly recommend using one of the guided kayak tours offered by – Sunny Cove Kayaking or Kayak Adventures Worldwide.

Kenai Fjords National Park Scenic Flights: Undeniably, the helicopter rides with ice field landing is a lifetime experience and one of the best ways to explore the glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park! Alpine Air Alaska and Seward Helicopters offer a variety of helicopter tours departing from Seward, including short 30 minutes Ocean & Glaciers Tours, Glacier Landing Tours, and extended Glacier Tours along with Dog Sledding.

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Lodging & Dining In Kenai Fjords National Park

Lodging & Dining In Kenai Fjords National Park

The town of Seward, with several lodging & dining options, serves as a great base on a trip to Kenai Fjords National Park!

Campgrounds In Kenai Fjords National Park: The camping options in Kenai Fjords National Park are limited to its one campground located in Exit Glacier featuring approximately 12 primitive tent campsites, which are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. There are a few campgrounds in the nearby Chugach National Forest which can be reserved online on recreation.gov. If you’re looking for more adventure, you could also go backpacking on the Harding Icefield, but be advised it’s no ordinary backpacking trip and requires proper preparation and carrying appropriate camping equipment for your safety and wellbeing. 

Hotels Near Kenai Fjords National Park: If camping is not your thing and you prefer the comfort of a hotel room, you can stay in one of the hotels in the town of Seward. Though you may not find luxury hotels and resorts in Seward, there are quite a few decent bread & breakfasts and a few hotels. Here’re my top picks for hotels near Kenai Fjords National Park – 

Restaurants Near Kenai Fjords National Park: Most of the sightseeing day cruises of Kenai Fjords National Park last about 4 – 8 hours and include freshly prepared meals served on board along with concessions serving beverages and snacks. However, you will find several charming local eateries serving fresh and delicious seafood in the town of Seward. Here’re my top picks for restaurants near Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward – Ray’s Waterfront for great seafood with excellent views, The Highliner Restaurant for comfort food and seafood, Woody’s Thai Kitchen for authentic Thai food, and Apollo Restaurant for Mediterranean food.

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The Ultimate Guide To Kenai Fjords National ParkI hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Kenai Fjords National Park, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Kenai Fjords National Park. You can find other Alaska attractions in my Alaska Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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