Fun in the Fjords: Kenai Fjords National Park

Published: February 20, 2023

Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska’s prettiest and most popular natural wonders, in large part because it offers so many of the special features that make Alaska adventures so unique and memorable. Here, you can find a variety of journeys on land and water, like getting close-up views of grand glaciers, landscapes of lush green trees and whitecapped granite mountains, and the state’s wonderful wildlife, aquatic animal attractions, and shorebirds. Visitors can fit a lot into in a day trip or spread out their park exploration and exhilaration with multiday excursions, whether solo, in tour groups, or a combination of both.

Another great lure of the Kenai Fjords is its accessibility: potential park visitors starting in Southcentral Alaska’s travel hubs are just an easy self-drive or shuttle/bus ride, or steady and scenic train trip, away. Yet, once there, visitors can quickly sense the feeling of being in Alaska’s remote and remarkable wild.

a tour boat watching a pod of humpback whales bubble net feeding in Kenai Fjords National Park

Bubble net feeding whales in Kenai Fjords National Park (James Pfeiffenberger/NPS)

Seward and Exit Glacier

At first view, the fjords are fascinating finds – welcoming valleys left behind after being carved by massive glaciers which now provide modern aquatic adventures of glacier and wildlife viewing, kayaking and fishing. But there’s so much more here, so a first stop should be in the quaint port town of Seward, the gateway to the park’s many offerings and home to the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center.

Unexpectedly, inland on the outskirts of Seward is one of the park’s biggest draws: Exit Glacier, which visitors can literally drive and walk up to. The receding glacier is quite the sight for those who can get so close they can literally feel cold air coming from its ice. There are walks and hikes for all levels of fitness and curiosities here. For the adventurous, a hearty hike above Exit Glacier, whether taken alone or guided, leads to an unforgettable overlook of the Harding Icefield, which looks like a massive river of ice that feeds into the nearby sea. On a clear, sunny day, the view is mind-blowing. Even more thrilling views and moments await those who take ice outings with the experts onto the great glacier field.

Outdoor enthusiasts who don’t mind a little exercise on their Alaska vacation should consider our 8 hour Exit Glacier Hike. During this guided hike from Seward, you’ll follow a scenic trail to Exit Glacier with is a mixture of back-country and on-trail hiking. The elevation gain is about 1500 feet and the view from the top of the glacier is stunning.

a couple talks to a park ranger in front of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

A Visit to Exit Glacier, a short drive from Seward (Kent Miller/NPS)

Cruising Kenai Fjords

While the Exit Glacier experience is a blast, it’s really a prelude to the park’s greatest features, which is its water-set wonders. Getting to the heart of the park is a breeze: depart Seward on a cruise boat for glacier-and-wildlife viewing day trips (Whales! Porpoises! Otters! Puffins!), or for those sightseeing sensations and transit to one of the area’s wilderness lodges. Day trips out of Seward run from four to eight hours, usually include food, and come with bonus history and geography lessons of the area.

Interested nature enthusiasts should check out our 6 hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise or the longer, 7 hour Northwestern Fjord Glacier and Wildlife Cruise, both available starting out of Seward. If you’re travel plans leave you with a free day in Anchorage, consider our 15 hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise from Anchorage which includes round-trip motor coach transportation from Anchorage to Seward in addition to the day cruise through Kenai Fjords.

a day-cruise vessel with tourists near the tidewater Holgate Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

A glacier cruise near Holgate Glacier in Kenai Fjords (James Pfeiffenberger/NPS)

Relaxing Wilderness Lodge Stays

Spending a few days and overnights at the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on Fox Island or Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge along Pedersen Lagoon add greatly to the experience of the fantastic fjords. Hiking, kayaking and guided small boat trips take visitors around the area for a more intimate park perspective, followed by a big dose of Alaska hospitality as lodge staff treat them to area-inspired meals and cozy accommodations.

Of course, with so many ways to do so many things in the Kenai Fjords, departing visitors will find themselves soon yearning for a return to repeat their highlights as well as expand their explorations to new areas and adventures in the region.

Kayaking in Pedersen Lagoon (Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge)