An Alaskan Adventure: A Guide to Kenai Fjords NP

Kenai Fjords National Park should be a must-see on everyone's bucket list. From outdoor activities, such as whale watching and hiking, to experiencing a taste of the local cuisine and culture, there is something for every member of the family.

The iced Alaskan air rocked the boat as we sped into the abyss. "It's as if we are pirates exploring the seven seas," said the old man next to me with a cheeky grin. I nodded and smiled back. "Welcome to the Cove of the Spires," cheered Captain Sherry over the loudspeaker. Tourists flocked to the front of the 83-foot catamaran, nicknamed the Ocean Explorer, to witness not only the incredible landscape but the abundance of wildlife, including eagles, whales, and seals.

My Alaskan adventure began in Anchorage, where I experienced the city's unique urban scene, climbed local mountain ranges, and found hidden landscapes in the Bush. No trip to Alaska could be complete, however, without a visit to the iconic Kenai Fjords National Park – 607,000 acres of vibrant, dynamic, and truly wild scenery. Surprisingly, Kenai Fjords is Alaska's smallest national park. But, thanks to its accessibility and diverse offerings, it has become one of the most popular.

During the warmer months, Kenai Fjords is accessible by boat from Seward, a southern port city featuring a sea and wildlife center, world-class restaurants, and access to the only inland-accessible portion of the national park, Exit Glacier. Open year-round, the glacier offers family-friendly trails, stunning Alaskan landscapes, and the opportunity to witness up close how climate change has and continues to affect our world dramatically. From Seward, Exit Glacier is only about a 20-minute drive, making it the perfect complement to an afternoon on the water.

Pro tip: I recommend you go early, as the crowds near the glacier can be overwhelming during peak season. Also, be sure to bring a camera as the sun rises directly over the mountains, casting striking, contrasty shadows over the black, pebble earth. If you are looking for a gentle, history-filled hike, check out the Lower Trail. It's a 1.8-mile out-and-back trail that takes you directly to the front of the glacier and includes markers showing its' recession over the past century. While the trail is well-marked and well-maintained, remember it is still an ice-field  so I suggest you wear the proper footwear, dress in layers, and consider using trekking poles.

Once you are back in Seward, be sure to book a boat tour. This is an incredible opportunity to not only get out on the water but catch a glimpse into Alaska's diverse wildlife. From land to sea to sky, Alaska has an abundance of unique creatures. During my short trip alone, I saw moose, bears, whales, otters, and even snipes. Now, I don't know about you, but I, for one, thought that these were made-up creatures from the Disney movie Up – but as it turns out, they're real! Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to find, so it is always helpful to have an expert guide on hand.

Pro tip: Be proactive, do your research, and book your trip ahead of time. Some tours offer a delicious lunch inspired by local flavor, including cod, crab, and the iconic King salmon. If you have extra time, there are also multi-day cruises, allowing you to experience more by venturing deeper into the national park.

Kenai Fjords National Park should be a must-see on everyone's bucket list. From outdoor activities, such as whale watching and hiking, to experiencing a taste of the local cuisine and culture, there is something for every member of the family.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Maggie Kennedy

Maggie is a Chicago-born backpacker, content creator, and adventurer. She has a passion for visual and creative storytelling, exploring wild landscapes, and interacting with unique individuals.