Travel & Recreation

Home | Destinations | Getaway Guides | Magazine Features | Great Drives | HotelGuide

Kenai & Soldotna- Alaska

Fjords, Glaciers, and Rivers

Peninsula Drives| Alaska Hotels | Camping

If you could visit only one part of Alaska by car or RV, we'd suggest a tour of the Kenai Peninsula. Kenai provides most of the scenic features of Alaska: fjords, glaciers and ice fields, large rivers filled with fish, sparkling lakes, fishing villages, port towns, and offshore islands.

The Kenai Peninsula is the most popular recreation area for Alaskans, close to Anchorage and easily accessible by high-quality paved roads. The Kenai Mountains form the backbone of the peninsula. The gigantic Harding Ice field dominates the southern region. Most of the peninsula is federal government nature preserve, including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Chugach National Forest, and Kenai Fjords National Park.

Originally inhabited by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, the area was settled by Russians who built a fort near Kasilof in 1786 and another fort at Kenai seven years later. Gold was discovered on Turnagain Arm, bringing the Alaska Railroad to the area in the 1920s. Oil was discovered off the west coast in 1957. Today, some 40,000 people are engaged in fishing, transportation, and tourist services.

Article continues below arow

Scenic Drives

The roads of the Kenai Peninsula beckon travelers to this unspoiled wilderness. The Seward Highway (127 miles, 204 km) linking Anchorage and Seward is a designated National Forest Scenic Byway. The Seward follows the north shore of Turnagain Arm, leading through Chugach State Park and the Chugach National Forest. Pods of beluga whales are often seen in the Arm. This long, narrow inlet has a extremely high tide which causes a tidal bore from time to time. The wall of water flooding into the Arm can be as high as six feet. The tidal bore is best seen between miles 32 and 37 on the Seward Highway, 2 1/4 hours after low tide in Anchorage.

The Whittier Access Road opened in 2000, with completion of the work on Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The 2.5-mile-long railroad tunnel has been modified to allow both vehicle and train traffic, making it the longest highway tunnel in North America. Before the tunnel, Whittier was accessible only by train overland. The Alaska Railroad will continue to operate passenger service between the Seward Highway and Whittier.

The new access road branches off the Portage Glacier Highway, goes through the Portage Lake Tunnel to a staging area near the tunnel entrance where the toll booths are located. The road provides some spectacular views of Portage Lake and Portage and Byron glaciers. The tunnel is closed to cars at times to permit the train to run through the tunnel. For details on the proposed toll schedule, vehicle size limitations and tunnel restrictions, and hours of operation go to the tunnel website, or dial the special phone line, at (877) 611-2586. Tolls for 2000 are $15 for an automobile, and $40 for a car with trailer or RV. books of toll tickets are available.

The Sterling Highway connects the southwestern communities on the peninsula with the Seward Highway, passing through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Chugach National Forest. Throughout the route are forest recreation sites, including many campsites within a mile or two of the highway, plus canoeing rivers, marshes, and wildlife sanctuaries.

There are three larger communities along the Sterling drive: Soldotna, neighboring Kenai, and Homer -- at the end of the drive. From Soldotna south, the highway follows the west coast of the peninsula, along the shore of Cook Inlet. Along the way are several small fishing villages and overlooks which offer great views (on sunny days) of the volcanic mountain peaks on the Alaska Peninsula across Cook Inlet.

Side Roads

There are several side roads which lead off the two main high ways to interesting old villages and fine scenery. The Alyeska Access Road provides access to Crow Creek Road and the historic Crow Creek Mine, which is open to visitors daily. This is a national historic site, with campground, ponds, and gardens, in the middle of the Chugach National Forest. Visitors may walk on the old Iditarod Trail, which has its head at the end of this backroad at Milk Creek. Also along the Alyeska access road is the community of Girdwood, an old mining camp. At the end of the road is the Alyeska Resort, Alaska's most popular ski and summer resort. The chair lift takes you above 3,000 feet for wonderful views of Turnagain Arm and several glaciers.

Another side-road drive takes you to Portage Glacier (at mile 48.1). We've mentioned the glacier before, and only need to remind you that this is one of the most accessible glaciers in the state.

A 17-mile side-road leads northwest from the Seward Highway (at mile 70.3) to the village of Hope (pop. 224). This is another historic mining community, founded in 1896 by prospectors who found gold on Resurrection Creek and several smaller creeks. This is a popular cottage area for Anchorage residents. Hope offers good fishing near the ocean, and has a cafe, store, and motel. Just beyond the present-day community is the original Hope townsite. Part of the town was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake.]Kenai

Kenai has been settled longer than any other community on the peninsula. The old town near Cook Inlet is a fascinating blend of Russian, early-American and modern development. The Kenai Historical Museum, housed in a replica of Fort Kenai, The features artifacts from the town's eras, including Russian icons, early photographs, and stone tools.

A walking tour of the old town starts from the Visitors Center, in "Moose meat" (John) Hedburg's Cabin at Main Street and Kenai Spur Road. (907) 283-7989. Next to the museum is Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1896. A good view of the mountains is seen from viewpoints on the bluff, via Mission Road. The Captain Cook State Recreation Area is a 1/2 hour drive, at the end of Kenai Spur Rd., with swimming, picnicking, canoeing, and fishing.

Soldotna is the most noted fishing spot in the area, where record-sized salmon are caught in the Kenai River. The Visitor Center, on the Sterling Highway (907) 262-1337, has information and displays. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is a huge (197 million acres) nature preserve which is a home for moose, Dall sheep, and other wildlife. There's a short nature trail near the visitor center, on Funny River Road, off Ski Hill Road. Several canoe routes thread through the forest and free maps of them are available at the visitor center.

Camping

Beluga Lookout RV Park
929 Mission Avenue, Kenai AK 99611
(907) 283-5999 or 800-745-5999
With great views of Cook Inlet and the Kenai River, this RV park offers full hookups, pull-through sites, cable TV, picnic tables, barbecue pits, showers, and laundry. The operation also has a fish cleaning station, freezers, and smokers.

Overland RV Park
Mile 11.5 Kenai Spur Highway, Kenai AK 99611
(907) 283-4512 or 283-4117 (winter)
Located in downtown Kenai, the Overland has level sites with pull-throughs, full hookups, restrooms, showers, laundry, and dump station. There's a gift shop in the office.

Where to Stay

 

Make Your Alaska Hotel Reservation On-line:

Click Here

To search hotels around the world,
go to the Hotel Guide

 

Custom Search

Alaska Guide:

Anchorage
Circle & Chena Hot Springs
Cordova
Deadhorse
Denali National Park
Fairbanks
Homer
Juneau
Katmai National Park & Preserve
Kenai Peninsula
Ketchikan
Kodiak
Palmer
Petersburg
Seward
Sitka
Skagway
Valdez
Wasilla

Wrangell

 

Home

Destinations
Alaska
Alberta
Arizona
British Columbia
California
Colorado
Florida
Idaho
Montana
Nevada
New Mexico
Oregon
South Carolina
Texas
Utah
Washington
Wyoming
Yukon

Great Drives
in the U.S. and Canada

Getaway Guides
Las Vegas | San Francisco | Reno
Lake Tahoe | Key West

Magazine - Features

Travel Resources

hotels/cars

Travel with Onroute.com

Special Guides: Las Vegas | San Francisco | Reno | Lake Tahoe | Key West

Home | Destinations | Great Drives | Special Guides | Magazine