Kenai Fjords National Park/Seward, Alaska Guide


Seward, Alaska, located about 2 hours southwest of Anchorage, is the entry to Kenai Fjords National Park.  This national park is well-known for it’s hiking, most notably the Harding Icefield trail, and vast wildlife.  We recommend spending 2-3 days in Seward to allow enough time to explore the park.  Here is our quick guide on visiting Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, Alaska. 

Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid August

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to do in Seward, Alaska


Hike Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park

Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

This is truly the hike of a lifetime.  If you only do one hike in Alaska, do this one.  Not only is it unforgettable for us because of the pristine and diverse scenery along the trail but also because it is the trail where we got charged by a bear.  See Top 5 Most Picturesque Alaska Hikes and What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear posts for more details on this hike. 

This hike is 8.2 miles round trip with 3,812 feet of elevation gain. Add a mile if you hike to the base of glacier before or after.

Harding Icefield Trail

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Visit the base of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

As an alternative or in addition to hiking the Harding Icefield trail, you can hike a shorter, less than 1 mile, trail to the base of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park.  As you hike on this trail, it is very interesting, yet sad,  to see the Glacier recession points over time.  

Base of Exit Glacier

Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

Other than hiking the Harding Icefield trail and visiting Exit Glacier, take a boat trip is the best way to access Kenai Fjords National Park.  On our 6 hour day tour, we saw an active glacier as well as a lot of wildlife including orca whales, humpback whales, puffins, sea lions, seagulls and sea otters.  No wildlife sightings are guaranteed but the tour companies–through knowing the areas well, using binoculars and communicating with other ships in the park–make their best effort to find as many sightings as possible.  There are several different companies you can use for a tour but Major Marine tours has some of the best online reviews and is the only one with a National Park Ranger aboard. 

Wild Sealions in Kenai Fjords National Park

Major Marine Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

Tip: We recommend doing a full day tour that goes further out into the national park, past the protected Resurrection Bay waters.  You get to go to an active glacier and are more likely to see wildlife on these longer tours.  However, if you easily get motion sick, like Natalie, you may consider doing a half day tour that stays within the protected waters.  Natalie did feel queasy at times on the full day tour, but she felt the motion sickness was worth the extra wildlife and glacier views. See How to Prevent Motion Sickness While Traveling and Flying.


Hike to Vagt Lake

Vagt Lake outside of Seward, Alaska

This trail was so serene and felt untouched by human activity.  The trail takes you through a beautiful forest before bringing you to the secluded Vagt lake.  While hiking on this trail, we saw no other people but certainly thought we were going to see a bear with how much bear scat we saw along the trail and the heavy foliage around it. Make sure you are very “bear aware” here.  (See What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear post.)  This out and back hike is about 3.2 miles and there is an option to loop around the lake that totals a little over 4 miles.

Vagt Lake trail

Tip: This trail was exceedingly hard to find.  It is not marked on google maps, not in the All Trails App and there are no signs on the Seward Highway to indicate where to exit to get to it.  If you google Vagt Lake, the trailhead slightly south of the lake and just off the Seward hiking, south of Lower Trail Lake.  It may take a bit of searching to find the trailhead but we think it is worth it.

Vagt Lake Hike


What/Where to Eat in Seward


Fresh Salmon

We got some fresh, locally caught salmon from the grocery store in Seward which we prepared at our Air B n B cabin.  This salmon was so fresh and delicious, we highly recommend buying locally caught fish. Since our Air B n B had a full kitchen, we did not eat any meals out in Seward so we do not have any restaurant recommendations here. 

Tip: We really enjoyed having a full kitchen and being able to make our own food, especially after some long days of hiking. We recommend accommodations where you can do your own cooking.  


Where to Stay when visiting Kenai Fjords National Park


Cabin Mile Marker 23

Where to stay near Kenai Fjords National Park

Cabin Mile Marker 23 was exactly the rugged yet charming cabin we always envisioned staying at on an Alaskan adventure.  This cabin is not modern by any means but that adds to its Alaskan charm. Further, the location of this cabin is convenient yet offers the solitude most people are seeking when they travel to America’s Last Frontier. This cabin is tucked away in the woods and feels remote even though it was located right off of the main Seward highway, only about 20 minutes north of Seward.  Also, the kitchen here had everything we needed and there plenty of space to relax throughout the cabin. We found this to be the perfect place to unwind and cook after some long days of hiking and exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. We recommend this cabin for any Alaskan adventures near Seward and would stay here again without hesitation.

Book your first Airbnb using this link for up to $65 off your first stay


We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park.  Anything else you’d add to our Kenai Fjords National Park guide?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment! For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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Top Alaska Hikes near Anchorage


As “The Last Frontier”, there is no shortage of excellent hikes in Alaska. And many of those top Alaska hike are in the Anchorage area. Here is a list of our top 5 most picturesque hikes within 2 hours of Anchorage.

FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid August

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


1. Harding Icefield Trail at Kenai Fjords National Park

8.2 miles round trip, add a mile if you hike to the base of Exit glacier before or after, 3,812 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Harding Icefield Trail

This hike is one of our favorite trails and the most memorable hike we have ever completed.  The trail is most notably unforgettable because we got charged by a mama black bear (protecting her 3 cubs) while hiking on it (see post on What you can Learn from Being Charged by a Bear).  However, this hike is also very memorable because of the beautiful and breathtaking scenery along the trail. 

The base of this trail is wooded and then after about 1.5 miles, the trail opens up to meadows filled with beautiful fireweed flowers (typically start blooming in August).  Through this stretch of the hike, you are rewarded with glorious views of the mountains and valley below.   Eventually, the trail opens up to the Icefield that stretches as far as you can see.  This view is truly incredible and pictures do not do it justice. 

If you do only one hike in Alaska, this is the one to do.  The various landscapes changing throughout the hike (forest->meadow->mountainous->glacier) make each section unique. It’s the hike of a lifetime. Be aware, though, that this is a steep trail as you gain about 1,000 feet of elevation every mile.  Be sure you have enough water and food with you. (See Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, Alaska Quick Guide for more tips on this area).

Various landscapes seen on the Harding Icefield Trail

Tip: If possible, start hiking this trail early, before 10am.  On our midweek hike, we started around 9am and had minimal traffic hiking out (likely contributed to our bear encounter) but hiking back, there was a lot of more traffic.  

Harding Icefield Trail

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


2. Portage Pass Trail at Portage Glacier

4 miles round trip, 1,578 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Portage Pass Glacier

We found this hike to be very serene and rewarding.  It takes you to the base of Portage Glacier outside of Whittier.  For approximately the first mile on this trail, you climb to the top of a pass that affords you views of Portage Glacier.  The next mile, you descend until you are at the base of the Glacier. 

Tip:  If you can stay overnight in Whittier and start this hike early, we would recommend it. The trailhead is located very close to the tunnel entrance on the Whittier side. When we started our hike, we were the only car at the trailhead/the only ones on the trail.  Most other people were not on the trail at that time because, if coming from outside of Whittier, they had to wait for the tunnel to open at approximately 9:30am to let them through to Whittier. We really enjoyed having this trail to ourselves and being at the base of the glacier alone was so serene.  Make sure to go Kayaking in Whittier if you have time for it. (See Whittier, Alaska Quick Guide

Portage Pass Trail


3. North Face Trail at Alyeska Resort

2.2 miles one-way, take tram down, 1,998 feet of elevation gain

Alyeska North Face Trail Top Alaska Hikes near Anchorage
Alyeska North Face Trail

This is a challenging hike but the views of the mountain range are awesome and at the end, you have the option to take the tram down (for free) instead of hiking back down.  This ride down is an awesome reward after a challenging and steep hike. The trail is located north of Girdwood, which is a fun, small town to explore before or after your hike as well.

North Face Trail at Alyeska


4. Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park

3.3 mile hike round trip, 1,430 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Flattop Mountain Top Alaska Hikes near Anchorage
Flattop Mountain Trail

This trail is another challenging yet rewarding and relatively short hike located within 15 minutes of Anchorage. To reach the top, you have to do quite a bit of scrambling but as long as you feel comfortable doing this, you will be rewarded with stunning views and learn why they call it “Flattop Mountain.”  The views are worth the scramble and if lucky, you may get to witness a local daredevil parachute from the top.  This hike is a very popular, and sometimes crowded, trail but do not let that discourage you. 

Flattop Mountain Trail


5. Twin Peaks Trail at Eklutna Lake

5 miles roundtrip. 1,879 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Twin Peaks and Eklunta Lake, Top Alaska Hikes near Anchorage
Eklunta Lake View (Left) and Twin Peaks View (Right)

This trail is another one of our favorite Alaska hikes with 2 different great views–the Ekluntna lake view and Twin Peaks. Eklutna lake is so beautiful and such a unique shade of blue. The Twin Peaks view is also stunning and you might see mountain sheep along the peaks like we did.  On our mid-week hike, we saw less than 10 people total on this hike and found it to be very peaceful.   

Tip: Hike to the 1st bench (Ekluntna lake view) and then to the 2nd bench (Twin Peaks view). You can continue further on the trail but this was where we turned around to make a 5 mile round trip hike. 

Twin Peaks Trail


Bonus Hike: April Bowl in Hatcher Pass

2.2 miles round trip, 856 feet of elevation gain

Hatcher Pass Trail, Top Alaska Hikes near Anchorage
Hatcher Pass Trail

This hike is in the very scenic Hatcher Pass. On this hike, you climb to the turquoise tarn called April Bowl, before continuing up the ridge to Hatch Peak (4.811 feet above sea level). This hike rewards you with amazing views of the mountain range in the area.  You’ll feel like you are on top of the world. 

Tip: Be aware that it takes longer to drive to this area than you would expect as the road that leads to it has a lot of winding roads/steep areas. 

April Bowl Pass


We hope this blog post helps you plan your next hike in Alaska. Any other hikes you would add to our list?  We’d love to hear your feedback or questions.  Please leave us a comment!  For more Alaska information, please see Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Guide.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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