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.
FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid August
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What to do in Seward, Alaska
Hike Harding Icefield Trail 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
What/Where to Eat in Seward
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
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.
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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.
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