The Kenai Peninsula offers Alaska’s widest variety of activities in one of its most accessible regions. People come from all over the world to whale watch in Seward, see glaciers calve in Kenai Fjords National Park, fish for halibut in Homer, and explore the backcountry around Cooper’s Landing. The area provides locals and visitors with quintessential Alaska wilderness just a couple of hours from Anchorage.
The Kenai Peninsula consists of more than 16,000 square miles of rugged mountains, fjords, rivers, and forests. With two main highways and towns scattered along the roads, exploring the region is relatively easy compared to other parts of the state. More, the Kenai’s coastal climate is considerably less harsh than interior Alaska. Summer beckons with world-class hiking, kayaking, and fishing; the winter is great for backcountry skiing. Despite the convenience, the Kenai Peninsula actually gets fewer visitors than Denali National Park. If you must pick between the two, we recommend the Kenai.
Kenai Quick Facts
Location: Southern coast of Alaska, beginning 50 miles south of Anchorage
Size: 8,600 square miles, about the size of New Jersey
Access: The Seward Highway extends 130 miles from Anchorage to Seward
Geography: The glaciated Kenai Mountains cover the eastern side of the peninsula, with Prince William Sound to the east and Cook Inlet to the west. Kenai Fjords National Park is located on the southeastern side of the peninsula about 130 miles south of Anchorage
Top Towns: Homer and Seward
Things to Do: Hiking, rafting, fishing, Kenai Fjords National Park
Things to Do on the Kenai Peninsula
Kenai Fjords National Park
Located on the southeastern Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska’s most beautiful places. Tall mountains and glaciers plummet into cold waters, and the park is full of life including whales, orcas, eagles, moose, and bears. On a par with Denali for scenery, the Kenai Fjords are a 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage. Boat tours and guided trips depart from Seward.
Halibut Fishing in Homer
The Homer “Spit” is a 4-mile long finger of sand extending from mainland Alaska into Kachemak Bay. The small town of Homer, known as the halibut capital of the world, is on the last paved road in Alaska and the terminus of the U.S. highway system. Homer has plenty of local shops and restaurants but the lifeblood of the town is fishing—it’s easy to hop on a local halibut charter to fill your freezer at home with fresh catch.
The Harding Icefield (a network of interconnected valley glaciers similar to an ice cap) covers a vast expanse of the Kenai Mountains. It’s one of the largest and most accessible icefields in North America, covering 700 square miles with more than 30 glaciers flowing from it. Just up the road from Seward, the 8.2-mile Harding Icefield Trail offers panoramic views of ice as far as the eye can see.
A great way to see wildlife on the Kenai Peninsula and beat the crowds is a rafting trip. The Upper Kenai River near Cooper Landing is ideal for families and enjoying the stunning surroundings of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. For serious whitewater, Six Mile Creek with headwaters in the Chugach Mountains offers class IV and class V rapids.
Salmon Fishing on the Kenai and Russian Rivers
They call it “combat fly fishing” for a reason: at the peak of the summer the salmon runs at the confluence of the Kenai and Russian Rivers literally are a battle zone. Even if you’re not fishing, it’s quite a scene: hundreds of fisherman line up shoulder to shoulder for a chance to cast a line into the salmon-rich waters. Protective clothing is recommended.