Exploring Kenai Fjords National Park: A Day Trip from Seward

Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is located on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula and primarily protects the vast Harding Icefield, which feeds about forty glaciers. The park features rich glacial resources and diverse marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Most glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park can only be seen from the sea, with the exception of Exit Glacier, which is accessible by land and located near the town of Seward.

For visitors, a typical itinerary includes spending one to two days in Kenai Fjords National Park. One day can be dedicated to exploring Exit Glacier, while the other day can be spent on a glacier and wildlife cruise. The most common route is driving from Anchorage to Seward along AK-1, a scenic highway with beautiful views.

On our Alaska trip, we spent two days in Seward. On the first day, we toured Kenai Fjords National Park, visiting Exit Glacier in the morning and taking a Major Marine Tour in the afternoon to see wildlife and glaciers. On the second day, we enjoyed a IdidaRide dog sledding tour. These activities are all conveniently located near Seward, making it easy to plan your trip.

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier is conveniently located just outside Seward, making it one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. It features well-maintained trails and an informative visitor center that explains glacier formation and types.

The visitor center also serves as the starting point for two trails:

Glacier View Loop: A simple, 0.5-mile loop trail that doesn't require climbing and is wheelchair accessible. This trail offers great views of the glacier and is perfect for those with limited time or mobility.

Exit Glacier Overlook Trail: A more challenging trail that spans approximately 2 miles round-trip. This trail takes you closer to the edge of the glacier and offers stunning views. For those with more time and energy, the trail connects to the 8-mile Harding Icefield Trail, which provides an opportunity to hike up to the icefield.

Exit Glacier Overlook Trail

Given the unpredictable weather we had experienced earlier in the trip, we started with the more challenging Exit Glacier Overlook Trail on a clear day. The 2-mile round-trip hike is moderately difficult, taking you to the edge of the glacier. The first part of the trail is not too strenuous, and the cool weather makes the hike pleasant.

The first part of the trail is not too strenuous, and the cool weather makes the hike pleasant.

At around the 2/3 mark, we reached a large rock that provided a clear view of the glacier’s edge. From this vantage point, we could see other hikers on the glacier. While the glacier appears to be a simple ice sheet from a distance, closer inspection reveals its rugged terrain. Those interested in hiking on the glacier should consider hiring a guide.

Kenai Fjords National Park Exit Glacier Seward

From the viewpoint at the edge of Exit Glacier, you can catch a glimpse of the expansive Harding Icefield. If you have the time and stamina, the Harding Icefield Trail offers a full-day hike with panoramic views of the icefield, which extends beyond Exit Glacier to several other glaciers.

Exit Glacier View Trail

After descending from the Overlook Trail, we took the Glacier View Trail, a 1-mile loop that offers close-up views of the glacier. Although the glacier’s terminus, known as the toe, has receded significantly since 2007, the trail still provides an impressive perspective of the glacier.

Major Marine Tour | Bear Glacier

To see the other glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park, a boat tour is necessary. We opted for a Major Marine Tour departing from Seward. Concerned about seasickness, we chose a route that stayed within protected waters, featuring Bear Glacier and focusing on marine life. For those seeking more extensive glacier views, tours venturing into open waters are available.

Our tour included an optional buffet, which offered decent food but with limited variety. Along the way, we spotted humpback whales, bald eagles, numerous jellyfish, endangered sea lions, and many seabirds. While photographing wildlife from the boat was challenging, the experience was unforgettable.

Kenai Fjords National Park Accommodation | Seward

Seward serves as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, and most visitors choose to stay here for at least one night. The town also features a Kenai Fjords visitor center worth visiting.

Named after William Seward, who orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, Seward is rich in history and offers several attractions. The town itself is charming, with historic sites and the Alaska SeaLife Center, an excellent aquarium worth visiting.

The town’s harbor is particularly picturesque, especially for those embarking on boat tours. Resurrection Bay, where most tours depart, is stunningly beautiful.

Find a stay in Seward:

Hotel Review | Van Glider Hotel

We stayed at the Van Gilder Hotel, a historic property in Seward. The hotel’s decor reflects its heritage, and the most affordable rooms share an external bathroom. Despite the small room size, it was comfortable after a long day of travel. The shared bathroom was clean and well-maintained.

Seward cuisine | Chinook restaurant

In Seward, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal at Chinook's, a seafood restaurant. The quality of the food was excellent, and we enjoyed dishes like King Crab, scallops, and their salmon special. The restaurant also offers great views of the harbor, making for a delightful dining experience.

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