The Seward Hwy is a road-trip-lover’s delight, with smooth, winding turns through mountains that have you craning your neck around every corner. The 127 miles of highway is all Scenic Byway, and there are plenty of turnoffs for gawking and snapping photos. Keep in mind that the mileposts along the highway show distances from Seward (Mile 0) to Anchorage (Mile 127).
Lucky is the visitor who drives into Homer on a clear day. As the Sterling Hwy descends into town, a panorama of mountains sweeps across the horizon in front of you. The Homer Spit slowly comes into view, jutting into a glittering Kachemak Bay, and just when you think the view might unwind forever, it ends with the dramatic Grewingk Glacier.
Seward is at the crossroads of everything. Perched on the edge of Resurrection Bay, it offers out-of-this-world views of water, sky, mountain and forest, and is easily accessed by road, boat and rail. Because of its size (and its history as a railroad port), there is plenty of nightlife, good shopping and quality restaurants in the picturesque old-time downtown area.
City of Kenai & Around
At first blush, Kenai is a sorry sight – an object lesson in poor city planning. It’s not convenient – 10 miles northwest of Soldotna and the Sterling Hwy – or especially picturesque, existing primarily as a support community for the drilling operations at Cook Inlet. It’s long been a rare bird: a major Alaskan city with minimal tourism.
With its strip malls and fast-food chains, Soldotna is ugly as ugly gets, and its flat nearby topography offers very little for hikers, bikers or adventurers. But the Kenai River runs right through town, making this one of the Peninsula's premier fishing outposts. Most years, you'll be competing with hundreds of anglers for prime shoreline.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Seward is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, created in 1980 to protect 587,000 acres of Alaska’s most awesome, impenetrable wilderness. Crowning the park is the massive Harding Ice Field; from it, countless tidewater glaciers pour down, carving the coast into dizzying fjords.
Kachemak Bay State Park
Stand on Homer Spit and look south, and an alluring wonderland sprawls before you: a luxuriantly green coastline, sliced by fjords and topped by sparkling glaciers and rugged peaks. This is Kachemak Bay State Park, which, along with Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park to the south, includes 350,000 acres of idyllic wilderness accessible only by bush plane or boat.
Hope has beautiful views of Turnagain Arm, a quaint and historic downtown, wonderful restaurants and gold rush–era relics, and incredible camping and hiking opportunities. Life here moves slower. It's rural Alaska at its best. Authentic, pioneering, friendly and esoteric. Expect town to fill up on weekends with day-trippers from Anchorage.
Cooper Landing & Around
After skirting the north end of Kenai Lake, you enter scenic Cooper Landing (Mile 48.4). The picturesque outpost, named for Joseph Cooper, a miner who worked the area in the 1880s, is best known for its rich and brutal combat salmon fishing along the Russian and Kenai Rivers.
This appealing little village is well worth spending a night. The community is among the oldest on the Kenai Peninsula, having been settled in the 1820s by employees of the Russian-American Company. Many stayed even after imperial Russia sold Alaska to the US, and their descendants form the heart of the present community.
South to Homer
After you pass Soldotna, traffic thins out as the Sterling Hwy rambles south, hugging the coastline and opening up to grand views of Cook Inlet. This stretch is 78 miles long and it passes through a handful of small villages near some great clamming areas, ending at the charming town of Homer.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Once west of the Resurrection Pass trailhead, you enter the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Originally called the Kenai National Moose Range, 1.73 million acres was set aside by President Roosevelt in 1941, and the 1980 Alaska Lands Act increased that acreage to the almost 2 million acres that it now encompasses.
Moose Pass & Around
Traveling south on the Seward Hwy after Tern Lake Junction, you'll pass a number of worthwhile hikes, roadside inns and view points. Set on nine gorgeous acres, the Tern Lake Inn has four guest rooms and a patio with lovely lake views. The rooms are folksy and warm, and there's a separate living area for guests.
Turnagain Pass & Around
After it leaves Turnagain Arm, Seward Hwy heads for the hills. Near Mile 68 it begins climbing into the alpine region of Turnagain Pass, where there’s a roadside stop with garbage cans and toilets. In early summer, this area is a kaleidoscope of wildflowers and there's good skiing here in the winter. Bertha Creek Campground is just across Bertha Creek Bridge.