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Seward Highway/USA

Introducing Seward Highway

Starting at the corner of Gambell St and 10th Ave in Anchorage, Seward Hwy parallels the Alaska Railroad south 127 miles to Seward. Expect lots of traffic, a frightening percentage of which involves folks who have (1) never seen a Dall sheep before and (2) never driven an RV before; it's a frustrating and sometimes deadly combination. Mile markers measure the distance from Seward.

Try to catch the bore tide, a neat trick of geography that concentrates the incoming tide into a wall of water up to 6ft tall, which rushes along Turnagain Arm at 15mph daily. Schedules are available at any Anchorage visitors center; note that the most intense waves occur around a new or full moon. Top spots for viewing this satisfyingly loud phenomenon include Beluga Point (Mile 110) and Bird Point (Mile 96).

Potter Marsh (Mile 117) was created in 1916, when railroad construction dammed several streams; it's currently in the process of filling with eroded earth. You can stretch your legs along the 1500ft boardwalk while spying on ducks, songbirds, grebes and gulls.

Chugach State Park Headquarters (345-5014; Mile 115; 10am-4:30pm Mon-Fri) is housed in the Potter Section House, a historic railroad workers' dorm that also includes a free museum with a snowplow train and other era artifacts.

Turnagain Arm Trail, an easy 11-mile, hike, begins at Mile 115. Originally used by Alaska Natives, the convenient route has since been used by Russian trappers, gold miners and happy hikers. The trail, with a mountain goat's view of Turnagain Arm, alpine meadows and beluga whales, can also be accessed at the McHugh Picnic Area (Mile 112), Rainbow (Mile 108) and Windy Corner (Mile 107).

Indian Valley Mine (653-1120; www.indianvalleymine.com; Mile 104; admission $1; 9am-9pm Jun-Aug), a lode mine originally blasted out in 1901, still produces gold. You can buy bags of ore ($3 to $50) and see for yourself. The wonderful proprietors are extremely knowledgeable on the history and science of Alaskan gold mining; ask about the potato retort.

Indian Valley Trail (Mile 103) is an easy 6-mile path that starts 1.3 miles along the gravel road behind Turnagain House. You can also access Powerline Trail for a much longer hiking or biking. Nearby is the Brown Bear Motel (653-7000; www.brownbearmotel.com; Mile 103 Seward Hwy; s/d $52/57) with clean rooms and cheap beer in the adjoining Brown Bear Saloon that can get hopping at night.

The Bird Ridge Trail (Mile 102) starts with a wheelchair-accessible loop, then continues with a steep, popular and well-marked path that reaches a 3500ft overlook at Mile 2; this is a traditional turnaround point for folks in a hurry. Or you can continue another 4 miles to higher peaks and even better views from sunny Bird Ridge, a top spot for rock climbing.

Bird Creek State Campground (Mile 101; sites $10) is popular for fishing, hiking and, best of all, the sound of the bore tide rushing by your tent. Remind children and morons to stay off the deadly mud flats.