8 EPIC things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska

In this guide we’re sharing the best things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, plus everything you need to know to visit the park!

In the summer of 2022 we spent 2.5 incredible months in Alaska and were lucky enough to visit three of the state’s national parks. And by far our favorite was Kenai Fjords National Park!

We’ll never forget watching glaciers calve, seeing hundreds of seals floating on icebergs, and witnessing an endless sheet of ice. Our time in Kenai Fjords National Park was truly one of the best experiences of our entire lives!

Check out our video from Kenai Fjords National Park including hiking the Harding Icefield Trail and going on a 7.5 hour boat ride!

In this guide we’re not only sharing the best things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, but also tons of information about the park to help you plan your own adventure, including where to stay, what to bring, and so much more.

Looking for more things to do in Alaska and Northern Canada? Check out these guides and vlogs!

About Kenai Fjords National Park

Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park was established in 1980 and makes up over 669,000 acres on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, with about 51% of it covered in ice!

The park is home to numerous fjords, mountains, forests, tons of wildlife, both on land and in the water, dozens of glaciers, and the Harding Icefield, the largest ice field entirely in the United States. It combines everything that makes Alaska unique and majestic, all into one park!

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. 

How to get to Kenai Fjords National Park

Alaska is home to eight US national parks, with only three of them being accessible by vehicle: Denali National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and Kenai Fjords National Park.

Out of the three, Kenai Fjords National Park is the easiest to get to. And to get there, you’ll first need to head to the charming seaside town of Seward, Alaska. 

Seward is on the southeastern side of the Kenai Peninsula and is accessed by a scenic train ride, cruise ship, or the Seward Highway (AK-9), which is about a 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage. The drive from Anchorage is a gorgeous experience in itself, so we suggest planning for extra time to soak up the scenery!

Seward, Alaska

Traveling from elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula? Here is how long you can expect to drive from other popular towns on the Kenai Peninsula:

Cooper Landing, AK: 1 hour (48 miles)
Soldotna, AK: 2 hours (93 miles)
Homer, AK: 3 hours 30 minutes (168 miles)

Once in Seward, you’ll drive about 20 minutes to the Exit Glacier area of the park, which is the only part of the park accessible by vehicle. To get there, you’ll turn west onto Herman Leirer Road, which will eventually turn into Exit Glacier Road and you’ll dead end at the national park.

You can also take the Exit Glacier Shuttle from Seward to the Exit Glacier Nature Center, which costs $20 per person and leaves every hour. This is a great option for those who arrive in Seward by train or cruise ship and don’t have a car!

When to visit Kenai Fjords National Park

The best time to visit Kenai Fjords National Park is between June-August. This is when tours will be up and running and the trails will be (mostly) snow free.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that summer in Alaska is not like summer in the lower 48. While you may get a sunnier and slightly warmer day, for the most part, the temperatures tend to only reach the 50s-60s and if you’re like us, you’ll probably have some clouds.

Exit Glacier Hike | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

We visited in late July and had gloomy weather in both Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park. The weather forecast for Seward called for rain every day, but we thankfully didn’t experience much more than a mist in the park. And it didn’t take away from our experience at all!

Another thing to know is that fall in Alaska starts at the end of August, so if you visit towards the beginning of September, you’ll have a good chance of seeing some fall foliage in the park, but also a higher chance of an early snowstorm. And once winter hits the park, the road to Exit Glacier is not maintained and not fully accessible by vehicles.

Things to know before visiting Kenai Fjords National Park

Harding Icefield Trail | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Entrance is free

Unlike most national parks, which have a fee to enter, Kenai Fjords is totally FREE to visit, minus any paid tours.

Dogs are not allowed

Dogs are not allowed on trails at Kenai Fjords National Park, but leashed pets are allowed on Exit Glacier Road and in the parking lot. 

If you’re curious what we do with our dog Kona when we explore the national parks, you can read all of our tips and methods in this blog post. We boarded her in Anchorage during our visit to Kenai Fjords National Park, since we had a couple longer activities planned.

Bear Safety

Kenai Fjords National Park and Alaska are home to a variety of wildlife, including bears. Specifically, both black bears and grizzly bears, with grizzlies being the more aggressive of the two. 

With thick vegetation in some areas, you’ll definitely want to be alert and make lots of noise to avoid encountering a bear by surprise. Although we didn’t see any bears in the park, some hikers right in front of us saw one just a minute before we met up with them. 

If you’re unfamiliar with bears and what to do if you encounter them, we encourage you to read the National Park website to get a better understanding. 

Book tours in advance

We’d suggest booking any tours you’d like to do while visiting the park in advance, just to ensure you don’t miss out!

Cell Service

We had very limited or zero cell service in the park. We recommend downloading any Google maps or AllTrails maps before you leave Seward. 

Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)!

We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.

Exit Glacier Nature Center | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Parking

The Exit Glacier Nature Center has parking for both cars and RVs, although we wouldn’t suggest bringing a Class A RV to this parking lot. 

The parking lot does get busy and fills up, so we’d recommend getting there early in the day or later in the afternoon to snag a spot. During our visit, some cars were parked along the sides of the parking lot and road, but we were able to get an RV spot for our van.

8 EPIC things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park

Major Marine Tours | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

One thing that we love about Kenai Fjords National Park is that anyone can enjoy it! With an accessible trail, a strenuous hike, activities on the glacier, as well as boat tours, it offers a way for all ages and abilities to be immersed in its beauty.

Here are 8 epic things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, which range in difficulty, length of time, and type of experience!

Hike the Harding Icefield Trail

Read our full guide to hiking the Harding Icefield to learn more about the different sections of the trail, what to expect, and see more photos of this EPIC hike!

Harding Icefield Trail | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Distance (roundtrip): 9.2 miles
Elevation: 3,641 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

The Harding Icefield is the largest icefield entirely in the United States at 700 square miles and almost 4,000 feet deep. And it is the source of 38 glaciers in the park!

And to experience it, you can hike the Harding Icefield Trail, which is not only one of our favorite hikes in Alaska, but that we have ever done! This trail offers a variety of scenery and terrain types including the forest, alpine meadows, desolate rocky areas, and views of both the Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield.

While it’s a bit of a challenge, with almost 1,000 feet of elevation gain per mile, you’ll have amazing views almost the entire way. There are also a couple spots that you could turn around and still experience a lot of what the hike has to offer. 

But if you can make it to the end, you’ll be treated to one of the most insane views we have had on a hike, the endless icy landscape of the Harding Icefield. It truly feels like you’re on another planet as you overlook it. And even on a less than clear day, we were still able to feel its immensity! 

Experience the Exit Glacier Hike 

Exit Glacier Hike | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

The Exit Glacier is one of the 38 glaciers that stems from the Harding Icefield and is named after an expedition in 1968, when the first group of mountaineers to officially cross the Harding Icefield “exited” the ice at Exit Glacier.

Unfortunately, this glacier is rapidly shrinking, receding more than 2,300 feet since 2004. While maybe not as impressive as it once was years ago, it is still a beautiful glacier to witness and a great example of just how much glaciers are changing due to climate change. 

To experience this glacier before it is gone, you can combine the area’s three trails into one Exit Glacier hike.

These trails include:

Exit Glacier Hike | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

We suggest starting with the Exit Glacier View Loop, which is a stroller and wheelchair accessible trail that takes you through the forest and by the river, with views of the Exit Glacier. Keep an eye out for the date markers, which show you the year that the Exit Glacier terminated that point, which really gives you a sense of how fast it is receding. 

Then, head on the Exit Glacier Overlook trail to the Outwash Plain, which isn’t a trail per se, but it is an offshoot from the Exit Glacier Overlook trail and is well worth it! 

It is a dried up riverbed looking area that runs from the toe of the glacier out to Exit Glacier Creek. It has formed from rushing meltwater, which is full of sediment from the glacier that leaves deposits along the plain. At one point, this area was filled with the glacier!

From the Outwash Plain you get a cool view looking into the toe of the glacier, with water rushing out of it. Keep an eye out for signs and closures, as this area is prone to flooding and they restrict how far you can go for your safety. 

Exit Glacier Hike | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

After seeing the Outwash Plain, finish the Exit Glacier Overlook trail, which takes you to a viewpoint overlooking the top of the glacier.  

Read our full guide to the Exit Glacier Hike to learn more about the different trails and what to expect along the way!

Go on a boat tour

Major Marine Tours | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

If we had to think of our favorite day out of our entire 2.5 months in Alaska, it was very likely the day we went on a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park. I don’t think we have ever gasped or smiled as much as we did that day!

There are multiple tour providers and tour options to choose from when taking a boat tour in Kenai Fjords National Park, but we went with the 7.5 hour Major Marine boat tour. And it is hands down one of the best things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, as well as in the entire state of Alaska

The tour starts out with a cruise in Resurrection Bay, which is surrounded by mountains, many of which have glaciers tucked up in them. The day of our tour was pretty choppy in Resurrection Bay and when we checked in, we were advised to take motion sickness medicine. 

Definitely follow their advice because if most people on the boat get sick, they have to turn around. Thankfully despite the rockiness of the first part of our ride, the majority of our tour group did okay and we continued.

Major Marine Tours | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

In this first section of the cruise we got to see our first orca, tons of sea lions and seals, bald eagles, otters, and puffins. The amount of wildlife on the tour was insane! 

While wildlife can be unpredictable, it is still basically a given on this tour. However, the main attractions are two tidewater glaciers, Holgate and Aialik.

Tidewater glaciers are glaciers that meet the sea, and we lucked out and got to see BOTH calving! Glacier calving is when big chunks of ice break off and slam into the water, creating a thundering roar and waves. It is one of the gnarliest things we have ever witnessed! Our jaws were on the floor!

Besides the calving, another HUGE highlight was seeing hundreds of seals floating on icebergs at the second tidewater glacier. We have never seen so much wildlife in one spot. They were super cute!

On the way back, we stopped by Spire Cove in Resurrection Bay, which is an iconic photo spot in the park. And it is magical! Plus we got to see more wildlife, including another whale!

These tours run from late May to early September and we highly recommend booking it in advance. There are also 4, 6, and 8.5 hour options if you want something shorter or longer. Next time we would love to do their 8.5 hour long tour to see even more! 

And while it isn’t cheap, it is worth every penny. You’ll not only get to see some of the most breathtaking views in Alaska, tons of wildlife, and impressive glaciers, but you’ll get to learn a lot about the park from the captain, who narrates most of the cruise. 

They also provide a sandwich lunch, which isn’t anything to write home about, but it helps keep you fueled for the cruise! And for those who drink, they make margaritas with glacial ice that you can buy as well.

We truly cannot find the right words to describe what an incredible experience this boat cruise was. It was a day that we will NEVER forget!

Climb or hike on Exit Glacier

Ice Climbing Alaska

Another amazing adventure to be had in the park is to go on a guided ice climbing trip on the Exit Glacier!

There are several guide companies in town that will take you on a safe trip onto the glacial ice like Exit Glacier Guides and Kenai Backcountry Adventures

These tours are offered June through September. The guide companies can take you on ice climbing excursions, hiking on the glacier, and also hiking on other trails in the park. 

While we didn’t personally climb at Exit Glacier, we did an ice climbing tour in Alaska at the Matanuska Glacier, which was UNREAL! You can watch this video to see what our experience was like!

If you’re unsure about climbing, you can also just hike on the glacier with a guide, which is still an amazing experience.

Go fishing

Alaska is known for its top notch fishing and Kenai Fjords is no exception! There are many guides in the Seward area that can take you fishing in or near Kenai Fjords National Park, which will not only will be an epic fishing experience, as you catch many salmon, halibut, and rockfish, but will also have spectacular views of the park and the chance to see wildlife.

We saw a group coming back from fishing while at Miller’s Landing and they had caught SO many fish. This is definitely on our list for our next visit!

Explore Seward

It is well worth spending some time in Seward while visiting the park! This coastal town has some of the best views out of any town we visited in Alaska, which you can experience on some of the trails outside of the park boundaries, including:

Besides hiking, Seward has quite a few restaurants to enjoy before or after a day in the park. We suggest checking out Resurrect Art Coffee House, Firebrand BBQ, Lone Chicharron Taqueria, and Mermaid Grotto Cafe and Boutique.

Go kayaking

Major Marine Tours | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

If you want to experience the water and glaciers in a more intimate and adventurous way than one of the cruises, go kayaking!

Liquid Adventures, Kayak Adventures Worldwide, and Adventure 60 North all offer a unique kayaking experience where you get to still have a scenic boat ride like the larger cruises, but then get to paddle a kayak closer to a glacier. 

These outfitters also offer shorter, easier, and more affordable kayaking tours around the Seward area, as well as overnight trips, where you can camp near a glacier!

Take a flightseeing tour

Seward, Alaska

The only activity that could rival the glacier and wildlife boat tour would be a flightseeing tour. You’ll get an even greater sense of the vastness of the Harding Icefield and get to see areas of the park that very few get to experience. 

There are a handful of companies in Seward that have flight options to choose from:

How much time do you need in Kenai Fjords National Park?

We’d suggest at least 2 days in Kenai Fjords National Park, which gives you enough time to experience the park by water and foot. But 3-4 days will be better if you want to experience all of the best things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, including multiple hikes, going on a tour or two, or spending more time in Seward.

Below is our exact three day itinerary for Kenai Fjords National Park, which we highly recommend! It gave us the chance to see the major highlights, including one tour and two hikes. It wasn’t too busy or fast paced, giving you some time to add another shorter tour if you would like.

3 day itinerary for Kenai Fjords National Park

Day 1

  • If you’re not already in Seward, head towards the park! The 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage is beautiful, so make sure to plan extra time to stop and enjoy the views. Already in Seward? Go on a shorter tour in the area!
  • Grab some coffee and lunch in Seward at one of the spots we listed in this guide.
  • Visit the Exit Glacier area of the park and experience the Exit Glacier hike
  • This will only take a couple hours max, so for the rest of the day, explore Seward! 

Day 2

  • Spend the day on a tour with Major Marine, which will take up almost all of your day!
  • Grab dinner in Seward after your tour.

Day 3

  • Hike the Harding Icefield Trail. Make sure to start early, as this will take up the majority of the day.
  • After the hike, head to your next destination in Alaska or stay a bit longer to hike in the Seward area. Mount Marathon is on our list for our next trip!

Where to stay when visiting Kenai Fjords National Park

Seward is the best homebase for those looking to explore the park, as it offers hotels and campgrounds right in town, plus has restaurants and is the launching off point for any water excursions.

Hotels

Harbor 360 Hotel
The Vue B&B
Seward Gateway Hotel
Resurrection Lodge on the Bay

Seward, Alaska

Vacation Rentals

Modern Cabin with Hot Tub (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): this modern cabin with a hot tub, covered deck, and full kitchen would make the perfect place to come back to after a long day exploring outside!

Coffee House Cottage (studio, 1 bathroom): you’ll find everything you need at this newly built custom tiny house. It faces south to take in the gorgeous views of the area. 

Abode Well Cabin (studio, 1 bathroom): this quiet cabin in the rainforest looks like a perfect spot for 2. It has wifi, microwave, coffee maker, and coin operated laundry. 

Beach house #1 (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): do you prefer the beach or forest? You’ll get the best of both worlds at this stay! 

Mossy Spruce Lodging Cabin (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): this cabin is located just a 5-7 minute drive in a quiet wooded neighborhood and has a full kitchen, wifi, and a fire pit!

Camping

There are a few campground options around Seward. Keep in mind, many close for the season in October and open in April. 

Exit Glacier National Park Campground
The park has a FREE 12 site, tent only, walk-in first come first served campground. We read it gets pretty busy in July and August, so make sure to arrive early or on a weekday for better luck!

City of Seward Campgrounds
The city of Seward has several campgrounds scattered around town. They offer a variety of options from tent sites to RV sites with full hookups and prime location within the campgrounds. Sites can be reserved online and a couple of the campgrounds are first come, first served. 

Other campgrounds
There are also a handful of private and national forest campgrounds nearby!

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Boondocking

Free camping Seward, Alaska

For those looking to boondock, which is what we did, there are a couple areas off Exit Glacier Road, right before the park entrance, that allow boondocking.

These spots are right along a riverbed and have sweeping views of the area. It was an amazing spot to camp out for a couple nights! However, it is a tight drive from the main road, so we wouldn’t recommend this spot for large RVs, just vans, truck campers, and tents.

In 2022 we had basically zero cell service here, so keep that in mind if you need to work remotely! However, now that Starlink works in Alaska in 2023, connectivity may no longer be an issue.

What to bring to Kenai Fjords National Park

To see everything we take hiking, check out our hiking gear as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. But for this specific park, we have a few items we really want to stress bringing with you.

Hiking shoes

Kathryn rocks Lowa Women’s Renegade GTX on the trails and she LOVES them! Adam wears the ALTRA Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe, which is a trail running shoe, so they are less bulky than boots, but still great for the trail. 

Layers

Weather in Alaska can be extremely unpredictable. One minute it feels like a cold, windy winter day and the next the clouds part, the sun is beaming, and it feels like summer. Carrying some layers with you helps you be prepared for a day in Alaska. 

Harding Icefield Trail | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Rain jacket

Similar to above, it can rain or snow any day of the year so having rain gear is recommended. Kathryn wears the Patagonia Torrentshell jacket and Adam wears a Columbia rain jacket

Garmin InReach

We always carry our Garmin inReach Mini when we hike or backpack, just in case of an emergency. This is a satellite device that allows us to contact family, see a GPS, and has an SOS button in case we get hurt. It has come in handy several times on our adventures, mostly to text family (not for SOS reasons thankfully)!

Trekking poles

If you plan to hike the Harding Icefield, you may want trekking poles, as it has some steep sections. We have the Black Diamond Equipment Distance Z poles and highly recommend them!

Microspikes

Depending on when you visit, there may be snow or ice on the trails and microspikes will be very helpful. We have used the Kahtoola MICROspikes for many years and they are amazing! We feel like we can run on the ice without slipping!

Water

With some longer things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, you’ll want to bring lots of water. We like to carry our 3L Camelbak bladders while on any hike, which makes it easy to store a lot of water and drink while on the go.

Visiting Denali National Park | Things to do in Denali National Park

Bear spray

Carrying bear spray is highly recommended! 

Not only is it important to have bear spray on you, but you need to have it readily available and know how to use it. We’d recommend watching this video that explains how to use bear spray, if you aren’t familiar. 

Bug Repellent 

If you haven’t heard, the common joke is that the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito. Although we didn’t have an issue with mosquitos during our visit, in order to not have a miserable time swatting mosquitoes all day make sure to bring bug spray with DEET!

Sun Protection

You’ll often be in exposed areas, whether on the trail or on a boat, and even on cloudy days you’ll want to have sun protection. Sunscreen and a hat will be very helpful! 

Binoculars

Seeing the glaciers and mountains with the naked eye is fantastic on its own, but you’ll be able to see even more epic views (and maybe even some wildlife!) with binoculars. We have the Bushnell H20 Roof Prism binoculars and we love them!

Major Marine Tours | Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Looking for more things to do in Alaska and Northern Canada? Check out these guides and vlogs!

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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