Everything You Need to Know to Visit Kenai Fjords National Park in 2023

A visit to Kenai Fjords National Park is a bucket-list adventure to add to your list of things to do in Alaska. It’s known for its glaciers, coastal fjords, abundant marine wildlife, and it’s home to one of the largest ice fields in the US.

Most of the national park is only accessible by water, but there is one road in Seward that will take you to the only part of the park that is accessible by road.

In this post, I’m going to share everything you need to know to visit Kenai Fjords National Park in 2023.

what to do in kenai fjords national park

Kenai Fjords National Park Facts & Basic Info

Traditional Land: Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), Dena’ina (Visit Native-Land.ca to identify whose land you live, work, and play on.)
Location: Alaska
Size: 669,984 acres
Annual Visitors: 356,000 in 2019
Established: 1980
Visitor Centers: Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center, Exit Glacier Nature Center
Entrance Fee: Free, $45 annual pass
Pets: Only allowed on Exit Glacier Road and parking lot. Not allowed on trails or in the backcountry.

Planning a trip to Alaska? Start with my Alaska Travel Guide

photography in kenai fjords national park

Visitor Information

You can find the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center in the Seward small boat harbor. It’s the main source of visitor information. The Exit Glacier Nature Center can be found at the end of Herman Leirer Road or “Exit Glacier Road.”

Entrance Fee

There is NO entrance fee for Kenai Fjords National Park.

Weather

Weather in the national park is always changing and unpredictable. During summer, average temps range from mid 40s F to the low 70s F. And don’t be surprised if you come across snow at higher elevations mid-summer! August and September are the rainiest months.

During winter, expect cold temps from low 30s F to -20 F. Since forecasts can be incorrect, make sure to check the weather multiple times and be prepared to experience a variety of conditions.

What is the best time of year to visit Kenai Fjords National Park?

Summer (June, July, and August) is the most popular time of the year to visit Kenai Fjords National Park. This is when tour operations are running. You’ll also get to experience better weather and lots of opportunities to see wildlife.

Fall is a great time to visit the park if you want to see the beautiful fall foliage accompanied by wildlife. Keep in mind that many tour operators finish mid-September.

Winter is quiet in the park even though it’s open year-round. The road to Exit Glacier is not plowed during the winter and closed to cars from Mile 1.3. However, this still makes it a great time for winter activities, including Northern Lights viewing, winter camping, fat biking, xc skiing, and snowshoeing.

Spring brings daylight but the road is usually still closed until early May. Rough seas also makes many of the park’s coastal backcountry inaccessible through early spring.

seward alaska tours

Kenai Fjords National Park Map

The Exit Glacier Road is the only (summer) access to the national park in a vehicle. All other access into the park requires other modes of transportation (boats or planes).

Kenai Fjords National Park Map Alaska
National Park Service

How to Get to Kenai Fjords National Park

4 Ways to get to Kenai Fjords National Park from Anchorage

1) Drive a car

Kenai Fjords National Park is 126 miles or a 2.5-hour drive south from Anchorage. If you have a vehicle, driving is a great option to visit the park and stop at other amazing Alaskan destinations along the way.

2) Take the train

Alaska Railroad has service from Anchorage to Seward and the rail depot is close to the Seward harbor. The train ride takes 4 hours and 30 minutes, departing Anchorage at 6:45 a.m. and arriving in Seward at 11:15 a.m. The train costs $116 USD for adults during the regular summer season.

3) Ride a bus

If you’re in downtown Anchorage, you can hop on The Park Connection bus line from the Dena’ina Center. Passengers can choose between two departures daily and can get dropped off at the Small Boat Harbor. The bus costs $70 USD and takes less than 3 hours.

4) Direct Flight

The quickest way to get to Seward is by taking a direct flight. Seward Air Taxi offers service from Anchorage to the Seward.

Note: Many Alaska cruises port in Seward. From there, you can easily book a guided tour in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Getting Around Kenai Fjords National Park

By Car

If you have a car, you can easily drive to the Exit Glacier Nature Center, which can be found at the end of Herman Leirer Road or “Exit Glacier Road.” It’s a 12-mile drive to get here from the Seward small boat harbor.

By Shuttle / Taxi

It can be challenging to explore part of the national park that is accessible by road, but there are a few companies that offer transportation services in Seward.

Shuttle Service

Taxi Service

On Foot or Bike

I don’t necessarily recommend traveling to the park (Exit Glacier area) by bike or foot unless the road is closed in the winter or you just want to. I only say this because it adds an extra 12 miles (one-way) to your trip. Once you reach the trailhead, you can hike up to a very beautiful vista.

By Boat

One of the best ways to explore the fjords around the park is via water taxi. Many water taxi’s will drop you off with your kayak and gear to popular places like Aialik Bay, Northwestern Lagoon or Bear Glacier Lagoon.

Water Taxi Service

By Plane / Helicopter

If you want a unique and scenic experience, or just need a ride to your accommodations for the night, why not take a helicopter or plane?!

how to get around kenai fjords national park

Kenai Fjords National Park: Where to Stay

Campgrounds

Campgrounds within the park are operated by the National Park Service. There are plenty of campgrounds within the Seward municipality, as well as private campsites, and plenty of dispersed camping spots along Exit Glacier Road.

Inside the Park

  • Exit Glacier Campground – 12-site, walk-in, tent-campground. No fees. First-come, first-served.

Seward Municipal Campgrounds

Most sites require advanced reservation, which can be reserved on Campspot.

  • Alice – Open in summer only. RVs and tents.
  • Boulder – Open in summer only. RVs and tents. First-come, first-served.
  • Forest Acres – Open in summer only. RVs and tents.
  • Harborside – Open in summer only. RVs only.
  • Iditarod – Open year-round. RVs only.
  • Marathon – Open in summer only. RVs only.
  • Resurrection – Open in summer only. RVs and tents.
  • Resurrection South – Open in summer only. RVs and tents.
  • Spring Creek – Open in summer only. RVs and tents. First-come, first-served.
  • Williams – Open in summer only. Tents only.

Lodging

Lodging within the park is limited. Seward has no shortage of places to stay. You can choose all sorts of accommodations, from yurts and cabins, to hotels and B&Bs.

Public Use Cabins

  • Willow Public Use Cabin – Winter only.
  • Aialik Public Use Cabin – Accessed via water taxi or plane.
  • Holgate Public Use Cabin – Accessed via water taxi or plane.

Unique Accommodations in Seward

Backcountry Camping

Backcountry camping is a beautiful way to explore the park. A great place for backpacking and backcountry camping within the Kenai Fjords National Park is along the Harding Icefield Trail.

seward alaska national park

Best Things to See and Do in Kenai Fjords National Park

Popular Hikes in Kenai Fjords National Park

There ar only has a couple of maintained trails within the park boundaries. You can choose to hike on or off the trail. If you’re not comfortable hiking on your own, you can find a hike guided by a park ranger.

Here are some popular self-guided day hike options within the park:

Exit Glacier Overlook Trail – 2.5 miles roundtrip, Easy
Harding Icefield Trail – 8.2 miles roundtrip, Difficult

For trail info, read 5 Best Hikes in Seward, Alaska.

Hike Harding Icefield Trail in Seward Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Wildlife Viewing

Kenai Fjords is an incredible place for wildlife viewing, especially marine mammals. You can see sea otters, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, orcas, grey whales, fin whales, humpback whales, minke whales, Dall’s porpoise, and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Some of the smaller animals include coyote, beaver, and river otter. Larger mammals include timber wolf, porcupine, Canadian lynx, brown bear, black bears, moose, and mountain goat.

Birds include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, black-billed magpies, Steller’s jay, tufted and horned puffins, common and thick-billed murre, and marbled murrelets.

whale watching alaska

Outdoor Photography

Bring extra batteries and SD cards for your camera because there is no shortage of things to photograph. You can choose to capture stunning glaciers like Bear Glacier, fjords and coves outside of Resurrection Bay, or the jaw-dropping peaks that make up the Kenai Mountains.

resurrection bay alaska

Top Tour in Kenai Fjords National Park

My absolute favorite tour in Kenai Fjords National Park is a glacier and wildlife tour. Seeing glacier-carved fjords, abundant wildlife, and majestic mountains is an unforgettable experience. It’s definitely one of the best whale watching opportunities in Alaska, with chances to see bubble net feeding and plenty of whale tails!

Kenai Fjords Tours and Major Marine offer plenty of whale watching experiences from Seward and I highly suggest booking a full-day tour. This will give you more opportunities to see more things, so you won’t be disappointed! Tours start at $99 USD per adult.

wildlife kenai fjords national park

Other Things to See and Do

Kenai Fjords has something to offer everyone! Some other ideas of things to do are to enjoy the beautiful fall colors in October, listen to a Ranger Talk or join a Ranger Walk, sail the fjords, or plan a bikepacking or kayaking trip. During winter, chase the aurora borealis, try winter camping, xc skiing, winter biking, snowmachining, and snowshoeing.

Feeling hungry?

The Cookery, The Highliner, Zudy’s Cafe, Flamingo Lounge, and Mermaid’s Grotto are a couple of Seward restaurant recommendations.


Answering Your Questions

Can you drive through Kenai Fjords National Park?

You can’t drive through the park as there’s only one road that leads you to the park boundaries.

Is Kenai Fjords National Park worth visiting?

If you want to see glaciers, fjords, and lots of whales then you should visit Kenai Fjords National Park.

How many days do you need in Kenai Fjords?

I recommend at least 2 days in the national park. One day for hiking and one day for being on the water.

Are there bears in Kenai Fjords National Park?

Always be prepared for bear encounters in Alaska.


Read More

Top 25 Things To Do In Seward Alaska

Hike Harding Icefield Trail in Seward

What to Wear Hiking in Alaska (Summer)


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Planning to visit Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska? This in-depth guide will help you figure out what to do and see this season in and around Seward. You'll also learn if it's best to visit the park in summer or winter, and plenty of ideas of things to do like photography, top hike, best tours, and more! #alaskatravel #kenaifjords #kenaifjordsnationalpark
Travel to Alaska this year and make sure to stop in Kenai Fjords National Park outside of Seward. You can see lots of wildlife like orcas, humpback whales, black bears, puffins and more. Find out what to see and do and plan your summer itinerary. #alaska #kenaifjords #seward

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