THE TURNAGAIN ARM

We had expected to drive to the peninsula from Anchorage in one day, but as we made our way along the Seward Highway we saw that the Turnagain Arm was more than just a scenic drive. We set up camp hoping to explore the mountains that bordered the roadway the next day.

In the morning, we watched as the clouds rolled in, and settled on Bird Ridge Trail, a shorter hike that promised 360 views of the Cook Inlet and Chugach Park.

Following the hike, we set off again towards the Kenai Peninsula. We stopped along the way to pick up provisions from Mary Lou’s. Mary Lou was a lovely woman of 80+ years wearing bright red lipstick, and aside from the chips, ice and beer, the merchandise was hardcore.

ARRIVING ON THE PENINSULA

It grew late as we drove along the Seward Highway, and as we were in no rush, we decided to stop for the night before continuing onto Seward the next day. We set up camp along the southeast shore of Kenai Lake at Primrose Campground.

The next day we awoke to overcast skies again, and hit the road.

When we reached Seward, we were overwhelmed by the crowds, so we just kept driving. The paved road turned into dirt and wound along the bay to Miller’s Landing.

Here we found fewer crowds and more character. The prices were a bit steep, but the views of the mountains across the bay were worth it. We stayed for a few days to relax and catch up on freelance work.

KENAI FJORDS ON A BUDGET

Before leaving the Seward area, we wanted to check out Kenai Fjords National Park. Most of the park's glaciers and the fjords themselves are only accessible by boat or plane, and this can get expensive really fast. With our budget in mind, we opted for the free option that's easily accessible via the Seward Highway — Exit Glacier.

The options for viewing the glacier range from mile-long walks to 8 mile plus hikes, and this variety attracts crowds of people.

We chose to spend the day hiking the longer Harding Icefield trail, and we were pleased to find that the crowds did not make the same choice.

The latter portion of the trail was closed to hikers because of safety concerns, but the open portion was spectacular. We stopped along the way to look down on the surrounding valley and glacier. 

One of the rangers had told us that it’s legal to camp alongside Exit Glacier road, so following our hike, we found a large pullout by the river to stay for the night before we started our trip to the west side of the peninsula.


FINAL THOUGHTS

The east side of the peninsula was beautiful and diverse. In one day we could be at a lake, a glacier, in a meadow, on top of a snow covered peak and then by the bay. We hope to go back someday, and when we do we’ll try to spend more time in the lesser known areas along the Seward Highway that offer backpacking and hiking opportunities.

As for Seward itself, we just breezed through because it was so crowded and expensive. We definitely preferred the less popular Lowell Point area. Perhaps this area is what Seward was like 50 years ago?

CAMPING

Birdcreek Campground, $20
[60.97177, -149.46058]

Primrose Campground, $10
[60.34083, -149.36972]

Lower Skilak Lake Campground, Free
[60.47134, -150.47072]

Upper Skilak Lake Campground,  $10
[60.43876, -150.32077]

Miller's Landing, $37
[60.07082, -149.43575]

HIKING

Bird Ridge Trail, Turnagain Arm
5 miles RT
[60.97893, -149.47993]

Harding Icefields Trail
8.2 miles RT
[60.14143, -149.74444]

KAYAKING

Skilak Lake
[60.41602, -150.37347]