Kenai Fjords National Park

Sightseeing at Kenai Fjords National Park

©2006 National Park ServicesSea lions -- some weighing as much as 2,000 pounds -- are often seen resting on rocky islands. The park shelters more than 20 species of marine mammals.

Stretching more than 100 miles from Seward, Alaska, very nearly to Point Graham, Kenai Fjords National Park is distinguished by its many rocky narrow inlets or fjords, much like the fabled coasts of Norway and Sweden.

In these deep, cold fjords live an amazing profusion of sea mammals, including sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, Pacific dolphins, harbor porpoises, orcas, and humpback and gray whales. On the rugged cliffs above the water, enormous colonies of sea birds, most notably horned puffin, can be seen.

Many Alaskans believe this to be their most beautiful park, containing as it does the immense Kenai Mountains, which run for 75 miles through the park, as well as wonderfully diverse maritime landscapes. But the park's best feature may be that the immense wilderness is easily accessible from the road system south of Anchorage, with sea trips departing daily from the docks at Seward near the park visitor center.

The park, not surprisingly, has become a sort of mecca for sea kayakers, most of whom hitch rides on tour boats and are then picked up at predetermined locations many days or weeks later. Elsewhere, hikers enjoy long invigorating treks through the coastal rain forest, which includes such species as western and mountain hemlocks and Sitka spruce, as well as jaunts up the trail to Exit Glacier near Seward.

Kenai Fjords National Park Photo Opportunities

Kenai Fjords National Park offers several scenic spots for taking photographs. You can train your lens on the rugged and beautiful fjords or on the diverse wildlife that populates the area. Here are a few ideas:

  • Harding Ice Field: The Harding Icefield covers more than half of the park and conceals an entire mountain range under several thousand feet of ice.
  • Exit Glacier: A visit to Exit Glacier is like a trip back in time. Accessible by road and a short trail, this glacier shows visitors the landscape a retreating glacier left behind.
  • Kenai Fjords: The rocky fjords that give the park its name make for a majestic photo opportunity, but they are accessible only by boat.
  • Resurrection Bay: A boat trip out on the bay gives you a great view of the coast, and you can do a little fishing at the same time.

Exploring the Kenai Fjords The inlets, coves, fjords, islands, and even glaciers of Kenai Fjords offer hikers and boaters many opportunities for exploring and seeing wildlife in a spectacular natural setting. 

The barren Chiswell Islands, serviced by ferry boat, are an excellent place to see giant Steller sea lions basking, playing, and fighting on the rocks. Females, which give birth to pups in June or July, may weigh as much as 600 pounds, while the bulls can weigh more than a ton.

McCarty Fjord, in the southern end of the park, slices deeply into the mainland for 37 miles with great cliffs towering nearly a mile above the water. Here and in adjacent Nuka Bay is a fascinating array of terrain, including a 900-foot waterfall and several historic gold-mining camps. Along the shores you are likely to see black bears, moose, martens, and river otters, while in the icy inlets protruding into the landscape you might see a humpback whale jumping almost completely out of the water in a dramatic display of power and joy.

The unusual landscape that draws visitors to the park was formed over tens of thousands of years. Learn about the ice field that formed the Kenai fjords.