Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords is a coastal park located west of the town of Seward, in the Kenai Peninsula. Most of the park is occupied by the massive Harding Icefield, but the most visited part of the park is its rugged coastline. The steep fjords, the tidewater glaciers and the rich marine wildlife (whales, orcas, sea lions, seals and a variety of birds), makes this one of Alaska’s most popular parks.
A number of Seward-based tour companies offer day cruises into the park. Shorter cruises stay within Resurrection Bay, closer to Seward. These are usually short tours, about 3 hours long.
Longer tours, typically 6-8 hours long, leave Resurrection Bay and veer west, first along the exposed coastline and then into one of the parallel fjords, Aialik Bay or the Northwestern Fjord. Unlike the Resurrection Bay tours, these cruises include a visit to a tidewater glacier, where you could expect some exciting calving action.
Some cruises also include a stop in Fox Island on the way back to Seward, where a grilled salmon dinner is being served.
Leaving the protected waters of Resurrection Bay and heading along the coast requires a bit of exposure, and occasionally this area could get a bit choppy. If it gets too choppy (and this happens a few times every summer), the sail will be cancelled and tickets refunded. In any case, if you’re sensitive to motion sickness, pills or wristbands are available for purchase.
Harding Icefield Trail
The only point accessible by land within Kenai Fjords National Park is Exit Glacier, a small extension spilling to the northwest off the Harding Icefield. A short (yet scenic) road leads from Seward to this fast receding glacier, and road signs along the way mark the former location of the glacier’s terminus over the past century or so.
Although much smaller then in years past, Exit Glacier is still a popular destination among visitors. A number of hiking trails in a variety of difficulty levels allow for a quick approach to the ice.
If you have the time and energy (and the capable knees), consider a climb up the Harding Icefield Trail, which is the trail that goes parallel to the glacier and all the way up to the Harding Icefield. The trail is quite challenging and for most hikers it will take about four hours to get to the top (and at least two more hours to come back down). However, the views are well worth the effort. The best viewpoint is at the top of the trail, a vantage point overlooking the icefield itself. Even in Alaska you don’t get to see this kind of view very often.