Alaska is full of incredible national parks and one of the most mind-blowing is Kenai Fjords National Park. This is a guide of reasons to visit and things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park for first-time visitors.
Are you simply looking to quickly book a top-rated cruise in Kenai Fjord National Park? Here are two options:
Kenai Fjords NP is more than just breathtaking wildlife encounters and views of glaciers, there are fantastic activities in the park that make it a must-visit on your Alaska itinerary.
This guide will cover what to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, where to stay, frequently asked questions, and much more! It is most definitely a park that you need to plan ahead to visit to make the most of it and, yes, you can visit it year-round. It truly is one of the best places to travel to in the United States!
If you have any questions about things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park, please leave us a message below.
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Kenai Fjords National Park Travel Tips & Practical Info
This next section details some practical information to help you plan your trip to Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward.
Quick Facts About Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the United States. But, there is a lot to see! Here are some quick facts about the park.
Entrance Fee to Kenai Fjords National Park
It is free to visit Kenai Fjords National Park and there is no fee. There is a fee, however, if you want to stay in the public-use three cabins overnight, but to reserve them, you need to call in advance to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center (907-644-3661; 866-869-6887).
Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Centers
Kenai Fjords National Park’s main visitor center is located in the town of Seward, Alaska close to the small boat harbor. This gives you an opportunity to visit Seward before heading to the national park!
At the visitor center, it is possible to get additional and detailed information about the park, visit the auditorium to see the film about the area, and to check out Alaska Geographic Bookstore.
Kenai Fjords National Park is open all year but services are reduced from September to May. The visitor center is open June 4 – September from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
The off-season and winter hours are September 3 – May 24 from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Please note that it is closed on weekends and holidays.
You will also find the Exit Glacier Nature Center at the end of the road in the park at Exit Glacier. This visitor center is open daily from 9 am until 5 pm. It is open year-round.
Best Time to Visit Kenai Fjords National Park
Summers are the best time to visit Kenai Fjords National Park because the days are longer and tend to be sunnier. The temperature during the summertime fluctuates between 40-70F degrees.
The first snow typically falls in Kenai Fjords National Park in October and continues until May. As a result of the temperamental weather and snowfall, the road to Exit Glacier, one of the main attractions in Kenai Fjord National Park, closes during the wintertime.
It’s still possible to get to Exit Glacier in the wintertime by snowmobiling or skiing… which is a fantastic opportunity to see the park as it should be covered in blankets of fresh snow. Click below to see our US national parks guides for the winter months:
- Best national parks in December
- Best national parks in January
- Best national parks in February
- Best national parks in March
How Many Days Do You Need?
It is recommended to spend at least two days in Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park. That will permit you enough time to see Exit Glacier, take a half-day cruise of the fjords, and see the town of Seward.
If you’re into hiking or other adventurous activities, definitely set aside more time at this Alaska National Park!
Driving in Kenai Fjords National Park
It is possible to drive in Kenai Fjords National Park but the only site accessible by car is Exit Glacier. That road closes during the winter, so you will need to take a snowmobile or ski to the glacier instead.
All other parts of the park are only accessible by boat.
Read more: Best Airbnbs in Seward, Alaska
Kenai Fjords National Park in Winter
Are you looking to visit Kenai Fjords National Park in winter? Well, fortunately, the national park does remain open! And there is plenty to do.
During the wintertime, the road to the Exit Glacier is fully covered with snow, and to get there, visitors must try to cross-country ski, snowmobile, fat bike, or dog-sled there.
Another perk of winter in Kenai Fjords National Park is that it is possible to see moose around Exit Glacier from afar that are trying to scour the snow-covered land for their next meal.
Read More: Underrated national parks in the USA
The temperature in winter fluctuates between the low 30s to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Annually, on average, Exit Glacier and the surrounding area receive about 200 inches of snow, but conditions vary greatly and winter storms are not uncommon.
Kenai Fjords National Park Winter Activities
There are plenty of activities possible during the winter at Kenai Fjords National Park. There is usually snow cover from October or November until May.
After it snows, the road to Exit Glacier is closed to cars but is still accessible by other types of transport. You can still enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, snow biking, and snowmobiling throughout the park.
For guided scenic tours and snowshoe walks, check out Adventure Sixty North, which is a shuttle and tour service that takes you into the park.
Technical ice climbing is also permitted in the winter on the glacier. It is recommended to book an excursion with a mountaineering company as they can provide expensive, quality equipment and expertise.
Best Things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park
The main reason people travel to Kenai Fjords National Park is to experience its unparalleled nature and wildlife opportunities. Here are some things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park from boat cruises to kayaking and beyond!
Take a Cruise of the Kenai Fjords
As there is only one road into the park, which is not always accessible, other methods are available to explore this extensive wilderness. A boat tour is a great way to see the glaciers and wildlife!
There are a variety of Kenai Fjords boat tour companies that you can choose from- from larger boats that have rangers who give presentations to smaller-capacity boats just for your group.
All boat tours go through Resurrection Bay, and longer tours will take you through the fjords and between floating ice. On these Kenai Fjords National Park boat tours, you will not only get an up-close look at the glaciers, but you will also get to keep on the lookout for the various wild animals you can spot both on land and at sea.
Often you can see porpoises, whales, otters, orcas, puffins, seals, bears, and mountain goats.
Here are some of the top cruises of Kenai Fjords National Park that you can take on your trip:
⇒ Kenai Fjords 6-hour Cruise: Book with GetYourGuide // Book with Viator
⇒ Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise: Book with GetYourGuide // Book with Viator
⇒ National Park Tour with Fox Island: Book with Viator
⇒ Glacier & Wildlife Cruise to Kenai Fjords NP (Full-day, 6 guests max): Book with Viator
⇒ Grand Day Wildlife Cruise & Glacier Kayak Combo: Book with Viator
⇒ Tidewater Glacier Express (3/4 day tour, max 6 guests): Book with Viator
GetYourGuide is our trusted partner for tours in the United States and Europe (we always take them ourselves) and they are very picky with whom they work with as suppliers and only pick top-quality ones.
Kayaking in Kenai Fjords National Park
If you have some experience kayaking, this is a wonderful way to see the park! Kayaking allows you to sneak into the wilderness almost undisturbed, unlike taking a boat that generates more noise.
You will be able to experience the park in its natural, peaceful setting. Because kayaking creates less noise than a boat, you might be able to spot more wildlife.
Make sure you are prepared and feel comfortable with kayaking, as you will be on the open water with little protection from the elements. If you are ok with this, you will be greatly rewarded with amazing views and a unique perspective.
Visit Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier is the main glacier of the park and the only one accessible by road. There are several hiking trails you can take to explore the Alaska glacier.
Before setting out, make sure to check out the Exit Glacier Nature Center, which has exhibits about the area, a bookstore, and rangers to answer any of your questions.
There are a few different trails you can take from the Nature Center starting point which take you to points like Glacier View, from which you have great views of the glacier, and Exit Glacier Overlook, where you can see the glacier up close in the valley it carved out for itself.
If you want a longer hike, consider doing the Harding Icefield Trail, which also starts from the Nature Center.
Join a Ranger-led Program
Ranger-led programs are offered daily in the summer season. You can take a 1.5-hour walk with a ranger to the Glacier Overlook, or listen to an informative talk at the pavilion near the Nature Center.
These talks cover topics about the diverse wildlife in the park and the local history. For kids, they have junior ranger programs available.
Book now: Kenai Fjords 6-hour cruise from Seward
Also, in the summer, rangers often guide boat tours with the Major Marine Tours company, so check out their schedule if you’re interested in a ranger-narrated boat tour.
Hike the Harding Icefield Trail
At 8.2-miles roundtrip with steep inclines, this hike is not for the faint of heart. But if you are up for it, the reward is spectacular!
The trailhead is at the Exit Glacier Nature Center on the valley floor, where it then winds through the cottonwood forest and up through heather meadows, eventually surpassing the treeline, where you will discover beautiful, breathtaking views of the icefield below.
This hike is considered a strenuous, all-day hike and climbs about 1,000 feet per every mile of trail. If you cannot do the whole trail, it is still worth it to go partway as there are gorgeous views from many different points along the way.
Flightseeing Over the Kenai Fjords
For a totally different way to go sightseeing, try flightseeing in Kenai Fjords National Park. Take a tour in a helicopter or fixed-wing plane, where you will see the park from a totally different perspective.
Seeing it from above, you will really be able to appreciate the vast expanse of the park. Flightseeing is also a great way to try to spot wildlife and is definitely a unique way to see the park.
Below are three top-rated helicopter experiences in Kenai Fjords National Park that you should consider adding to your itinerary:
⇒ 45-Minute Glacier Flight and Landing (from $413)
⇒ 60-Minute Extended Glacier Tour and Landing (from $501)
⇒ Helicopter Glacier Landing (from $238)
⇒ 60-Minute Scenic Flight of Kenai Fjords and Chugach National Forest (from $565)
Go Whale Watching in Kenai Fjords National Park
A fantastic option for those into seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is to go on a Kenai Fjords whale watching tour! The most commonly spotted whales in Kenai Fjords National Park are the humpbacks and orcas.
However, depending on the time of the year, you may also get to see the gray whales on their annual migration through the Gulf of Alaska. There is also a possibility to see minke whales and fin whales, but it is more common to see humpbacks and orcas (killer whales).
The best time to go whale watching in Alaska is from June until August.
There are a few opportunities to take whale watching tours in the Kenai Fjords. Here are the top-rated whale watching tours in Kenai Fjords National Park (and please note, there is no guarantee that you will actually see a whale!):
⇒ 9am Whale Watching Cruise Departure with max 6 guests (from $169)
⇒ 1:30pm Whale Watching Cruise Departure with max 6 guests (from $169)
⇒ Orca Quest Cruise (from $107)
⇒ Gray Whale Watching Cruise from Seward (from $102)
What to Pack
To be honest, it really depends on which season you will be visiting Kenai Fjords National Park during. If you’re going during the winter months, you will need completely different gear than the summer months. Here are our top recommendations:
Things to pack for summer in Kenai Fjords National Park:
- insulated, waterproof jacket (especially for cruises – it will get chilly!)
- waterproof hiking boots
- zoom lens for your camera
- sea-bands (for those that get seasick)
Things to pack for winter in Kenai Fjords National Park:
- mobile power bank (cold weather depletes batteries!)
- tripod if you’re looking to photograph in low-light
- winter parka (this Helly Hansen Svalbard parka is exceptional!)
- crampons (grips for ice for your shoes)
- Sorel snow boots
- neck gaiter (this one from Kari Traa is so warm and colorful)
- sea-bands (for those that get seasick)
Seward Lodging Options
The best place to base yourself for a Kenai Fjords National Park trip is in Seward, a small fishing town that is the gateway to the park. Here are some of the top places to stay in Seward – from hotels to Airbnbs to camping, and beyond!
Hotels in Seward
Here are some of the top hotels in Seward that you can add to your Kenai Fjords National Park itinerary:
⇒ Arctic Paradise B&B (luxury guesthouse hosted by a wildlife biologist)
⇒ Harbor 360 Hotel Seward (mid-range, waterfront hotel)
⇒ The Vue B&B (mid-range, modern lodging in Seward)
⇒ Exit Glacier Lodge (2-star, budget accommodation)
Airbnbs in Seward
Here are some of the top-rated, Superhost Airbnbs in Seward to consider booking for your trip to Kenai Fjords National Park (they are all located in the city center or within walking distance of top attractions)!
⇒ Mt Marathon Retro 50’s (4 guests – entire apartment with a retro theme from $139/night)
⇒ Coffee House Cottage (2 guests – rustic, yet modern cottage from $195/night)
⇒ A Suite View (4 guests – entire apartment right beside the bay from $129/night)
⇒ Queen Room with Sofa (3 guests – private room in boutique hotel from $104/night)
⇒ Sea Treasures Inn – The Mermaid Room (2 guests – guest suite from $104/night)
Camping in Kenai Fjords National Park
If you’re looking into camping in Kenai Fjords National Park, there is a 12-site, walk-in campground for tents located at Exit Glacier. This is a first-come, first-served campground in Kenai Fjords NP so you can not reserve it. It is a free campground.
During July and August, this campground tends to be completely full by the early evening. So, plan ahead! Alternatively, you can look into camping at Chugach National Forest nearby (or in Seward).
Read More: Most popular national parks in the USA
Should You Visit Kenai Fjords National Park?
Kenai Fjords National Park is just another example of why visiting Alaska should be on everyone’s bucket list! This national park has so much to offer- from wildlife to glaciers (there are 36 glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park!), and beyond.
We hope that this guide of things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park helps you plan your trip there with ease.
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