Kenai Fjords National Park is located on the Kenai Peninsula, just outside the town of Seward, AK. This National Park gets its name from the vast fjords lining the coast of the park. The combination of marine life and icefield environments make this park incredibly special, just so special in fact, it has become one of my most favorite parks of all time. Peak season is from June-August, with limited services offered in May and September. I recommend dedicating at least two days to explore Kenai Fjords- one to spend on the water, and the other on land.
The 3 days we spent in Seward were some of my favorites of our trip. We stayed in another cute cabin, just outside of town. The first day was quite rainy, but we spent it getting settled, exploring the town, touring the Sea Life Center, and then making a nice, warm meal inside our cabin.
The next day was our water tour, and thankfully, the weather seemed to clear up for our trip. We booked a 6-hour tour through Kenai Fjords Tours, which left from the Seward Marina. I am definitely a water person, so this excursion was something I had very high hopes for. We were able to see puffins, otters, sea lions, seals, orcas, and humpback whales! This trip did not leave me disappointed. Probably one of the coolest things we got to see and experience was a huge pod of Humpback whales bubble-net feeding RIGHT in front of our boat! You really knew it was a rare and special occasion because the whole boat crew was freaking out as well. We also got up close and personal with Ialic Glacier, which is a part of the Harding Ice Field, and saw it calving multiple times. I really can’t say enough amazing things about our tour– it is something I will never forget!
Our last day was spent on land in the Exit Glacier area of the park. We hiked around to the glacier viewpoints and overlooks. No bear sightings were had by us, but one was reported right before we started our hike in the morning, as well as right after we had gotten off the trail later that afternoon. We chatted with a park ranger after our hike about glaciers and bears and then stayed to listen to her talk about Lichen. We learned that glaciers have a normal growth and retreat period, but Exit Glacier has been retreating at a significantly faster rate and is no longer actively growing. Throughout the park there are signs with years on them that signify where the glacier used to be. To cap off the afternoon we headed to downtown Seward for a late lunch and some sweet treats.
And just because I love marine wildlife so much, here’s some fun/interesting info from a brochure on our water tour. Each summer, Kenai Fjords becomes the feeding grounds for 4 different species of whales:
- Humpback whale: most spend June-September feeding in Alaska before migrating to the Hawaiian Islands or California where they will breed and give birth.
- Orcas: resident orcas are highly social, travel in pods, and hunt fish via echolocation. Transient orcas travel in small numbers and hunt mammals such as seals and larger whales.
- Gray whale: travel from Baja, Mexico to Kenai Fjords- the longest migration of any mammal.
- Fin whale: second largest species of whale, and they live up to 90 years!
- Sea otters: small, speedy, & ridiculously adorable
- Sea lions: live in Kenai Fjords year-round and are the largest member of the seal family. They fish at night and rest during the day.
- Harbor seal: also year round residents of Kenai Fjords, they have no external ear flap and eat fish and shrimp.
- Dall’s porpoise: powerful swimmers with sharp, rapid movements. They often ride the bow waves of the tour boats.
Moral of the story—if Kenai Fjords isn’t on your list, put it on there, and put it at the top! You won’t regret it.