Kenai Fjords National Park & Preserve
Location and Characteristics
Kenai Fjords National Park is located just outside the town of Seward in south-central Alaska, 126 miles south of Anchorage. It covers an area of 669,984 acres (1,046.9 sq mi). It is only one of three national parks in Alaska that can be reached by road.
| Kenai Fjords National Park
PO Box 1727
Seward, AK 99664
Website of Kenai Fjords National Park at NPS
Kenai Fjords National Park was formed in 1980, and named after its many fjords. These are long, narrow valleys with steep cliffsides usually below sea level created by the glaciers flowing through the 936-square-mile Harding Icefield. It is one of only four remaining icefields in U.S., and is also the largest icefield entirely within U.S. borders.
In addition to the Harding Icefield, the park also features two other main areas, the Exit Glacier and the coast. Exit Glacier, a half-mile wide river of ice, is the easiest section of the park to access. The park’s rugged coastline includes beautiful tidewater glaciers and abundant marine wildlife.
Kenai Fjords is extensively glaciated, with 51% of the park covered by ice. The Harding Icefield receives 60 feet (18 m) of snowfall per year. More than thirty glaciers originate in the icefield, which first formed about 23,000 years ago. The park's largest glacier is Bear Glacier. The most accessible glacier, and the only portion of the park accessible by road, is Exit Glacier.
Even though the park is often inaccessible during the winter months, Seward is accessible year-round via the Seward Highway, a National Scenic Byway.
The park is inhabited by a variety of terrestrial and marine mammals, including brown and black bears, moose, sea otters, harbor seals, humpback and killer whales.
Let's Visit the Park!
Spend a day, or more, and enjoy and explore Kenai Fjords National Park!
|Map showing the location of Kenai Fjords National Park relative to other Alaska cities, parks and preserves|
|Two Arm Bay at Kenai Fjords
Scenes from Around the Park
|Aerial view of Bear Glacier Lagoon at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska (USGS Photo)|
|Coastal Meadow at Kenai Fjords in Alaska (NPS)|
|Quiet cove at Kenai Fjords National Park (NPS)|
Kenai Fjords Visitor Center
Exit Glacier Nature Center
or phone 907.422.0500
The park's visitor center is located in the small boat harbor of the town of Seward, Alaska, and is a great place to visit either before or after your boat tour of Kenai Fjords.
The center offers information, an auditorium for showing our park film, an Alaska Geographic bookstore, and rangers are available to answer questions about the area.
Exit Glacier Nature Center
The nature center is the trailhead for all that the Exit Glacier area has to offer, including the Harding Icefield trail.
The building includes exhibits about the Exit Glacier area, an Alaska Geographic bookstore, and rangers to help answer questions about the area.
Map of Kenai Fjords
Shown below is a map of Kenai Fjords National Park, courtesy of the National Park Service.
click the image to view maps at NPS
|Cobble Beach scene at Kenai Fjords National Park (NPS)|
Getting To & Around the Park
If arriving by automobile, follow the Seward Highway (AK-1) south from Anchorage. It will become AK-9 around mile 35 (87 miles from Anchorage) with AK-1 heading to Homer and Kenai. Continue on AK-9 to Seward.
Alaska's state-owned railroad connects Anchorage to Seward during the summer months (May - September).
Air travel to Anchorage (ANC) is the easiest entry to Alaska. Then you'll want to use a car, bus, or train to reach Kenai Fjords. Charter flights may be available to Seward.
In summer, many cruise ships begin or end their voyages in Seward. In addition, a variety of private bus and van services operate daily from Anchorage to Seward.
Exit Glacier is the only area of the park accessible by car. If you are here without a car, shuttle and taxi services are available between Exit Glacier and Seward. Boat tours provide day trips to view the fjords, tidewater glaciers, and marine wildlife. A variety of lengths and times are available to accommodate schedules. Many include Park Ranger interpretation.
|Bear Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park (NPS)|
| Entrance sign at the Exit Glacier Area
What Weather to Expect in Kenai Fjords
The weather at Kenai Fjords is difficult to predict and can change rapidly. The area generally enjoys a relatively temperate maritime climate, primarily due to the influence of the Japanese current that flows through the Gulf of Alaska.
Summer daytime temperatures range from the mid 40s to the low 70s (Fahrenheit). Overcast and cool rainy days are frequent. It is not unusual to get several long periods of continuous rain in the summer months, but we do have some glorious sunny days as well. Snow often remains in the higher elevations through June or July.
Winter temperatures can range from the low 30s to -20. The Exit Glacier area averages close to 200 inches of snowfall annually, but conditions vary greatly. Storms dumping several feet of snow are common, as are rainy mid-winter days with temperatures hovering in the mid-upper 30s.
Summer at Kenai Fjords NP
|Winter at Kenai Fjords NP
Activities and Lodging in/near Kenai Fjords
There is so much to do at Kenai Fjords! Visitors to the park enjoy kayaking, camping, public use cabins, fishing, beach combing, bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, boat tours, ranger programs, flightseeing and mountaineering. Kenai Fjords is also a top-rated cruise ship destination.
Businesses in downtown Seward, Alaska
Once the road to Exit Glacier is snow-covered and closed to cars, it is accessible by fat bikes, cross-country skis, snowmobile, dog sled, and more. Winter recreation generally starts in early November and the snow can last into May.
Bus tours from Seward visit Exit Glacier and boat tours visit other parts of the park.
Various tour operators provide views of land and marine wildlife, particularly Steller sea lions, puffins, Dall's porpoises, American black bear, snowshoe hares, Mountain goats, and humpback and orca whales, as well as natural sights such as the fjords and tidewater glaciers.
Tour-boat cruises along the coast, dipping into such sizable fjords as Aialik Bay, Northwestern Lagoon, McCarty Fjord and North Arm, as well as sailing beneath mountains exceeding 6000ft in height.
Spring brings an opportunity to see California gray whales migrating Alaska. And they're just the first species to arrive. During the summer, migratory seabirds nest along the rocky cliffs and humpback, fin, minke, and orca whales all get their fill of food in the nutrient-rich waters. It is common to see otters bobbing along in the current, sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks, puffins skimming along the water, and Dall porpoises frolicking in the bow waves of boats.
The area is also a mecca for fishing! many charter vessels operate out of Seward’s small boat harbor. Fish for salmon and Dolly Varden in the park’s waters, or target salmon, halibut, rockfish, and ling cod in the waters of Resurrection Bay and beyond.
The park maintains public-use cabins and shelters in coastal areas and at the edge of the Harding Icefield. Some of these are on native corporation lands, with a portion of the use fee going to the native community.
| Boat docks at Seward, Alaska
|Holland America Line "Westerdam" docked at Seward|
Kenai Fjords tour boat
Seeing Kenai Fjords by Cruise Ship
Seward is a departure point and destination for large cruise ships from Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International and others.
Cruise tours originating from Seward provide access to the park via Resurrection Bay. Various companies offer tours, many guided by National Park Rangers.
Other Alaska National Parks