Our favorite of the eight National Parks in Alaska is Kenai Fjords. It is a great place to witness the thunderous calving of a tidewater glacier, an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Boat tours leave from the port of Seward and travel up beautiful Resurrection Bay, a long saltwater-filled valley (or fjord). The town was named in 1903 for the Secretary of State who purchased the Alaska Territory from Russia in 1867 for less than two cents per acre, a move then known as “Seward’s Folly.” Exit Glacier is the only portion of the park accessible by road and is worth the side trip.
Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).
Exit Glacier, boat tours, tidewater glaciers, marine wildlife
A tour boat is the easiest way to get up close to the variety of marine mammals and seabirds, but hardier souls can kayak the silty blue waters of Resurrection Bay. Along the route to actively calving Aialik Glacier, you will see an abundance of wildlife: orcas, humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, puffins, cormorants, and so much more. Some tour boats have a National Park Service ranger on board to narrate, answer questions, and help kids earn Junior Ranger badges. Tour boats get you close to the action to witness a tidewater glacier calving into the ocean. These glaciers are one of 32 arms of the massive Harding Ice Field.
It is a short and worthwhile hike from the parking lot to the face of the rapidly receding Exit Glacier; black bears are common in the area, so keep an eye out for them. You can continue hiking the steep 3.7-mile one-way trail up to 3,500 feet to view the expansive Harding Ice Field, but that requires at least four hours, serious endurance, and gear for the winter conditions that persist year round at that elevation.
Bundle up as it gets chilly when you pull up close to the actively calving Aialik Glacier. You will be tempted to try capturing it all on your camera, but take some time to experience the action with your eyes, not through a viewfinder.
None at Exit Glacier; boat tours cost about $200 per person
The roads to Exit Glacier and Seward, Alaska are paved.
Two public-use cabins are available for rent in the summer and only accessible by water. A free 12-site, walk-in tent campground is available at Exit Glacier, plus a winter-use cabin. There are multiple RV parks in Seward, Alaska, a beautiful place to spend a few days fishing and visiting the Alaska SeaLife Center (recommended to do before your boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park).
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
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