How Long to Spend
Visitors and Alaskans alike flock to the Kenai Peninsula to enjoy the great outdoors, but most drive right past the Hope Highway turnoff at Mile 56.3 of the Seward Highway without knowing what they're missing. This 17-mile detour lets you explore the history of one of Alaska’s first gold-rush towns, try your hand at panning for gold, fish for pink salmon and enjoy an array of outdoor activities. It’s a great destination for families!
Currently home to fewer than 200 residents, the village once housed 3,000—all drawn by gold fever. In 1889, a few years before the Klondike gold rush began to lure people north, a miner discovered nuggets in nearby Resurrection Creek. Soon prospectors found gold in many area streams—including Bear, Sixmile, Canyon and Mills—triggering the 1890s Turnagain Arm gold rush. According to local lore, this growing community of tents and cabins chose to name their town after the youngest rusher to step off the next boat—17-year-old Percy Hope. Whether or not the story is true, the name certainly evokes the optimism of every prospector who arrived in Hope in search of a fortune.
Hope still exudes that vibe today—a friendly village with narrow lanes leading past old log buildings with a pastoral, laid-back atmosphere. During the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, part of the town was lost to the rising water-now a tidal meadow with camping on the fringe. The 100-year-old Hope Social Hall still stands, a weathered log cabin that hosts community meetings, dances, and weddings. The place is a great place for a stroll or a leisurely bike ride, with cafes, shops, a popular saloon with live music on summer weekends, and a way-cool museum featuring mining lore and the area’s heritage.
- Encounter Hope’s past. The Hope & Sunrise Historical Mining Museum features artifacts, mining lore, local history, historical presentations and restored buildings dating from the pioneer days. It’s a great place to learn about local history and get insider directions.
- Pan for gold. Check out the recreational gold panning zone on Resurrection Creek, including some of the same grounds worked over during the 1890s Gold Rush. You can also sometimes hone your swirling technique with the pan when the Hope Museum hosts demonstrations.
- Catch a meal (or go dancing!) Mingle with locals at the popular Discovery Café and enjoy a generous burger or a slice of its famous pies.
(This much-loved eatery burned to the ground a few years ago and was rebuilt almost entirely by volunteer labor.) The Seaview Café & Bar on Main Street features burgers at a cozy café, next door to a community saloon that often has live music on summer weekends.
- Fish for pinks. Anglers of all ages will find one the best places in Southcentral Alaska to fish for pink salmon only yards off Hope’s Main Street in Resurrection Creek. This classic intertidal fishery ramps up in late July and lasts into August. Hit the creek during incoming tides, using flies or spinners and spoons. If you come on a weekend when the fish are running in numbers, enjoy the crowd!
- Go whitewater rafting. Once a lucrative gold-panning area, Six Mile Creek (running parallel to the first 8 miles of the Hope Highway) now lures people with challenging Class IV and V rapids, winding through a stretch of canyons to Turnagain Arm. Named by rum-soaked prospectors, this extraordinary waterway is neither 6 miles long, nor a creek (go figure). NOVA Alaska Guides will take you on a guided rafting adventure.
- Take a hike. Hope is home to several of the Kenai Peninsula’s most outstanding hiking trails, and leading the list would the famous 38-mile Resurrection Pass Trail through the Kenai Mountains to the Copper Landing area, with side hikes and public use cabins. The five-mile (one way) Gull Rock Trail for walkers and mountain bikers heads up the coast along Turnagain Arm with great views and a destination where people sometimes camp. The Hope Point Trail climbs more than 3,000 feet up the adjacent mountain. (For both Hope Point and Gull Rock trailheads, turn left about 500 feet before the Porcupine Campground at Mile 17.8.)
- Go camping. In a handsome stand of mature birch trees, the Porcupine Campground at the end of the Hope Highway is one of the most popular campgrounds on the Kenai. The community also several private campgrounds (check the Seaview Café & Bar) along with unregulated campsites on gravel roads in the national forest.
- Go Birding. The salt marsh along Turnagain Arm right off Main Street can be an avian hotspot, attracting shorebirds, sea birds and migrating species and bald eagles in the salt marsh. The surrounding forest provide rich habitat for resident species, and you’ll find ptarmigan up Palmer Creek Road.
From Anchorage, head down the scenic Seward Highway over Turnagain Pass to the connection to the Hope Highway at Mile 56.7. The historic community lies another 16.9 miles ahead, almost at the end of the road.