The drive from Anchorage to the seaside community of Seward begins with two hours of spectacular views as you pass between the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm and the jutting peaks of the Chugach Mountains. Your route continues through the Kenai Peninsula, famous for its array of outdoor activities.
Mile markers for the Seward Highway count down as you approach the town, which is nestled between Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Mountains. You'll find great fishing, glacier & wildlife cruises, sea kayaking, and other attractions.
Click here for other scenic drives from Anchorage.
Discover Historic Sites During Your Drive
The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area is a vibrant corridor of natural, cultural, and historic riches. This dynamic area runs from the “Gateway City” of Seward north to Indian, and spans Whittier’s Prince William Sound port on the east to Cooper Landing on the west. This means you can access several of these National Heritage Areas as you drive between Anchorage and Seward.
Although travelers can now drive to all of these communities within a few hours, early roads were often seasonal. Pack and dog team trails were a bargain to build at $100 per mile to construct and winter sled roads ran $250 per mile. Year-round wagon roads cost $2,200 a mile, but the ride through boggy areas wasn’t paved in gold. Large logs, infilled with gravel, were the roadbed in these low spots. Such “corduroy” roads were passable by horse team in the early 1900s.
Within these still-rugged miles is hidden a treasure trove of stories. From Native peoples to Russian fur traders, European explorers, and American gold prospectors, the quest for trade and treasures tested the limits of human endurance and inspired remarkable ingenuity. Discover the story as you explore the KMTA National Heritage Area.
Points of Interest
Anchorage to Portage Turnoff
Here you’ll find one of the most accessible wildlife viewing areas in Alaska. The marsh is a rest area for migratory birds including trumpeter swans, rednecked grebes, golden eyes, and pintails. Also watch for beavers, moose and bald eagles. You may even spot salmon spawning in the deeper water.
This rest area is the site of a railroad section house. The restored house and its outbuildings were built by the Alaska Railroad to house the section foreman and his family. The foreman was responsible for maintaining a 10-mile stretch of railroad track. You’ll find an old train car and rotary plow that used by the section foreman to clear snow off the tracks in winter. This is a fun stop for kids to take a look at railroad history and… ...more
Older books might have referred to this as the old Johnson Trail, but another trail of the same name on the Kenai Peninsula made it too confusing for them to both keep their names. This trail is the first of the trails available for hiking in the spring. It follows the highway, with mild elevation gains to allow awesome views of the Turnagain Arm.
With just a short walk from the parking area you will find a beautiful 20 foot water fall. The trailhead starts off paralleling the Turnagain Arm and there are a number of small trails that go to different lookouts. Take the trail to the left for a short distance and you will find the McHugh Trail branching off to the right. The trail zig-zags upward through the woods and provides ever better views of the Turnagain Arm and mountains.
This is a popular stop as you travel the Seward Highway. Here you’ll find 180 degree views of Turnagain Arm with spotting scopes and interpretive signs. Look for beluga whales rolling in the surf, often seen from mid-July to August following the salmon run. And, try and catch the bore tide, and incoming tide that stretches the entire width of Turnagain Arm and can be up to six feet high.
Update: As of March 27, 2019, this area is now closed. After the November 30, 2018 earthquake, it is a high rock-fall risk area. We’ll keep an eye out for a new great spot to grab fresh Alaska water! Drive just a few miles south of Anchorage, and you can taste the best water that Alaska has to offer. No fees, no gimmicks: just a 5‑foot pipe protruding from a granite cliff face that gushes crystal clear water capable of causing instant brain ...more
This mine played a significant role in the early settling of the Turnagain Arm. The building here are on the National Register of historic places and the mine is unique because of its association with load mining. Indian Valley Mine was founded in 1910 by a vagabond who ran away from home at the age of 12, joined the circus and then finally traveled to Alaska during the gold rush. The Cowles family will tell you all about the history of this… ...more
This is one spot you don’t want to miss. July through September you’ll witness a spectacular run of Silver Salmon. Fishermen from all over the world come into Alaska to cast a line here. There will be hundreds of people coming and going from Bird Creek on any given day. In their hands will be the days bounty; a nice big silver salmon that is delicious when smoked and even better when grilled and coated with lemon and a honey mustard glaze.… ...more
This hike is popular in spring for those looking for an aerobic workout. It is very steep, but offers secure footing. One of many highlights along the scenic Seward Highway, Bird Ridge Trail climbs 3,000 feet in a little more than a mile to magnificent views of the fjord-like Turnagain Arm.
Here’s another great stop to take in the scenic beauty of the mountains and the Turnagain Arm. Here you can access the Bird to Gird paved multi use pathway. From this spot it’s a six-mile journey down the trail, which features stunning views and interpretive signs. Take a walk or a bike ride to Girdwood for a bite to eat. And don’t forget to look for Beluga whales a few hours before high tide (as they come in with the tide to feed on the… ...more
The 1964 Earthquake devastated transportation routes from Anchorage to Seward. A daring rescue of the rail bridge over Twenty-Mile Creek helped keep the line open in the days following the quake.
At the 200-acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, see Alaskan wildlife up close. The center’s mission is to provide refuge for orphaned, injured, and ill animals — those that can’t survive in the wild. The center, which opened to the public in 1993, educates visitors about Alaska’s wildlife. Coyotes peer out from behind the brush while a bald eagle swoops in on the salmon remains left by a grizzly bear. Wood Bison plod through 65 acres of tidal ...more
Portage Valley southeast of Anchorage at the head of Turnagain Arm offers so many potential adventures that you might have to tow a trailer loaded with gear to sample them all. What will you find here? Biking, hiking, picnicking, fishing, paddling, wildlife viewing, potential iceberg sightings — plus a natural history visitor center packed with interactive displays about the ecosystem of the valley and Prince William Sound. It’s like an outdoor ...more
Portage Turnoff to Sterling Highway Turnoff
The wildflowers are abundant and verdant undergrowth can be check high sometimes. Most of the trail lies below treeline, so there are established camp clearings along the way that are nestled into the trees. One of the best campsites is 10 miles in from the northern trailhead, set among trees on a spruce-covered knoll looking over the trail and Bench Lake.
Turn here for a scenic drive to an off-the-beaten-path town that sits on the edge of Turnagain Arm. Established in the 1890’s, it was one of the first gold mining towns in Alaska. Many of the town’s original buildings are still standing, including the Seaview Café and Bar. There’s still a hitching post in front of the mercantile, just in case you decide to bring your horse. Hope is also known to have suffered the some of the worst damage… ...more
Well-maintained and suitable for summer hiking and biking, the 10-mile Devil’s Pass Trail features a steep route up a spectacular V‑shaped valley that intersects with the Resurrection Pass Trail and a rental cabin in the alpine realm. The country is rugged, with great access to cross-country tundra exploration and berry picking.
Sterling Highway Cutoff to Seward
Learn how the fish are raised from small alevin to fry and beyond to smolt size before being released into surrounding lakes and bays. Depending on the fish cycle, there may or may not be fish to view, so please call ahead. If there are no fish to be seen, you’re welcome to look at a small photo gallery and learn about the fish production cycle, and understand why hatchery’s play such an important role in keeping our fish population… ...more
This picturesque town 30 miles outside of Seward got its name, in part, in 1903 when a moose got in the way of a mail carrier’s dog team. Certainly, there have been and still are plenty of moose around here. Located on the shores of Upper Trail Lake, the town is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest and is also home to the start of the Iditarod trail, which was blazed through here in 1910. Since it seems to be just a dot on the road,… ...more
These popular trails lead to two beautiful, pristine lakes. Even better, they’re both easy hikes, which makes them perfect for people of all ages. Bring a fishing pole and angle for stocked trout in Meridian Lake or grayling in Grayling Lake.