Anchorage to Seward (Seward Highway)

Turnagain Arm Drive (South)  (2:10)

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.

Route 1 from Anchorage to Tern Lake, Route 9 from Tern Lake to Seward. 45-60 mph, depending on traffic. For those traveling by RV, here is our list of campgrounds on the Kenai Peninsula.

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.

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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

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 9 miles

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate

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

The pre­mier spot to view wild Dall sheep in Alas­ka (and maybe the whole con­ti­nent) looms over one of the state’s busiest high­ways only 20 miles south of Anchorage.

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

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

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.

Season: Year Round $16

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

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 23 miles

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

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 10 miles

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

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

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

From the grav­el pull­out on the west side of the high­way, an easy 14 mile walk to the Sock­eye salmon view­ing plat­form awaits (not ful­ly acces­si­ble). Salmon are in the creek from mid-July to ear­ly August with the best view­ing in late July. 

This is a must stop for pho­tos of beau­ti­ful Kenai Lake. The lake was formed from glac­i­er water is a majes­tic blue and green tone. You’ll find sev­er­al park­ing areas along the lake and signs that give you a lit­tle his­to­ry about it.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

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.

Difficulty: Difficult

This trail is also called the Prim­rose trail at the north end. It begins in a beau­ti­ful rain­for­est and even­tu­al­ly takes you up to a mul­ti­ple of beau­ti­ful lakes in high meadows.

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