The Sterling Highway begins at the Tern Lake Junction of the Seward Highway and stretches 142 miles to the town of Homer. While the highway is open year round, it is much busier during the summer months, as it leads to some of the best fishing spots along the Kenai River. The Kenai area is known as “Alaska’s Playground”, so in addition to fishing you will find a wealth of outdoor activities such as canoeing, rafting, flightseeing, horseback riding, hiking, and more. This guide features some of the highlights of the drive, and some of the best places to stop along the way. Route 1 from Tern Lake to Homer. 50-60 mph, except 45 mph near Cooper Landing.
Located at the intersection of the Seward and Sterling highways at Milepost 37. This area hosts a myriad of animals, birds, fish, and unique plants. Common loons, bald eagles, and arctic terns share the area with a variety of songbirds and shorebirds like the northern water thrush, golden-crowned sparrow, and the greater yellowlegs. Beavers, river otters, muskrats, and salmon ply the cold, clear waters of Tern Lake. Moose, Dall sheep, and… ...more
This 86-room lodge not only has endless views over a vast valley, but it also sits on the banks of the Kenai River, which teems with fish. With vaulted ceilings made of naturally finished wood, cozy sitting areas with wood-burning stoves and private porches, it’s easy to feel like the whole place is yours. The area is famous for its fishing, but you also have easy access to Kenai Fjords National Park, a wild land filled with glaciers, marine ...more
Alaska Heavenly Lodge offers the best of both worlds: all the seclusion and luxury normally associated with fly-in lodges, as well as the affordability and convenience of being on the road system. Built in 1974, Alaska Heavenly Lodge is made up of three hand-hewn log cabins. The Main Lodge features a full kitchen, a 16-person dining room table, a comfy sitting area with a wood-burning fireplace, a loft library, and a deck overlooking the Kenai ...more
If you have your own canoe or kayak, stop for a paddle on Skilak Lake, located in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. For a quick hike with good views, go down Skilak Lake Road, past Hidden Lake campground, to Skilak Lake Lookout Trail. Get a glimpse of Skilak Glacier and look out over the lake. You can be up and back in 1−1.5 hours. Up for something longer? Here are two good day hikes: Depending on time, tackle the Skyline Trail. Right… ...more
This little town 10 miles northeast of Soldotna shares its name with the highway that cuts through the Kenai Peninsula. Ironically, one of the best reasons to pull over here is to steer a different kind of vehicle: a canoe. The Swan Lake Canoe Route starts 12 miles down Swan Lake Rd and offers a 17-mile float into town on the Moose River and over 60 miles of lakes and short portages, great for everything from day trips to week-long… ...more
As the sister city of Kenai, the town of Soldotna is in many ways the heart of the Kenai Peninsula. As proof of its fishing mecca status, the 97-lb world record salmon was caught here; you’ll find more elevated fishing platforms here than anywhere else, which helps protect the waters for fish and anglers to come. One hundred forty miles from Anchorage, Soldotna offers pretty much any activity that fits with the Kenai’s “playground” vibe,… ...more
The town of Kasilof (pronounced kuh-SEE-loff) has a lot of the great activities that other Kenai Peninsula towns do — fishing, camping and wildlife viewing. But this tiny town 15 miles south of Soldotna, on the Sterling Highway, is also a vibrant dog sledding community — while here you can visit the kennel of Dean Osmar, an Iditarod champion, and take a ride behind champion dogs. The best fishing is at the Kasilof River and Johnson Lake — both… ...more
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game operate the Crooked Creek hatchery, adult salmon may be viewed moving up the stream and fishway into the hatchery raceways; king salmon in late June and early July and coho salmon in late August and September. Each salmon is identified and counted as it swims through the chute using an underwater video camera.
Sounds Wild: Porky BabiesPorcupines are not often seen along the main paved roads of the Kenai Peninsula. You have to get off on the gravel side roads that pass through their habitat. Tustumena Lake road travels through the Kenai Wildlife Refuge and ends at the Kasilof River campground. This road is great for viewing various birds including spruce grouse, thrushes and chickadees. Moose are found along this road and if you are really lucky, a… ...more
In an area that’s famous for fishing, here is one spot where you don’t need a tackle box to blend in. As the name implies, this is a clamming town— with thousands of razor clams harvested annually from the sandy beaches. Best of all, there is a pretty short learning curve for clamming: all you need is a little gear, a few safety pointers and a license, all of which you can get at one of the general stores in town, or through most B&Bs if… ...more
Stop at the Scenic View RV Park for a breathtaking view of four volcanoes. Mt. Iliamna, Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Augustine and Mt. Spurr. These smoldering mountains are part of the pacific “ring of fire” with Mt. Redoubt erupting as recently as March 2009. Look for the interpretive sign to learn more about Alaska volcanoes.
Russian fur traders colonized this fishing village in 1820. Steeped in the history of early Russian America, it offers an old-world setting with its Russian Orthodox Church on the hill, quaint fishermen’s cottages and log homes. Information signs tell the history of Ninilchik and walking tour maps are available at local businesses. A trail leads to the church and cemetery on the hill. The road continues to the beach where campsites are available. ...more
Many events are held here throughout the year, the largest being the Kenai Peninsula Fair held annually the 3rd weekend in August. Locals call this the biggest little fair in Alaska. The festivities include a rodeo, parade, livestock competition, horse show and exhibits ranging from arts and crafts to produce.
This tiny town along the Sterling Highway may be known as “North America’s Most Westerly Highway Point,” but it has another, lesser publicized claim to fame: this is where locals love to come fish. In the spring, it’s king salmon, followed by Dolly Varden and silver salmon in the summer; in the fall, you can catch steelhead until freeze-up. Non-anglers here will enjoy beachcombing, browsing the art studios and gift shops, watching a… ...more
Visitors driving down to Homer (south west from Anchorage) find a perfect pull out rest stop on the right side of the highway on the hill above town. From this vantage, they get a preview of the pleasures to come. Fishing boats’ windows twinkle out in Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay, the Spit stretches half way across Kachemak Bay, and the snowy mountains on far side of the bay, embracing Kachemak Bay State Park, plus of course the the town ...more