Turnagain Arm Drive (South)  (2:10)

Just south of Anchorage, the Seward Highway hugs the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm, arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in America. Chugach State Park's 3000-foot mountains jut up on your left.

On the right, the sprawling, sometimes four-mile-wide flats of Turnagain Arm seem to stretch like a plain to the opposite shores of Cook Inlet, where mammoth sloping mountains abruptly stop their flat expanse. Each turn reveals another scenic wonder. Take in a few of them in about two hours-plus, or make a day of it.

Other popular Anchorage Scenic Drives include the Hatcher Pass Drive and the Matanuska Glacier Drive which lead you north of Anchorage. Or, tack on the Portage Valley & Whittier Tunnel Drive to the end of your Turnagain Arm Scenic Drive to visit the small town of Whittier.

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Turnagain Arm Drive

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.

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

Season: Year Round $169+

This lux­u­ry resort, 40 miles from Anchor­age in the town of Gird­wood, is sur­round­ed by sev­en glac­i­ers. The spec­tac­u­lar scenery is pop­u­lar in sum­mer as well as win­ter, when you’ll find a full-on ski resort. It’s a roman­tic option that’s equal­ly great for families.

Season: May 17 - Sept. 20 $35

The Alyeska Resort’s Aer­i­al Tramway is a sev­en-minute ride that lifts you to a view­ing deck with breath­tak­ing panoram­ic views of moun­tains, hang­ing glac­i­ers, streams, spruce, and an array of wildlife. Enjoy a relaxed mid­day pic­nic or beau­ti­ful evening sun­set on Mt. Alyeska’s obser­va­tion deck, more than 2,000 feet above sea lev­el. Tele­scopes inten­si­fy what Conde Nast Trav­el­er Mag­a­zine rat­ed the best view of any U.S. ski resort. Go exploring,  ...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 $17

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

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