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.
Turnagain Arm Videos
Driving Guide Points
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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