The drive from Anchorage to Seward is one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever been on. There’s a reason why Seward Highway is also known as the Seward Scenic Highway! As you drive on the Seward Highway, there are so many stops you can make. Here I’ll cover the best stops along the Seward Highway to make sure you get the most out of the drive to Seward!
Before we discuss things to do along the Seward Highway, let’s talk about where it is and what you can expect from the drive.
Map of things to do along the Seward Highway
Here’s a map of the best stops along the Seward Highway so you can see where each stop is located!
Where is the Seward Highway?
The Seward Highway starts in Anchorage and winds south until it ends in the gorgeous town of Seward.
Stretching for 127 miles between Anchorage and Seward, this road weaves through a landscape of astonishing beauty.
The majestic peaks of the Chugach Mountains and the captivating shorelines extending from the Turnagain Arm treat you to incredible views.
In fact, every turn on the road seems to unveil a photo-worthy view!
Along the highway, you’ll come across hiking trails, picnic areas, bike paths, and lots of scenic pull-offs perfect for photos and adventures.
What to expect
A road trip from Anchorage to Seward on the Seward Highway is pretty straightforward.
Once you’re on the highway heading to Seward, you’ll stay on it until the Seward Highway turns from Hwy 1 into Hwy 9 to Seward. You’ll see plenty of signs, but it’s also helpful to download offline maps for navigation.
(I especially recommend offline maps because there’s a chance you won’t have cell service! Check out my post on 32 other crucial things to know before visiting Alaska!)
The Seward Highway provides access to Alyeska Highway, Portage Road, Hope Highway, and Exit Glacier Road. You’ll head onto these roads for some of the stops I mention on this list!
There is also a junction with Sterling Highway which leads to Soldotna, Homer, and the rest of the Kenai Peninsula. The turn to Seward happens at this junction, but don’t worry, the roads are well marked!
The road itself is a well maintained 2-lane highway. It has enough slow vehicle turnouts and passing lanes so the only thing that will slow you down is the pull-offs and occasional road work.
Along the way, you’ll pass through quaint towns such as Girdwood and Moose Pass.
The second half of the drive from Anchorage to Seward is on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula boasts over 25,000 square miles of glaciers, rivers, parklands, and lush vegetation.
From Dall sheep and beluga whales to moose and bears, there’s a chance you’ll see wildlife the whole time you’re driving, so keep your eyes peeled!
How Long Does it Take?
Although you could drive between the two towns in under three hours, you might want to devote a full day for the drive to Seward. It took us about 10 hours with all of our photo stops! And on the way back, we stopped some more!
This will give you ample time to take in all the beauty that the scenic route has to offer.
There are lots of things to do along the Seward Highway, and you can pack a lot into this relatively short drive.
If time is not a factor, you should consider turning this road trip into a full-fledged adventure with multi-day visits to different sections of the Seward Highway and the Kenai Peninsula. You can see our exact itinerary here!
And good news: you can drive on the Seward Highway pretty much all year round!
The road rarely closes in winter and is maintained throughout the season.
Nonetheless, it always helps to check the road conditions before planning a scenic drive, especially if you’re planning to visit in the winter.
The 18 Best Stops Along the Seward Highway
Alright, now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s get into the best stops along the Seward Highway!
These are in order as you drive from Anchorage to Seward. Some of them require detours, and some detours are longer than others, but I’ll tell you if a stop requires a big detour!
Side note worth mentioning: As a rule of thumb, I recommend an SUV when driving in Alaska. However, you could definitely drive a compact car for the stops I mention on this list if you’re visiting in the summer.
We got our rental car through Thrify right at the Anchorage airport. You can use promo code 101247 through September 2022 for 10% off your Thrifty car rental!
1. Turnagain Arm
For the first 50 miles, the Seward Highway rests between the base of the towering Chugach Mountain peaks and the Turnagain shoreline.
Situated roughly 15 miles outside of Anchorage, Turnagain Arm is famous for the abundance of wildlife in the area and its beautiful mountainous coastline.
You can also catch an unforgettable sight of the bore tide. What’s a bore tide? Good question. It only happens in a few places in the world, so it’s not a well known phenomenon.
Bore tides, as defined by Wikipedia, happen when the leading edge of an incoming tide forms a wave of water that travels up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current.
This causes a big wave of water to flow, which can even be as tall as six feet!
Although it might be tempting to stroll along the Turnagain Arm shoreline, you shouldn’t. And not just because of the bore tide.
You could get trapped on the mudflats which sometimes act like quicksand! Yikes! It’s best to enjoy the beauty of the Turnagain Arm from far away.
2. Potter Marsh
Situated at the southern part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife refuge, Potter Marsh is a haven for birdwatchers.
Spanning across 2300 acres of wetland, Potter Marsh hosts hundreds of migratory birds every year.
A wooden boardwalk juts out from the parking area and winds through the marsh.
Also, off the Seward Highway just before you turn left into the Potter Marsh parking lot, you can enjoy undisrupted views of the Turnagain Arm.
3. McHugh Creek & Falls
McHugh Creek is both a pretty viewpoint and an awesome recreational area.
It has a great picnic spot with tables where you can stop for some snacks, a short walk, or a stroll to take photos of the unique landscape.
Just a few steps away from the second parking lot (not the one closest to the highway) you’ll find a 20-foot waterfall tucked in the mountainside!
The short climb to the overlook boasts views of the Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, and the Seward Highway.
In addition, there is a short hiking trail where you can go blueberry picking and spot local wildlife.
McHugh Creek also happens to be one of the few pullouts along the highway with a restroom.
4. Beluga Point
Beluga Point Lookout has uninterrupted views of the Turnagain Arm.
This a great viewpoint for the bore tide and for whale watching in the late spring and summer!
There are educational signs here to teach you about the bore tide and whales. Tower viewers are also strategically placed so you can catch a closer glimpse of the whales.
If you’re determined to see the bore tide, you should definitely check the tide schedule beforehand!
5. Indian Valley Mine National Historic Site
Located at mile 104 between Anchorage and Girdwood, Indian Valley Mine is a little gem where you go gold panning!
When you’re gold panning, you buy a bucket of ‘dirt’, and the Indian Valley staff educates you on the dos & don’ts of panning.
This family-run historical site has a small museum that was converted from a miners’ cabin.
It’s loaded with old mining tools, mining antiques, and other artifacts.
The Indian Valley mines are now preserved as history, and you can actually walk around the mineshaft! In fact, you’ll even see old mining tools that are still in this abandoned mine.
There is an admission fee of $1 per person and there are different sizes of dirt buckets that go for different prices.
There is also a gift shop where you can buy jewels and souvenirs!
They’re open from May to September, you can see their hours and learn more here!
6. Bird Creek
Bird Creek is a popular first-come, first-serve camping ground, but it’s also a nice place to make a quick stop to stretch your legs.
You can enjoy its walking trails or go bird-watching (hence the name). If you have a minute to spare, try fishing for some salmon!
There is a small outlook platform with informational signs by the bridge and you’ll also find a paved trail perfect for biking or hiking.
7. Virgin Creek Falls
Located in Girdwood, Virgin Creek Falls transports you into something out of a fairytale!
This waterfall is my favorite in all of Alaska, and it is a must!
The trailhead is just a few minutes’ drive off the Seward Highway, and it is definitely worth it!
Virgin Creek Falls is actually in a residential area, located at the back of a neighborhood.
The short trail meanders through a lush rainforest. You’ll have to watch where you step because there are large tree roots all over the ground. The trail can get pretty muddy, so wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty.
After just about five minutes of hiking, you’ll reach the beautiful waterfall!
If it’s hot enough out, you can even wade into the falls! I’d recommend bringing water shoes, though, since the ground is covered in slippery rocks and pebbles.
8. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
This stop is worth every penny if you want to see grizzlies up close!
The $17 per adult price is worth it. This was the only time we saw grizzly bears the whole time we were in Alaska!
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center has more animals than just grizzlies, but the bear boardwalk was our favorite part!
And no joke, at one point I saw a grizzly bear do yoga in a little pond. He picked up his foot with his paw while standing! It was right before I took the photo above!
9. Portage Lake
Roughly 40 miles from Anchorage, you’ll see Portage Glacier Road on the left side of the Highway.
It takes a bit of driving to get to the lake, but the views along the way are worth it!
Portage Lake has been a popular attraction for ages. Some years ago, the west side of the lake would fill with huge chunks of icebergs!
Today, that’s a rare sight, but the lake is still beautiful.
You’ll notice that the water in this part of Alaska tends to be a milky light blue/gray color. It’s beautiful, and Portage Lake shows off this blue color perfectly!
Though we didn’t for the sake of time, you can take a boat tour to Portage Glacier here!
You can also stop at the visitor center to learn more about the lake and see images of what it looked like centuries ago in its full glory.
10. Turnagain Pass Recreation Area
At mile 68.5, Turnagain Pass marks the highest point of the Seward Highway at an elevation of 988 feet.
Just off the highway, close to the parking lot, the recreational area offers great views of the Turnagain Pass.
The region has lots of off-trail hiking and primitive camping opportunities.
But you can also just stop briefly to stretch your legs, take in the views, and use the restroom. There is also an emergency phone here if needed.
11. Bertha Creek
About 2.6 miles from the Turnagain Pass, Bertha Creek is a public site for camping and gold panning.
In addition to stunning views of the valley beyond and the stream behind the camping grounds, this drive-in site has picnic tables where you can hang out and relax.
The creek is pretty close to the Seward Highway and you can try your luck at fishing here!
Hope is the cutest little town that deserves a visit if you have time!
It’ll take you on a 17-mile detour off of the Seward Highway.
With historic buildings, the delicious Seaview Cafe, and views of the Turnagain Arm from the south, Hope is such a gem!
(No joke, I got the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had at the Seaview Cafe in Hope!)
13. Tenderfoot Creek & Summit Lake
Besides the tranquillity of the Tenderfoot Creek campground, the site offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Summit Lake.
It’s the perfect place for a picnic with awe-inspiring views of the lake.
14. Moose Pass
Moose Pass is a tiny but picturesque mountain village surrounded by the lush Chugach National Forest on the massive Kenai Peninsula.
It’s an incredible place for outdoor enthusiasts. But it also offers an authentic feel of an Alaskan village making it an ideal stop for backpackers as well.
We got the photo above at Trail Lake, just behind Trail Lake Lodge. They have a restaurant and offer flightseeing with Scenic Mountain Air!
15. Kenai Lake
The glacier-fed Kenai Lake boasts some bewildering blue and green hues.
The reflection of the surrounding snow-capped peaks makes a stop here worth it for the perfect shot.
There are several parking areas with informational signs briefing on the history of the lake.
In addition to astounding serenity, the lake offers lots of fishing opportunities for Whitefish, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, king and silver salmon and more.
16. Exit Glacier/ Harding Icefield/ Kenai Fjords National Park
Whoa, that’s a lot to mention at one stop.
Let me explain.
The Exit Glacier entrance to Kenai Fjords National Park is the only way to access the park on land. There’s an easy 20-30 minute walk on a paved path to see Exit Glacier.
But if you’re in the mood for a hike, you should make it a point to return to this place in the morning. It’s very close to Seward so you can stay there overnight, and set off for the Harding Icefield hike in the morning.
It’s a difficult hike to the Harding Icefield, but the spectacular views are worth it! The photo above is from the drive as you enter the Exit Glacier area.
At the end of the highway lies the quaint town of Seward, nestled between the Kenai Mountains and Resurrection Bay.
This small town with a population of approximately 3000 people features charming cafés (my favorite: The Cookery!), a bustling harbor, and incredible nature.
Like I briefly mentioned earlier, Seward is an ideal home base if you’re looking to explore the massive Kenai Fjords National Park.
There is a huge selection of accommodations, eateries, and lots of tour companies. That makes it super easy to spend a few days here! We stayed at Resurrection Lodge on the Bay for two nights and loved it.
The seaside town is among the oldest towns in Alaska and it’s a popular choice for adventure junkies!
18. Resurrection Bay
Now for the last scenic stop: Resurrection Bay. Resurrection Bay lies at the edge of the waterfront town of Seward. Named after the bay it sits on, it’s a small town graced with glaciers, coves, and fascinating fjords.
Set against a backdrop of snowy peaks, this area marks the official end of the scenic Seward Highway.
The bay and the surrounding areas offer jaw-dropping beauty. There’s also so much to do here!
From wildlife spotting and boat tours to kayaking excursions and marine life viewing, there are plenty of activities here.
The views are surreal, and the wildlife is unforgettable! With so much natural beauty, the opportunities to get that perfect photo are endless.
Tips to Stay Safe on the Seward Highway
- Pull over every so often to enjoy the views from a safe spot.
- Make sure your car is in great condition. You can’t rely on your cell to call for help, as cell service can be patchy.
- There are a couple of stretches with no gas station for miles. Fill up your tank before leaving Anchorage to play it safe.
I hope you can see just how much beauty is in store for you on the drive from Anchorage to Seward!
Have you been on the Seward Highway? If you know of more stops worth taking, let me know in the comments below!
And if you have any questions about our trip, feel free to ask below!
Lastly, if you’re heading to Alaska, here are some more posts you might find helpful:
- The Ultimate Alaska Itinerary for Trips of All Lengths
- 36 Things to Do on the Kenai Peninsula
- 33 Crucial Things to Know Before Visiting Alaska
- 50 Best Places to Visit in Alaska
- 18 Most Beautiful Towns in Alaska
- 17 Beautiful Glaciers to Visit in Alaska