Did you know that if you could see 1 million acres a day, it would take you a full year to see all of Alaska? Now that we’ve established just how huge Alaska is, let’s dive into one specific Alaskan region: the Kenai Peninsula. And more specifically: the best things to do on the Kenai Peninsula!
The Kenai Peninsula is a must if you’re visiting Alaska. Why? Well, you’re probably flying into Anchorage if you’re visiting from out of state. And the Kenai Peninsula is just south of Anchorage.
It offers tremendous beauty, nature, mountain views, hikes, lakes, rivers, and so much more!
Not to mention wildlife and all the outdoor activities it beckons.
I’ve divided the things to do on the Kenai Peninsula into a few different categories:
- Towns (the best towns to visit on the Kenai Peninsula)
- Stay (three great places to stay on the Kenai Peninsula)
- Activities (the best activities to do on the Kenai Peninsula)
- Points of Interest (the best, can’t-miss stops on the Kenai Peninsula)
- Water (lakes, rivers, and bays to stop at on the Kenai Peninsula)
So let’s get started!
These seven towns are as charming as they are beautiful!
Homer has a bit of everything: bear watching, fishing, hiking, kayaking. Not bad for a small town in the Kenai Peninsula!
The town is known as the Halibut Capital of the World, music to fishermen’s ears everywhere! In Homer, you can chase trophies that reach seven feet and nearly 300 lbs!
It rained every day we were in Homer, but its charm still shined on through the weather!
Hope was established during the gold mining rush that brought so many prospectors to the area in the 19th century. You’ll catch glimpses of history as some of the original buildings still exist!
While you can still pan for gold here, more popular activities include hiking the many trails that lead away from the town or fishing for salmon on Resurrection Creek.
We loved exploring this adorable town and catching views of the Turnagain Arm. Stop into Seaview Cafe & Bar for a meal- the Caesar salad is the best I’ve had!
The city of Kenai has similar activities to other towns in Alaska that draw in visitors annually. Things like fishing, hiking, and scenic drives.
However, several structures in the city serve as a reminder of Russia’s historic presence in the Kenai Peninsula, namely the striking Russian Orthodox church (Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary), which I’ll mention a bit later!
4. Lowell Point
Just south of Seward, Lowell Point is a top destination for recreation on Kenai.
The town is a hub from which kayakers take to Resurrection Bay (more about that later!) or go on fishing excursions in the area. Of course, you are always welcome to try your luck from the shore for the perfect catch!
5. Moose Pass
Moose Pass epitomizes small-town living in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula area. Visitors come for the scenic drive along the lake or backcountry fishing excursions.
The town has cozy bed and breakfasts and delicious fudge at the Moose Drop-In Trading Post.
Seward is a gateway city to the majesty of the Kenai Peninsula. Visitors depart for here to access Kenai Fjords National Park, take helicopter sightseeing tours, or kayak in Resurrection Bay to get up close and personal with the area’s fjords and sealions.
The area surrounding the city is especially breathtaking, with mountains, coastal rainforest, and calm waters stretching out into the distance!
We spent two nights in Seward, which I highly recommend since there is so much to do in the area!
Often described as the heart of Kenai, Soldotna sits on the Kenai River and attracts fishermen who are after some of the region’s gargantuan salmon.
There must be something in the water in Soldotna, which holds the world record for the largest salmon ever caught.
While the rest of Kenai can see trophy salmon topping 50 lbs, fishermen in Soldotna rarely raise an eyebrow until someone catches a fish over 75 lbs.
Three places to stay on the Kenai Peninsula.
8. Land’s End Resort
This is my favorite place to stay in Homer. Make sure you get a room with a waterfront view because the views are stunning!
You can also cozy up in their outdoor hot tub, steam in the spa, or soak in their pool. The Chart Room restaurant is located on-site as well, making meals super easy!
9. Resurrection Lodge on the Bay
This lodge is the ideal home base in Seward. With stunning views of Resurrection Bay and a friendly environment, we loved our two nights at Resurrection Lodge on the Bay!
10. Great Alaska Adventure Lodge
Great Alaska Adventure Lodge is a fabled all-inclusive retreat with some excellent fishing in the Kenai Peninsula. The place is remote and many choose to arrive by floatplane!
The log lodge has several popular fishing packages including the coveted 11-day fishing journey which includes daily departures for salmon, rainbow trout, and halibut with some sightseeing in between.
Planning a trip to Alaska? Check out the ultimate Alaska itinerary here! I include my exact trip details as well as itineraries for trips of all lengths!
The best activities to do on the Kenai Peninsula. Fit one, two, or all of these into your Kenai itinerary for an epic trip!
11. Helicopter Tour
A lot of Alaska’s remote landscape and wilderness can’t be driven or hiked. Luckily, you can take to the skies on a helicopter or floatplane for a birds-eye view!
I think that helicopters are the best way to see Alaska! There are several options from Seward. For example, you can take a helicopter to do a glacier landing or to go dog sledding on a glacier!
On a flightseeing tour, you can get a unique look at glaciers, fjords, and frolicking bears without having to traverse the wilds.
Many flightseeing tours can land in the wilderness for an hour or two of exploring glaciers or hiking forests!
13. Boat Tour
Since the Kenai Peninsula is a peninsula, you can expect countless boat tours out of the area!
There are awesome tours that depart from Seward Harbor. This 3.5 hour tour takes you through Kenai Fjords to Bear Glacier. Bear Glacier is the largest glacier in Kenai Fjords. And of course, since it’s Alaska, after all, you’ll see plenty of sea life and wildlife along the way!
14. Bear Viewing
While you won’t want to come across a bear while hiking the trails of the Kenai Peninsula, you should definitely partake in some safe bear viewing and numerous locations in Kenai.
The most exciting way to see bears is flightseeing! You can catch a glimpse of our furry friends from the safety of the skies!
Alaska is one of the top fishing destinations in the United States! (If not the world!)
There are so many places you can fish on the Kenai Peninsula. One neat spot, however, is the Soldotna Visitors Center! It’s a must-visit spot where the knowledgeable staff will give you all of the information you need for your trip to the region.
Moreover, the not-so-secret boardwalk behind the center is a great place to fish! It’ll give you your first taste of what Soldotna has to offer. You can walk the wooden boardwalk along the edge of the water or go fishing! Yup, you can hook a big one directly from the boardwalk!
16. Glacier Dogsledding
While the grueling Alaskan Iditarod is probably not in the cards, you can still experience dog mushing on a glacier dog sledding tour!
There are helicopter tours that fly you out on a short flight to a glacier.
Once you arrive, you will have about an hour of uninterrupted sledding and photo-taking with precious dogs who love to run!
17. Horseback Riding
It’s time to saddle-up and ride on a horseback riding tour of the Kenai Peninsula!
Take in the sights of the Alaskan backcountry with an equine companion, rest your feet and learn how to properly ride a horse along one of the many trails reserved specifically for horseback riding.
The exclusivity will mean views of the wild that very few have seen before! And a bonus: the ride itself can be fun and relaxing!
Here are the best hikes in the Kenai Peninsula! I’ve sorted them by ease of hike. It starts with the easiest and gets progressively harder as you go down.
1-5 mile hikes
Keen Eye Nature Trail
Lakes, mud puddles, and plenty of wildlife can be seen along this barely mile-long trail in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The ADA accessible trail features a short boardwalk near the water and is perfect for kids on their first hike in Alaska.
Hidden Lake via Burney’s Trail
A trail for budding and experienced ornithologists, Burney’s Trail is the perfect place for bird watching along a short half-mile trail in the spruce forest. At the end of your hike, you will find the not-so Hidden Lake, just north of the larger Skilak Lake. Here, you can pick wild berries and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Alaska wilderness.
Bear Mountain Trail
Bear Mountain Trail is a quick one, at only 3-miles of out-and-back hiking. It is also one of the most rewarding for so little effort! Pay a visit to the area and hike the trail in late summer for brilliant views of Mirror Lake and the sprawling tundra.
Skilak Lookout Trail
It’s harder to find a better view of the Skilak than from this lookout trail near Cooper Landing. The trip is a quick 4-miles, out-and-back, and offers an amazing panoramic view of Skilak Lake and the mountains beyond!
5 mile + hikes
Kenai River Trail
There are a few ways to experience the scenic Kenai River Trail. The hike is relatively easy with a modest elevation gain of 260 feet. The 10-mile trip can be traversed on foot or, when snowy, on snowshoes! You can expect to see some of Alaska’s common critters such as beavers and river otters.
Crescent Lake Hiking Trail
With an elevation gain nearing 1,600 ft while stretching a lengthy 10.9 miles, this out-and-back trail is for moderately active hikers. The trail runs through old-growth forest and the majority is across flatland. The views are rewarding, whether you choose to walk or ride a mountain bike!
Harding Icefield Trail
This trail gets a lengthy description of it’s own in the Points of Interest section of this article. You can jump straight to it by clicking here.
Resurrection Pass Trail
At 38-miles in length, the Resurrection Pass Trail is a long trip through the Kenai Mountains that is not for the faint of heart! It typically takes travelers four or five days to complete the one-way journey! You can expect plenty of hiking and camping in the mountains.
There are two types of river rafting trips in Kenai: the scenic route and the whitewater rapids route.
Add a little bit of adventure to your Alaskan watersports by kicking it into high-gear and navigating the rapids along the Kenai River in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Looking for the best things to do in all of Alaska? Check out my article on the 50 best places to visit in Alaska, separated by region!
Points of Interest
Here are specific places you’ll want to visit. These are some of the best things to do on the Kenai Peninsula!
20. Kenai Fjords National Park
This national park is 600,000 acres of pure natural bliss!
Whether you choose to hike the rugged terrain, take a glacier cruise along the water, or photograph the intense rock formations in the water, Kenai Fjords will have something special to reveal to you.
A park of this size means lots of amazing wildlife to see such as whales, puffins, bald eagles, and sea lions!
Keep in mind that humpback whale season starts in the late spring and summer- after that, they migrate down to Hawaii to have their babies!
21. Exit Glacier
Follow the Edge of the Glacier Trail to see the Exit Glacier up close.
You can reach the Exit Glacier quickly from the highway. At only 15 to 20 minutes of walking across flat land, it is one of the most accessible glaciers on the peninsula!
22. Harding Icefield Trail
If you’re at the Exit Glacier and want more adventure, how about the Kenai Peninsula’s most famous hike?
The Harding Icefield Hike is well worth the steep incline and length. Gaining 1,000 feet in elevation per mile, this 8-mile round trip hike offers spectacular views of the Harding Icefield and the Exit Glacier.
We didn’t make it all the way to the top due to weather and aching legs. We did, however, go to the Cliffs viewpoint. You can see the views of Exit Glacier at the Cliffs in the photo above!
23. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge on the Kenai Peninsula is a gargantuan 2 million acres! It is full of boreal forests, mountains, and wetlands teeming with creatures of all kinds!
The refuge is closest to Soldotna and will require a stop at the visitor’s center to determine the best way to tackle all of the great things to see here.
24. Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island is famous for two very Alaskan things: fishing and wildlife!
Book an excursion to the island for a day of bear watching in the Trident Basin or fly low over the water to catch a glimpse of humpback whales.
Did you know that Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States after Hawaii?
25. Homer Overlook Point
Take a 20-minute drive from the hamlet of Homer along Skyline Drive. From this hilly vantage point, the Alaskan landscape unfurls.
The best time to drive to the Homer Overlook Point is sunset when the sky turns orange, bathing Kachemak Bay.
Or you’ll have our luck and see it in the rain… it’s still a beautiful view, though! From the overlook, you’ll be able to see the spit where Homer is located.
26. Kenai’s Russian Orthodox Church
Would you expect to see such a cool church in Alaska?
Perhaps, remembering Alaska’s history, you might. (As a refresher: the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for a mere $7.2 million in 1867. That’s about 2 cents per acre!)
This picturesque church sits atop a hill with ocean views on the other side of it!
27. Alaska Berries Vineyard
Ready for a taste of Alaska’s best wines and jams? Alaska Berries Vineyard makes the delicious libations and spreads from berries that are grown on the premises.
Some variations include rhubarb, gooseberry, and haskap wines along with raspberry cider and strawberry jam!
28. Kenai Peninsula Flowers
Wildflowers bloom in Alaska at different times, meaning that almost anytime you visit in the summer, you’ll see something in bloom! We passed these fireweed blooms in Happy Valley on our way to Homer.
Why is it called fireweed? Well, after a fire occurs, these are usually the first thing to start blooming again!
Here’s another fun fact about fireweed: you can make jam out of it!
29. Alaska Sealife Center
I found this jellyfish in Seward. Poor thing washed up on shore at Resurrection Bay after the tide went out. But check out that gnarly orange color and that perfect pattern! Gorgeous!
The Kenai Peninsula is teeming with wildlife, from moose to bears, from puffins to eagles, and some aquatic creatures that call the fjords their home.
At Alaska Sealife Center, you can learn about these animals and promote conservation efforts in the entire state.
With fishing as one of the most popular activities in Alaska, you won’t be surprised by how much water is in the state! And more specifically, on the Kenai Peninsula! Here are some must-see rivers, lakes, and bays on the Kenai Peninsula.
30. Kenai River
A portion of your drive through the Kenai Peninsula follows the Kenai River.
Keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears during the salmon run!
31. Kenai Lake
This was one of my favorite lakes we visited Alaska and is one of the best things to do in the Kenai Peninsula!
Even on a cloudy day, the colors are remarkable!
The water is incredibly clear and just begs for all of the popular water activities in the Kenai Peninsula.
32. Kenai Beach
The Kenai River divides this popular beach into two: Kenai Beach North and Kenai Beach South. Though not too popular with swimmers, the beaches offer great views of the Kenai Ring of Fire.
Additionally, since 2019, it has hosted the Kenai Kite Festival!
33. Resurrection Bay
Resurrection Bay is a famous fjord that cuts into the terrain of the Kenai Peninsula. It’s also a popular kayaking destination for spectacular views of the coastal rainforest and mountainous landscape.
Tours depart from Seward and Lowell Point early in the morning, when the water is most calm. You can choose a short outing, a half-day excursion, or a full-day journey.
Get your paddling muscles ready and experience Kenai from the water!
34. Swanson River Canoe Route
Channel your inner explorer along the Swanson River Canoe Route!
The watery network connects nearly 40 lakes and the Swanson River along an 80-mile route through much of the area’s wetlands.
Take breaks in between paddling for photos of wildlife on the banks of the river.
35. Tern Lake
Tern Lake is a great spot for wildlife viewing and a midday picnic.
Only 40 minutes from Seward, the lake is not only a destination for the handful of visitors who arrive every year, but also the many birds and mammals that flock to the marsh around the lake.
Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats, black bears, and muskrats when you visit!
36. Russian River
With no road access, the Russian River will require a bit of hiking to get to. The payoff is pretty spectacular!
The walk to the river is one of the most scenic in the area near Seward! It ends with a view of the Russian River Falls.
I hope you’re excited about all of these things to do on the Kenai Peninsula!
You’re in for a treat as you drive one of the prettiest places in Alaska!
If you’ve been to the Kenai Peninsula and can think of more great things to do on the Kenai Peninsula, please comment below! I’d love to check out more on my next visit!
Also, feel free to comment any questions you have regarding my trip.
And if you’re looking for more Alaska resources, check out these articles: