It’s home to the second-most extreme tidal activity in the world, has turquoise waters that
rival any in the Caribbean and boasts world-class salmon fishing — all on a peninsula in
which you can drive your motorhome to. It’s the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, also known as
Any exploration of the Kenai should begin in Anchorage. Latitudinally just above
Helsinki, Finland, Anchorage is Alaska’s biggest city with more than 40 percent of the
state’s residents. Not surprisingly, it’s also the financial and cultural center of Alaska.
The city was founded in 1915, three years after Alaska became a United States Territory, as
the hub of the Alaska Railroad. Anchorage has benefited greatly from Alaska’s oil boom,
especially in the 1970s. Tax revenue from crude oil has helped rejuvenate the downtown
area. One of the most visited places in all of Alaska is the Anchorage Museum of History
& Art. Located in the downtown core, this highly esteemed museum includes a huge
collection of artifacts and historical photographs in addition to a rich depiction of
For a place to stay in the city, check out Anchorage Ship Creek RV Park,
located just a few blocks from downtown, which has 152 sites with full hookups, WiFi,
showers and laundry. (Take note that most RV parks and campgrounds in the Anchorage/Kenai
region are only open May through September.)
From Anchorage you’re set to explore the
Kenai. Few drives are more rewarding than the journey from Anchorage to Homer. The route
meanders through two national forests and passes through a plethora of interesting towns
along the way.
The first part of the trip follows the Seward Highway, which runs 127 miles
from Anchorage to Seward. Leaving Anchorage, the highway winds its way south following the
Turnagain Arm across from the Kenai Peninsula and has been deemed an All-American Road for
its exceptional beauty. Plan to stop often to marvel at the beautifully clear water
underneath the peaks on the Kenai. The mile postings signify the distance from Seward to
Anchorage, so Anchorage is at the end of the highway (Mile 127).
Bird lovers should make
sure to stop at Potter Marsh (Mile 117), part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. The
marsh was created in 1917 when dams were built to make way for the Alaska Railroad. Potter
Marsh has a 1,550-foot boardwalk and at least 130 species of birds have been seen there,
including bald eagles and Arctic terns.
The area of the Seward Highway between Mile 115 and
Mile 103 offers stunning views of Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet and there are numerous
turnouts. Because most of the turnouts are on the west side of the highway, it is best to
see them while traveling south. I recommend a stop at the McHugh Creek Day Use Area (Mile
112), which includes picnic tables and amazing views.
The city of Girdwood lies at Mile 90.
The natural surroundings of the city couldn’t be better: dramatic mountain peaks and
splendid views of the Turnagain Arm. The main attraction of Girdwood is the world-famous
Alyeska Resort. The ski resort offers overnight RV parking ($12 per night/five night
maximum stay) during the summer. Other RV sites are limited in Girdwood so it’s best to
stay a few miles south near Portage Glacier.
Continuing southeast on the Seward Highway
from Girdwood, bird and animal lovers will want to tour the Alaska Wildlife Conservation
Center (Mile 79), which cares for injured and rescued animals. You can take a 1
1/2-mile-long walking or driving tour through the animal park to see grizzly and black
bears, musk ox, bison, bald eagles and more.
Mile 78 marks the exit for a side trip to
Portage Glacier. Take the Portage Glacier Access Road 5 miles east to the glacier’s Begich,
Boggs Visitor Center. The center has an observation deck with views of the glacier located
across Portage Lake. Unfortunately, Portage Glacier has retreated significantly in recent
years so views aren’t as good as they used to be. Gray Line cruise boats, however, take
daily trips across the lake for closeup viewing.
Making your way back down the road to the
Seward Highway you’ll pass by two campgrounds suitable for motorhomes — Williwaw
Campground is a U.S. Forest Service site that can handle RVs up to 60-feet long and Portage
Valley RV Park is a private park with pull-through sites and a small store.
Back on the
Seward Highway the road climbs into the Alpine region of the Chugach National Forest. The
Turnagain Pass Recreation Area, which is located at Mile 68, is a good place for picture
taking as it has views of Turnagain Pass. At Mile 63 you’ll find the U.S. Forest Service
Granite Creek Campground, which has 19 sites but no hookups.
At Mile 37, you’ll leave the
Seward Highway and take the Sterling Highway exit west. The mile signs on the Sterling
Highway signify mileage from Seward. The stretch from the Tern Lake Junction (Mile 37) to
Soldotna (Mile 93) has one of the highest concentrations of amazing hiking, canoeing and
camping opportunities in Alaska.
The pristine Kenai Lake starting around Mile 45 is one of
the Kenai’s prime locations for outdoor activities. For camping in this area, the U.S.
Forest Service Quartz Creek Campground offers 45 paved sites that can handle rigs up to
60-feet long and the Kenai Princess RV Park has 27 full-hookup sites as well as WiFi,
showers, laundry and a dump station.
At Mile 55 the Sterling Highway enters the marvelously
beautiful and rugged Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Long popular with hunters, the
1.7-million-acre Kenai National Moose Range was established by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt in 1941. In 1980, the range was renamed the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and
expanded to nearly 2 million acres. A good place to stop for information on the refuge is
the visitor center at Mile 58.
For an interesting trip off of the main highway, I highly
recommend the 19-mile Skilak Lake Loop Road (located near Mile 58), which is a
well-maintained gravel road that winds its way through the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area.
There are numerous opportunities for fantastic outdoor activities. In just 19 miles, there
are five primitive public campsites, including the Hidden Lake Campground, which is
considered to be one of the most beautiful camping areas on the entire Kenai. The road lets
you back on the Sterling Highway at Mile 76.
At Mile 94 is the town of Soldotna, known for fantastic salmon fishing on the Kenai River. The Kenai Peninsula has four species of salmon, and the amazing turquoise color of many of its rivers and lakes is due to just the
right blend of glacial water and snowmelt. Salmon in this area are plentiful and huge;
catching salmon that weigh more than 60 pounds is considered normal. In Soldotna, the
Klondike RV Park has 27 sites while the Edgewater RV Resort offers 86 sites, and they both
have hookups plus WiFi.
The interesting area of Clam Gulch pops up at Mile 117, which is on the Cook Inlet. I recommend taking the 1/2-mile road to the Clam Gulch Recreation Area. The
park has 116 overnight parking spots and the beach offers some of the best clam digging on the Kenai Peninsula with dramatic views of the Aleutian Range across the inlet.
Russian fur traders founded the fishing village of Ninilchik (Mile 135) in the 1820s, making it one of the oldest towns on the Kenai. One of the major attractions of Ninilchik is the Holy
Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church built in 1901 and located on a bluff
overlooking the Cook Inlet. The inlet has the second-most extreme tidal activity in the
world and reveals a plethora of diverse shellfish. In mid-August Ninilchik hosts the Kenai
Peninsula State Fair, billed as the “biggest little fair in Alaska.” The highly regarded
Scenic View RV Park has 26 sites and full hookups, plus a lovely view.
Anchor Point (Mile 156) is an interesting place to stop because it is “North America’s most westerly highway point.” Captain James Cook, who sailed through the area in 1778 looking for the Northwest Passage, named the area after losing a large anchor due to strong tides. Anchor Point is known for great salmon fishing.
The Sterling Highway ends in the town of Homer. But before reaching this point, make sure to stop off at the viewpoint overlooking Homer and Kachemak Bay (Mile 170) and marvel at the scenery.
Gold-seeker Homer Pennock founded Homer in 1896 on the Homer Spit, which is a skinny point of land that juts 4 1/2 miles into Kachemak Bay. The spit is decorated with a harbor and numerous restaurants and shops, and is one of the
top tourist destinations in the town.
The spit has two campgrounds — both overlook the Kachemak Bay and have dramatically beautiful views of the Kenai Mountains. Heritage RV Park is a high-end park with 107 full-hookup sites (some located on the beachfront), WiFi,
showers, laundry, a gift shop, cafe and a private beach. At the end of the road you’ll find
the Homer Spit Campground, which offers 94 electric hookup sites, WiFi, laundry and a dump station. There are a number of other campgrounds in town so you’ll have plenty to choose
from before you make your way back on the road from Homer to Anchorage.