One Day, Four Ways: Explore Like a Local

When planning an Alaska trip, here’s a little secret, Soldotna is only within two hours of any accessible area on the entire Kenai Peninsula. One can park a RV, set up a tent, or rent a room right here where all the conveniences of a large town exist without having to relocate every day. For more information on any of these communities, please call the Soldotna Visitors Center at (907) 262-1337.

 

WEST

CITY OF KENAI (11 miles) and CAPTAIN COOK STATE PARK (36 miles) Head west of Soldotna to the City of Kenai, which is located right on the bluff of the Cook Inlet. From Soldotna take the Kenai Spur Hwy. west to mile 11.5 and check out the Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, which hosts an incredible museum, movies, and a wealth of information on the area. They will also let you know if the Beluga whales have been spotted from Kenai. Behind the KCCVC, take a self-guided, walking tour of Kenai’s Old Town (maps available in the visitor center). Visit one of the oldest-standing Russian Orthodox Churches in Alaska, the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary; established in 1791, this church still has services every week. For excellent views of the mouth of the Kenai River, Alaska resident dip-netters, and the active, Ring of Fire, visit Leif Hanson Memorial Park in Old Town Kenai.

Continue northwest on the Kenai Spur Highway all the way to Captain Cook State Park. It offers 58 campsites, spectacular views of Cook Inlet, surrounding mountains, and if the weather permits,
a glimpse of Denali. Also, view offshore oil platforms. Beaches are popular with agate hunters. Beluga and bird watching are great also. You might want to bring a picnic with you so you can sit there and enjoy the breathtaking view of Cook Inlet. There is also a hiking trail, beachcombing, and a campfire circle. On the way back, stop at the North Peninsula Recreation Nikiski Pool at mile 23.4. You’ll find a 136’ waterslide, hot tub, and indoor warm water pool. When leaving Kenai, be sure to drive back to Soldotna by way of Bridge Access Road and K-Beach. The flats along Bridge Access are a favorite hangout for the local caribou herd.

Other Points of Interest:
• Kenai Historic Cabin Park- interactive displays inside each of the historic buildings.
• Kenai Fine Art Center- housed in the historic Kenai jail and firehouse, this center offers workshops, exhibitions, and sales gallery space to local artists, musical interludes, fine art, and various events for the community.
• Drive out Marathon Road (near Walmart) for a chance to see frolicking wildlife like moose, caribou, marten, and eagles; don’t forget to bring a bucket for chance berry picking.

SOUTH

Ninilchik (40 miles) – Anchor Point (62 miles) – Homer (78 miles) Head south of Soldotna along the Sterling Hwy. to Ninilchik. Take in panoramic views of Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Illiamna, and Mt. Spurr across the Cook Inlet along the way. Tour the historical Ninilchik Fishing Village and see the first Russian School House, the Melania Curtis Home, the Ninilchik Village Cache, the Village Store, the Sorensen/Tupper Home, Bud Dietz Home, and the Old Red House. All of these buildings were built in the late 1800s. Don’t miss the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel, a historic Russian Orthodox Church, situated on a bluff overlooking the Cook Inlet. Eagles are often situated in its nearby trees. Beyond Ninilchik, is the town of Anchor Point. Be sure to drive to the Anchor Point State Recreation Area where the road dead-ends at the western-most point in the North American highway system. The Anchor River hosts salmon runs in the summer and is a source of coal. Be sure to look for eagles along the river. Stopping at the Norman Lowell Gallery in Anchor Point is a must for any art enthusiast. The gallery is approximately 10,000 square
feet and also contains sculptures and artifacts, as well as many original paintings depicting one man’s view of Alaska and of his impressions of this “Great land.”

Continue heading south on the Sterling Highway to Homer. Homer is also known for its many artists, so be sure to visit some of the art galleries on Pioneer Drive and the Spit. The Homer Spit offers a series of boardwalks with shops, charter services, food outlets, gift shops, etc. Sightseeing tours are also available from the Spit, which take you to Seldovia, Halibut Cove, etc., and guarantee an abundance of wildlife and hospitality. Fishing for salmon at the World Famous Fishin’ Hole on the Spit is very popular, too. Also see salmon jumping, anglers fishing, Bald Eagles or watch a Sea Lion show. Take a stroll down the harbor. Home to one of the State’s largest commercial fishing fleets; watch the Alaskan fishing vessels unload the day’s catch. Hike over 50 miles of back-country trails in the Kachemak Bay State Park. Pack a light snack and bring a camera. Be sure to visit the Islands and
Ocean Visitor Center has a great variety of information on the waterways, glaciers, and wildlife surrounding Homer; it also begins the famous trail to Bishop’s Beach. Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center has brochures for all of the activities mentioned plus more!

Other Points of Interest:
• The Homer Seafarer’s Memorial at the end of the Homer Spit.
• Pratt Museum- a regional natural history museum; exhibits surround the life of Kachemak Bay society.
• Carl E. Wynn Nature Center- 140-acre wildlife preserve with trails detailed with wildflowers; watch for
the appearance of moose, bear, lynx and songbirds, too.

EAST

Sterling (10 miles) – Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area (20 miles) – Cooper landing (48 miles) Head east on the Sterling Highway to highway mile 58 and drive the Skilak Lake
Loop Road, which loops south, through the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area to campgrounds, trails, scenic photographic pullouts, and fishing spots. This 18 mile, looped road is a favorite for the locals because of its beauty and wildlife viewing. Have your binoculars ready for chance encounters of lynx, brown and black bears, wolverine, and moose. The loop comes back out on the Sterling Highway at highway mile 75.2. Continue northeast on the Sterling Highway to reach Cooper Landing. From here, catch one of the many Kenai River Rafting trips for a beautiful trip down the
famous Kenai River. Other activities in this area include horseback trips through the beautiful Cooper Landing Mountains, a Kenai Lake trip, kayaking, fly-fishing, recreational gold panning, and hiking. Hike the Resurrection Trail to a wonderful waterfall called Juneau Falls. During the hike, you may encounter wildlife such as Dall sheep, Hoary Marmots, Black or Brown Bears, countless bird species, and maybe even Caribou. Hike to Russian River Falls. The 2.6-mile trail takes one to the viewing platform for the falls, which is a good place to view jumping salmon and maybe a brown bear or two.

Other Points of Interest:
• Cooper Landing Historical Society & Museum – view a complete skeleton of a roadkill brown bear (there is a neat story behind it).
• K’Beq Native Heritage Site – The Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s interpretative site offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Dena’ina customs and culture; gift shop and presentations offered.

EAST

Moose Pass (65 miles) and Seward (95 miles) Head northeast on the Sterling Highway until you reach the Seward Highway, turn a right and drive to Moose Pass. Moose Pass is nestled in the Chugach National Forest and is 28 miles north of Seward. Be sure to visit the Historic Water Wheel and Trail Lakes Hatchery for salmon viewing. If visiting in the summer, don’t miss the
popular, Annual Solstice Festival. Hike the Crown Point Mine Trail to the historic cavern and take in the scenic bay overlooks from this mountainous area. Continue along the Seward Highway to
milepost 3.7 and take a nice drive out to Exit Glacier at by following Exit Glacier Road to the visitor center parking area. Exit Glacier is the most accessible of the Kenai Fjord Park’s glaciers and is truly amazing. Experience trophy sport fishing, glacier and wildlife cruises, sailing, hiking, kayaking, flightseeing, summer dog sled rides in Seward. Begin touring by visiting the Seward Chamber of Commerce & Information Center at Mile 2 of the Seward Highway to pick up park maps and walking tour brochures. Seward is known for its Mural Art Walk. Plan on taking one of the wildlife and glacier cruises into Kenai Fjords National Park for whale and porpoise watching; access one of the cruise offices near the harbor. Bay cruises vary in length and amenities offered, and make reservations ahead of time. For sea animal exhibits, visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, a premier aquarium. The ASLC is the only institution authorized to rehabilitate stranded marine mammals in the state.

Other Points of Interest:
• Visit the Benny Benson Memorial at the lagoon. Benny designed the Alaska State Flag.
• Take a Historical Society Walking Tour of historic buildings and “Millionaires Row” on Third Ave.
• Climb Mt. Marathon; follow the route of the second oldest foot race in the United States.

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