Travel 127 unforgettable miles along scenic roads that pass through one of North America’s most scenic wildernesses.
Story by Janine Niebrugge
Photos by Ron Niebrugge
Designated both a National Forest Scenic Byway and an All-American Road, the Seward Highway travels through 127 miles of pristine wilderness.
Also known as Alaska Route 9, the highway stretches from Anchorage to the charming coastal community of Seward, the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.
The scenic road climbs over mountain passes where you’re surrounded by jaw-dropping views of jagged peaks, rain forests, crystal lakes and the Pacific Ocean.
On any given day, you’re likely to see Dall sheep, whales, waterfowl, moose and bears. What you won’t see are billboards or many other signs of civilization.
The highway is a photographer’s dream, with easy access to dramatic scenery. While it’s not hard to complete the drive in a few hours, give yourself most of a day, or even two, to explore this stunning road.
To guide you along on your journey, here are a few of the highlights that my husband, Ron, and I enjoy.
As you start out, Potter Marsh, on the outskirts of Anchorage, marks the end of city views and the beginning of wilderness. It’s truly a birder’s paradise, with views of a rich variety of waterfowl and other birds, including northern pintails, Canada geese, red-necked phalaropes, canvasback ducks, horned and red-necked grebes, and northern harriers. Gulls, arctic terns and yellowlegs can be spotted during spring and fall migration. This is also a good place to see spawning salmon and an occasional moose.
As you continue down the highway, wind your way along the Turnagain Arm, with scenic views of Chugach State Park. Turnagain Arm offers some of the world’s largest bore tides, attracting surfers, paddleboarders and kite boarders.
Ron and I like to stop at Bird Point or Beluga Point to watch for beluga whales and scour the mountainsides on the other side of the road for Dall sheep.
Milepost 79 is the turnoff for the skiing community of Girdwood, a quaint mountain town that’s worth exploring. If you have time, take a hike on the Winner Creek Trail. Winner Creek is a beautiful, clear-running stream flowing through the rain forest. A little further up, the creek drops into a steep, narrow, rocky gorge. You’ll want to stop and enjoy the view.
This milepost is also your last opportunity for gas and any other supplies you might need until you reach Seward.
As you continue down Turnagain Arm, check out Portage Valley, a 14-mile isthmus that connects the Kenai Peninsula to the mainland, and stop by the visitor center.
Going farther, you’ll find yourself climbing Turnagain Pass into the heart of the Chugach National Forest. Here you’ll be treated to towering snowcapped peaks, lush rain forest, rivers, lakes and ponds.
Traveling through the small communities of Moose Pass and Crown Point will make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. Stop to take in the beauty of the turquoise waters of Kenai Lake, and look for nesting trumpeter swans in the lily pad pond at Mile 15.
The drive ends as you enter the charming seaside community of Seward, with breathtaking views of Resurrection Bay. From there, take a tour boat to watch for humpback and orca whales, sea otters and sea lions in Kenai Fjords National Park—the perfect way to end a great road trip along a beautiful, scenic road.
Alaska’s Seward Highway is one of Country’s 2013 Best Scenic Roads. Click here for the full list.