A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Juneau: 41°/67°/Partly sunny
On the Fourth of July, Seward hosts one of Alaska's longest-running, most unique athletic events -- the Mount Marathon race. Hundreds of competitors race 3,022 feet up the mountain that overlooks the city and back to the bottom.
Click to enlarge
Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska on the path leading to the toe of Exit Glacier. (AP Photo/Beth Harpaz)
The racers, of course, don't have time to stop and enjoy the scenery from their unusual outpost. That's unfortunate.
It's that impressive scenery that helps make Seward a must-see destination in Alaska. The community of about 2,600 people sits at the head of Resurrection Bay. It's surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Resurrection Bay and nearby waters are full of wildlife -- from salmon on up to humpback whales.
Kenai Fjords National Park, which sits at Seward's edge, attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors annually.
The park is more than 600,000 acres, with only one road-accessible point, Exit Glacier at Exit Glacier Road off the Seward Highway.
More than 100,000 visitors stop at Exit Glacier annually. Depending on weather and ice conditions, visitors can walk up to the face of the glacier and touch the ice. Park rangers will lead several guided walks daily, including walks to the glacier.
Exit Glacier is one of more than 30 glaciers that flow out from the Harding Icefield. The ice field covers about 300 square miles and is the largest ice field completely contained within the United States.
For more hardy hikers, the Harding Icefield Trail is an eight-mile round-trip excursion. Rangers will lead a hike on Saturday mornings. The trail gains about 3,000 feet in elevation and can have snow at the upper reaches well into summer.
The view from the top of the trail is a look back into history. The massive ice field stretches out for miles, leaving nunataks (the tops of mountains that are covered in ice) poking up here and there.
Exit Glacier Guides (exit glacierguides.com) will help adventure-seekers get an on-ice experience in Seward. For $125, guides will take hikers onto Exit Glacier. The five-hour trip includes a partial hike of the Harding Icefield Trail. Climbers will be outfitted with crampons, helmets and ice axes. They will spend about an hour on the glacier. The company will provide transportation from downtown Seward to the park.
Many Kenai Fjords visitors spend their time in the park aboard one of several tour boats that operate from Seward to take passengers into the glacier-studded fjords. Companies offer half-day and full-day trips. Depending on length, tours average from about $55 to $170. Some companies offer overnight lodging or sea kayaking options.
Back in Seward, one of the highlights is the Alaska SeaLife Center (alaskasealife.org).
The research and rehabilitation facility is open daily for visitors. Once inside, visitors can see puffins, Steller sea lions, harbor seals and a variety of other sea life. At the Discovery Pool, guests can touch sea stars and other animals. One of the highlights is seeing Woody, a 2,000-pound Steller sea lion, face-to-face through the glass of his exhibit habitat.
Regular admission is $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 12 to 17. The center also offers several special tours.
Outside, there are many hiking trails in the area, including a trip up Mount Marathon. Most visitors will take it a little slower than the racers.
Other popular hiking trails include one starting at Lowell Point and the Lost Lake Trail north of town.
Whether your adventure is on a boat, watching sea lions or lacing up your hiking boots, Seward is the place to be.