For thousands of years, the Kenaitze, in their native Dena’ina language, have called the Kenai Peninsula Yaghanen, meaning “the good land.” Driving the Seward and Sterling Highways only skims the surface, but provides a scenic orientation to just how good it is.
These days, about 87% of Alaska is public land, and getting to know the Kenai Peninsula means visiting Chugach State Park, Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and Katchemak Bay State Park, to name just a few. In between all these wide-open spaces are the small towns of Moose Pass, Seward, Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai and Homer.
There’s a reason the Kenai Peninsula is called Alaska’s Playground – there are seemingly endless opportunities for adventure. I’ve spent the better part of 20 years exploring this playground, both personally and as a guide, and my to-do list is still growing. For every corner I explore, I find two more I’d like to. Luckily, Silvertip is centrally located, and we’re right in the middle of it all.
For a first-time visitor, I can see how so many options could be overwhelming. When I get overwhelmed, I make a list to help me organize my thoughts and find clarity for moving forward with intention and direction. So here’s a list for you: a few of my favorite things to do during the summer on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
Hiking – You have so many options. There are nearly 500 miles worth of hiking trails on the Kenai Peninsula, which is about double the number of highway miles. There are too many amazing trails to list, so here are my top five: Portage Pass Trail, Grengwik Glacier Trail, Skyline Trail, Harding Ice Field Trail, and Summit Creek Trail.
Flightseeing – Less than 20% of the state is accessible by roads, so if you really want to see Alaska, you need to fly. There’s nothing quite like getting a bird’s eye view of wild as far as the eye can see, like 700 square miles of ice flowing from the mountains to the ocean.
Fishing – There’s a reason fishermen flock to the Kenai Peninsula. Cast a fly for a trophy Rainbow Trout or catch yourself a yummy salmon for dinner. Pull up some halibut via the tractor launch in Deep Creek, or head to Homer and do the Halibut/Rockfish combo.
Wildlife Viewing – Fly over to the west side of Cook Inlet on a float plane to see bears in their natural environment. We also like to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on our way to the peninsula for an up-close look at a variety of local species, including bears, moose, caribou, and wood bison.
Whale, Marine Wildlife and Glacier Cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park – mountains rising out of the ocean, Whales breaching, dall’s porpoises surfing, and glaciers calving are just a few of the wonders of this trip. Even more special is that it is a very small group tour with no more than 13 guests aboard.
Rafting – Rafting is an awesome way to get off the road system and into the Alaskan backcountry. Travel the length of the entire upper Kenai River through Kenai Canyon with Class 1 and 2 rapids, or for the more adventurous, brave the Class 4 and 5 rapids on Six Mile Creek.
Spencer Iceberg & Placer River Float – Float among the icebergs in a glacial lake only accessible by the historic Alaska Railroad. I ran this trip back in my guiding days, and even after being there every day for an entire summer, it never got old. It’s a favorite among our visiting family and friends.
Canoeing – The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has several well-established canoe routes you can access through a fully guided trip, or you can rent a canoe and head out on your own. I personally like to take my stand-up paddle board out on these calm waters.
Dog Sledding – The Iditarod is an iconic Alaskan race, and dog sledding remains a popular winter sport up here. Visiting a working kennel and learn how mushers develop a dog team. Meeting puppies is an added bonus. To add adventure to the experience, you can take the tour atop a snowy mountain with a quick helicopter flight.
Biking – Like hiking, there are too many awesome trails to name. Ride the beach between the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers or hit the single track at Tsalteshi Trails. Enjoy the backcountry on the Iditarod National Historic Trail or the Crescent Lake Trail. If you’re super adventurous, Alyeska Resort in Girdwood has lift-access downhill biking.