Is Kenai Fjords National Park Worth Visiting?

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View of kenai fjords national park.

We have no evidence to back it up, but we’re confident visiting national parks is good for our souls. Kenai Fjords National Park was what we needed during our trip to Alaska.

Do you have an Alaskan trip in the future? Are you deciding whether you should put a visit to this park in your travel plans? If so, we’ve got some things to share with you.

Today, we’re looking at Kenai Fjords National Park to help you decide. Let’s dive in!

About Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park sits along the southeast coast of Alaska. It has 600,000 acres of impressive mountains, deep fjords, and majestic ice fields. Each year, between 300,000 and 400,000 lucky travelers get to visit.

Many desire to see the gigantic Harding Icefield, which is over 700 square miles and feeds into dozens of glaciers. Some glaciers are easier to see than others, but Exit Glacier is the easiest. Educational opportunities throughout the area help visitors learn about icefields and glaciers’ vital roles in shaping the landscapes.

The coastal waters of Kenai Fjords are home to more than just glaciers and ice, but wildlife, too. You can spot sea otters, whales, porpoises, and seabirds. You’ll have no trouble capturing Instagram-worthy snapshots with the bright blue waters and floating ice chunks. 

Kenai Fjords was initially established as a national monument in 1978. However, in 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was passed. This upgraded the park from a national monument to a national park.

Today, officials attempt to balance conservation with public enjoyment. You’ll find guided boat tours, hiking trails, and other opportunities for visitors to experience the area responsibly. Researchers continue to study this unique environment and how it responds to a changing climate.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Kenai Fjords National Park?

One great thing about Kenai Fjords National Park is it’s open year-round. However, we can’t say the same about the road to Exit Glacier, one of the premier attractions.

It closes for the winter months and almost all of spring. As a result, the best time to visit is in June, July, or August. This can help you avoid extreme conditions and weather-related closures.

Can you visit during the winter? Absolutely. However, you will need to battle the extreme cold and weather elements. Snow and ice are common. The Exit Glacier area can receive over 200 inches of snow each year. Do you want to battle that? Most likely not.

View of kenai fjords national park.

Are There Grizzly Bears in Kenai Fjords National Park?

Bears are one of the biggest concerns for many visitors. Kenai Fjords National Park has brown (grizzly) and black bears. Luckily, black bear sightings are by far the most common. However, just because grizzly sightings are less common doesn’t mean you should take them lightly.

You’re entering bear country anytime you adventure in Kenai Fjords or other national parks in Alaska. It is your responsibility to carry bear spray. You don’t want to attract them to you. Staying bear-aware can help keep you and other guests safe. If beef jerky is your go-to hiking snack, consider picking something else.

Things to Do in Kenai Fjords National Park

With so much to see and do, you’ll likely need at least two full days to explore Kenai Fjords National Park. So what should you do during those two days? Here are some suggestions for making the most of your time.

Book a Boat Tour

During the summer months, boat tours leave the Seward harbor multiple times each day. Several private companies offer full and half-day charter services. The options, schedules, and amenities vary based on the company.

For those with the goal of seeing whales, birds, and other wildlife, this is one of the best ways to do it.

In addition to wildlife, this is an unforgettable way to view and learn about glaciers. You can get a closer view of the massive ice walls as they extend over the waters. You may even hear or see chunks crash into the sea if you’re lucky. It can be an epic experience you’ll remember for years.


Humans have been paddling through Kenai Fjords for as long as they’ve been in the area. Climbing into the chilly waters in a kayak is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that many people can only imagine. If you get the chance, we highly recommend you take it.

Because these excursions can be very dangerous, it’s a good idea to travel with a guide. Wind, rainfall, and summer storms can cause swells to develop in the ocean. These can be three feet or more and create a dangerous situation. If you’re a beginner, you want to avoid getting caught in them.

When done safely, paddling through the waters can be a serene experience. You can spot marine wildlife like sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, and birds. However, no matter how many animals you see, kayaking here is remarkable.

Hit the Trails

We take every opportunity we can to hike in national parks. Hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park can be challenging as only a few maintained trails exist. These are primarily in the Exit Glacier area of the park and typically less than a mile. 

If you want a real adventure, the 8.2-mile Harding Icefield Trail will take you a good part of the day. This isn’t a hike for rookies or those not in good physical condition. When the NPS uses the word “strenuous,” they mean it.

Those brave enough to take on the Harding Icefield Trail will climb more than 1,000 feet every mile. It generally takes at least six to eight hours to complete. However, the impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier are worth it. Trail closures can last until early July, and the risk of avalanches is often present.  

View of a glacier in kenai fjords national park.

Attend Ranger-Led Programs

If taking on the Alaskan backcountry alone is too intimidating, consider a Ranger-led program. NPS rangers offer these programs between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. However, they may offer special or unique events outside of this timeframe.

Ranger-led walks and pavilion talks are great ways to learn unique facts about the park. If you’ve never taken the time to talk to rangers, they’re some of the friendliest people you’ll ever encounter.

Their passion for the parks and educating visitors is incredible. These programs have always impressed us, and how excited the rangers are to lead them.

Keep in Mind: Do you get seasick? Don’t let that stop you from going on a boat tour! Try these tips to avoid getting seasick.

Wildlife Viewing

While the landscapes and waters are phenomenal, most people want to see wildlife when they visit national parks. If that’s you, we understand. There’s nothing like seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. Just remember, it is their natural habitat. Keep your distance because nothing is stopping them from getting to you.

Many visitors try to spot whales and bears — unfortunately, one lives in water, and the other on land. So the odds are slim for seeing them in the same place. However, bears often appear near the Nature Center.

Rangers keep detailed records of wildlife sightings and can point you in the right direction. As we said, they’re a wealth of knowledge. You just have to ask.

To see whales, you’ll likely have to take a tour. The waters surrounding Kenai Fjords National Park contain a variety of whale species. It’s common for these tours to spot humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, and several other species. 

A humpback whale swimming in kenai fjords national park.

Visit Glacier Viewpoints

Glaciers aren’t something that most people get to see every day. As a result, you’ll want to take the opportunity to enjoy them while at Kenai Fjords. While some glaciers require a boat tour to see them, there are plenty that you can see from viewpoints throughout the park.

For example, the Exit Glacier Viewpoint only requires a short hike from the Exit Glacier Nature Center.

If you want more of a challenge, there’s the Harding Icefield Trail we mentioned earlier. However, the Tonsina Point Trail is a relatively easy hike and provides views of distant glaciers on a clear day. For those lucky enough to go on a boat tour, there are the Holgate Glacier and Aialik Glacier Viewpoints.

Keep in Mind: There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, but Aialik Glacier is one you have to see in person!

A man looking at a glacier in kenai fjords national park.


While we suggest you take plenty of opportunities to take mental pictures during your visit, actual photographs are essential, too. The incredible landscapes, potential for wildlife encounters, and natural beauty of the glaciers all make for fantastic photography subjects. 

While having the right equipment and skills is necessary, a smartphone can do a great job capturing the beauty here. However, don’t take your photography so seriously that you don’t take selfies. Your friends and family like to see your smiling face, too.

Is Kenai Fjords National Park Worth Visiting?

For anyone on the fence about visiting Kenai Fjords National Park, we suggest you do it. This magnificent park has so much to offer that you’ll regret it if you don’t.

The beauty of glaciers and the serenity of the quiet and cold waters make this a special place. This is an opportunity to experience a unique environment unlike anywhere else on Earth.

Have you been to Kenai Fjords National Park? Did you think it was worth it?

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