It’s a big country. Come along as we explore some of the most well-known, and maybe not so well-known, places in our vast Western states: Alaska’s Kenai Fjords; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; the Grand Canyon; Joshua Tree and Zion national parks; Hoover Dam; Arizona’s Antelope Canyon; Idaho’s Shoshone Falls. Some you certainly have heard of, others not. But what they all have in common is the capacity to astonish, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time. Included is information on how to get there from Bellingham or Seattle, and other valuable travel tidbits. Happy trails.
The ice age still lingers in this remote spot on the southern coast of Alaska. At Kenai Fjords National Park, you can see nearly 40 glaciers, some of which still hold the secrets of the past.
The Sugpiaq people have lived on this land for hundreds of years, living off the unique landscape and wildlife unlike anywhere else in the United States. Here, you can see oil from the Exxon Valdez spill still entrapped in ice. See whales breach and play in the water just off the coast. Stand at the foot of Exit Glacier. Where else can you drive to the base of a 6,000 foot wall of ice?
Despite Exit Glacier’s size, it’s small compared to how large it used to be. The glacier is one of the first places scientists go to study the effects of climate change. Between 2013 and 2014, this glacier got 185 feet shorter due to melting. In 2015, President Barack Obama visited Kenai Fjords National Park to examine the effects of global warming and discuss with officials and scientists what could be done to help preserve this unique landmark. Since 2010, Exit Glacier has shrunk an average of 162 feet per year.
The closest town to Kenai Fjords National Park is Seward, Alaska. This town is named for former U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who oversaw the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire. Another fun fact about Seward — it’s the original starting point for the Iditarod Trail. Mile 0 is marked on the shoreline on the southern side of town. When visiting Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward is the place to stay. With great hotels, restaurants, and other fun activities, you can experience authentic Alaska.
Fly Starting in May, take one of Allegiant Air’s new non-stop flights from Bellingham to Anchorage (about 3.5 hours). Then rent a car or take the bus for the 126 miles south to the park.
Drive More than 40 hours
Float Feeling adventurous? Take the ferry from Bellingham’s Fairhaven district on the Alaska Marine Highway System to Whittier (more than four days), then it’s less than a 2-hour drive to the park.
Fees Or Permits
No entrance or camping fee for Kenai Fjords National Park.
What To Do
Guided kayak trips
What To See
A field of ice more than 300 square miles named for President Warren G. Harding.
There are nearly 40 glaciers throughout the park.
The park was established in part to protect seals and sea lions and is also home to the rare Dall’s Porpoise and several species of whales.
Where To Stay
May–September, Exit Glacier
Follow a park ranger on a one-and-a-half hour walk to the Glacier Overlook. The first leg of the walk is wheelchair accessible.
June 5–July 27 (Tuesdays and Thursdays)
Glacier View Sketch
Join an on-site artist on a short, easy walk to Glacier View where you will spend 45 minutes in an instructor-led art class on sketching the beautiful Exit Glacier.
July 7–August 27 (Saturdays)
Harding Icefield Ranger-Led Hike
With an elevation gain of 1,000 feet in one mile, Hiking the Harding Icefield is not easy. Journeying out with a ranger will help in case of emergency. The ranger will also teach you more about this unique landscape.
The native tribespeople living on the Kenai peninsula have been there for hundreds of years. The word “kenai” comes from their word “kena,” meaning “open area with few trees,” similar to our word for meadow.