Sample Agenda for Family Fun on the Kenai Peninsula
We are so excited that you are thinking of spending some time in Alaska! We recommend that you make your home base at Gwin's Lodge, which is centrally located on the Kenai Peninsula. Here is just a suggestion on how you might spend your time. Depending on the timing of your flights, you may have to make adjustments to the schedule accordingly. We can help you book the cabins and most of these trips and excursions. Please feel free to let us know if you have any questions.
Day 1: Drive to Cooper Landing
Get your rental car in Anchorage and drive south on the Seward Highway (Highway 1) toward Seward, then turn onto Sterling Highway toward Cooper Landing. There will be several scenic pull-out parking places to stop the car along the way and enjoy the scenery. Be sure you check out Beluga Point. Be careful of the fast-moving traffic when you are out of your car. Also look for windsurfers and kite surfers surfing the bore tide out on the water. Here is a link to Alaska.org’s article on this scenic drive (Turnagain Arm Drive) http://www.alaska.org/guide/turnagain-arm-drive
As you leave Anchorage, you may want to make a stop at Potter Marsh (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewinglocations.pottermarsh), which is a bird lovers' favorite spot just 10 miles south of Anchorage. Potter Marsh is a 2,300-acre protected wetland with a 1,550-foot boardwalk that enables visitors to enter the area safely without disturbing the wildlife. It is one of the most accessible and scenic wildlife viewing areas in all of Alaska. Look for signs.
"Gwin's roadside establishment is the epicenter of much of the activity on the peninsula and a one-stop shop for visitors and locals alike, providing food, lodging, and fishing tackle ... The travel agency can book fishing, hiking, rafting, and other adventure travel anywhere on the peninsula. The lodge is the fishing headquarters of prospective anglers during the annual salmon runs on the nearby Russian and Kenai rivers."
"Gwin's Lodge - Historic landmark, traditionally crafted log roadhouse and guest cabins, full of local history and a good source for what to do in Cooper Landing."
"Gwin’s Lodge, in Cooper Landing (roughly in the middle of the Kenai), is a good base for exploring the peninsula. The kids will love the loft beds; Mom and Dad can hike up to Russian River Falls to watch leaping salmon and maybe spot a moose."
"The Kenai Peninsula is Alaska's Playground"
Best Trip Choices:
"The peninsula serves as the Alaska sampler because it has the wildlife; the dramatic glaciers, mountains and wilderness; multipurpose rivers; a fjord-lined coast — plus churches, mining towns and other attractions associated with Alaska’s settlement story."
"Rich in gold mining, early settlers and Alaska Native history, Cooper Landing has long been a destination for serious anglers wanting easy access to the Russian and Kenai rivers and Skilak and Kenai lakes for trophy salmon, trout and a host of other species...Whatever your passion, be it fishing, hiking, rafting/kayaking, sightseeing, exploring Alaska culture or hanging out with the local folks, you'll find it all in Cooper Landing."
Another place worth a stop is The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (http://www.alaskawildlife.org) in Portage (between Anchorage and Cooper Landing) that is a drive-through animal park that takes in and cares for injured and orphaned animals. The Center is residence for brown bears, reindeer, musk oxen, wood bison, moose, elk, and other animals.
At Milepost 109 on the Seward Highway is a 5-ft PVC pipe that juts out from the rocky mountain (look to your left). There is a pull-out area on the ocean side, but be very careful when crossing the road. Locals are known to make treks with their containers to fill up on this refreshing and icy cold artesian spring water. We always stop to fill up whatever bottles we have on-hand. Just the purest icy goodness! Here is an article on this spring water. http://www.alaska.org/detail/fresh-water-spring
Day 2 & 3: A deep-sea fishing, fly-in bear viewing, or scenic glacier trip
Depending on which one you prefer, the departure location and time will vary, so let us look into availability and pricing for you and report back if you are interested in doing deep-sea fishing for halibut, or a fly-in sightseeing trip on a plane or helicopter. You can fly atop a glacier and ride on a dog sled. Another trip combine fishing and bear-viewing (bears congregate where the fish are; both types of trips may go to the same location), or flying across the Cook Inlet into Katmai National Park or McNeil River Game Reserve to see brown bears, so let us know what kind of fly-in trip you are interested in.
You may be in the vicinity of Homer for the fly-in departure location, if that’s so, after the fly-in trip, visit Homer Spit to stroll on the beach (with glacier and volcano in the distance), see bald eagles, shop at some quaint shops, have a pint at Salty Dawg Saloon (a well-known landmark), and eat at a local restaurant. Homer Spit is a slender sliver of land that juts into Kachemak Bay.
You will also drive by the Russian Orthodox Church in Nilnilchik and Clam Gulch when you're driving between Homer and Cooper Landing. It’s a well-known landmark that is worth a quick stop for photo ops. There are also many pull-out areas to see the volcanoes across the Cook Inlet. The sunset views are breathtaking.
Day 4: Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise
These cruises depart in the morning out of Seward, which is about a one hour drive from Cooper Landing. You will see glaciers and wildlife. Dress in layers and put on your warmest jackets and clothes as the glacial wind can be bitingly cold outside the cabin. This is a must-do! If the weather is not cooperating, pick out another activity.
Another not-to-miss in Seward is the Exit Glacier. Here you can hike well-marked trails, get close enough to the glacier to feel the glacial cold air, and take a ranger-led walk. Along the trail, markers mark the retreat of the glacier through the years. The Exit Glacier can be reached off the Seward Highway. Just look for signs. The Harding Ice Field trail, also in the KFNP, is a worthwhile all-day strenuous challenge that will reward you with breathtaking views of the Exit Glacier and the Harding Ice Field.
Days 5 & 6 Cooper Landing (select from among these activities):
Fishing! A majority of visitors to Cooper Landing go on at least one fishing outing. You can hire a guide to fish from the shores or from the boat. Otherwise, you can strike out on your own. The Russian River Campground, the Kenai River, and Bing's Landing are popular fishing spots for the locals. Fishing licenses are available at our store. Our store also carries the fishing tackle, waders, and equipment you can rent or buy, and also get the latest fishing report.
Scenic rafting trip. Take a leisurely ride on the turquoise blue Kenai River. You might see bear and moose, but you will almost always see bald eagles.
Gold panning with scenic rafting. Prospector John will take you on the Kenai River for a scenic ride and then you can pan for gold in a stream. Prospector John is a true Alaskan character who will regale you with tales.
Hiking in Cooper Landing. I recommend the Russian River and Russian Lakes Trails (from the Russian River Campground), the Slaughter Ridge Trail, and the Skyline Trail. The Russian River Campground includes various well-maintained trails and board walks and is worth exploring. The latter two are a bit more challenging but will take you up to the mountains above the Kenai Lake and River for breathtaking views. Skilak Lake in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, another nearby destination, also has many hiking trails and places to explore. Rainbow Lake is another scenic easy hike. Also check out what the locals affectionately call Waikiki Beach, which boasts amazing scenery especially at sunset. Keep you eyes peeled for bald eagles, moose, and brown bears! Ask at the store for directions and rent bear spray.
Whitewater rafting trip. Depending on how adventurous you feel, you can tackle all three canyons for up to Class V rapids on Six Mile Creek that have names like Staircase, Suckhole, Merry-Go-Round, Jaws, and Junkyard Dog, or just settle for Class II-IV rapids in the first two canyons. You will need to pass a swim test before proceeding. This trip leaves from the town of Hope. You will be provided a dry suit, life vest, helmet, and well-worn shoes for the trip. An adrenalin-pumping ride!
Horseback riding. Horseback riding trips (three hours and up) and pack trips of various durations are available. Check far in advance for availability. Trail rides will take you through the Chugach National Forest and to scenic lookout points over Kenai Lake.
Day 6: Drive back to Anchorage
On your way back to Anchorage, catch sights along the Sterling and Seward Highways that you didn’t see earlier.
A good short side trip is the Portage Glacier. The Portage Valley is about a one-hour drive North on the Sterling Highway from Cooper Landing (one hour South of Anchorage). The Portage Pass Trail is a good day hike for all ages and provide spectacular views of Passage Canal and the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Even if you don’t hike, just the breathtaking views along the drive is worth the quick side trip.
Day 7: Alaska Zoo (http://www.alaskazoo.org)
The Alaska Zoo is a charming zoo situated on 25 acres of wooded hillside in South Anchorage. At least 50 species of animals are represented in the zoo. Say hi to George the magpie! We have had wonderful times here.
Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center (http://www.anchoragemuseum.org) is a world-class museum that preserves, exhibits, and interprets Alaskan art and history. Also includes a fascinating science section. This well-done museum is definitely worth your time for a visit.
Day 8: Matanuska Glacier
It's a 2-hour scenic drive on Glenn Highway North of Anchorage. At milepost marker 101 is the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area that provides an overlook but does not provide access to the glacier. At mile 102, drive down to Glacier Park onto private property. It is a $25 per person fee to get access to the glacier, and $100 per person to have a private guide. Using the guide is highly recommended to ensure that you see the highlights while traveling on safe passable routes. *Price may have changed since the time of writing. Price includes hard hat, crampons, and walking stick.
Day 9: The Alaska Native Heritage Center (http://www.alaskanative.net)
This is a renowned cultural center and museum in Anchorage, and is a great place to learn about Alaska's Indigenous people and connect with Alaska’s rich cultural history.
Another favorite attraction in Anchorage is the Weekend Market that occurs only on the weekends during the Summer (http://www.anchoragemarkets.com/Anch%20Market%20and%20Festival/am_f.html) on Third Street and E Street in downtown Anchorage. Here you can find unique Alaskan arts and crafts, Alaskan-grown produce of monstrous sizes, and photography featuring aurora borealis, grizzly bears, bald eagles, and other requisite Alaskan subject matter. This is also a great place to sample Alaskan food and snacks. The Weekend Market is a wonderful and interesting way to spend a sunny afternoon in Anchorage with the locals.
If you will be in Alaska in late August you have got to visit the Alaska State Fair (http://www.alaskastatefair.org). Rated as the top state fair in the U.S. by Country Living magazine, the Alaska State Fair is located in Palmer, about an hour's drive north of Anchorage. Alaskans compete for top prizes for monstrous-sized vegetables, and the fair features lumberjack competitions, awesome food and souvenir gift vendors, farm animal exhibits, and concerts. Brilliant blooms decorate every corner of the fairgrounds. Do not miss this opportunity to be totally immersed in Alaskan life and culture.
Day 10+: Denali National Park
Have more time? Then you might want to head North to see the Mighty One. We recommend that you leave the driving to the conductor and take the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage. This trip takes 8 hours across river flats, skirt mountains, and over tall bridges in the wilds of Alaska. We recommend the Gold Star car service with panoramic views from its clear dome upper deck (with beverage service and narration) and full-service dining in the lower deck. Once arriving at Denali, get ready for some hiking and touring. Tours into Denali National Park should be booked months in advance. Several different lengths of trip into the park is available.
The staff at Gwin's Lodge can help you book any of these trips and excursions and plan your dream Alaska trip for you. Call (907.595.1266) or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)!