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The Ultimate Guide to Kenai Fjords National Park Camping

Few places in the United States are as beautiful, remote, and untouched as Kenai Fjords National Park. Located in southern Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula, this national park is one of the most underrated in the country. It offers stunning views, abundant wildlife, and sightseeing opportunities that you won’t find anywhere else. If you want to visit a place where glaciers, mountains, and oceans meet, Kenai Fjords National Park camping is for you.

A Brief History of Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park camping
Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park was first deemed a national park in 1980 by president Jimmy Carter. He initially deemed it a national monument under the Antiquities Act in 1978 but upgraded its status in 1980. Compared to many of the other national parks in Alaska, it’s one of the smaller and more accessible ones. As a result, it’s the fifth-most visited park in Alaska but is still unknown in much of the lower 48 states and untouched by modern progress.

Originally inhabited by people of unknown origin as early as 1200 AD, many of the early inhabitants were driven out by rising water levels. Today, the 670,000-acre park remains primarily free of year-round inhabitants and gets most of its visitors on a temporary basis.

Things to Do While Camping at Kenai Fjords

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

When you visit Kenai Fjords National Park, there’s little to no chance of you running out of things to do. From hiking to fishing to kayaking and camping, your outdoor spirit will be able to run free at this amazing location.

Kenai Fjords National Park Camping: Hiking

There are a number of good trails and off-trail hiking options at Kenai Fjords. While the park is most famous for its glaciers and the fjords after which it was named, hiking still plays an important role. The main spot you’ll want to check out is the Harding Icefield Trail. This trail is 8.2 miles roundtrip, making it the perfect day-hike for moderate to experienced hikers.

However, what sets this trail apart from others you’ve done in the past is the diversity in views and landscape that you’ll experience. The trail starts with cottonwood, alder forests, and meadows near the Exit Glacier Area. It then climbs over 1,000 feet to abandoned fields of ice and snow that take you back to the Ice Age. It’s one of the most unique and strenuous day hikes that you’ll ever have the privilege of doing.

Kenai Fjords National Park Camping: Fishing

Kenai Fjords is literally surrounded and covered in salt-water and freshwater fishing options. Several lakes within the park are full of fish, but the highlight of your fishing trip will be when you drop a line into one of the many fjords. Dolly Varden, salmon, halibut, rockfish, and lingcod are all possible catches in any of the fjords or Ressurection Bay.

Kenai Fjords National Park Camping: Kayaking and Canoeing

In the same way that fishing is extremely popular at Kenai Fjords, you won’t want to miss your chance to canoe or kayak in one of the bays or fjords. Kayaking is especially popular, but make sure you take a guide with you if you’re inexperienced. Most of the bays and fjords are exposed to the Bay of Alaska, one of the rougher areas on the Pacific Coast. Bear Glacier Lagoon, Thumb Cove, and Caines Head are three of the most popular kayaking areas.

Kenai Fjords National Park Camping: Winter Activities

If you enjoy winter activities, Kenai Fjords will feel like heaven to you. While there aren’t any established resorts, you can do some of the best free-range skiing and snowboarding here. Snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice climbing, and cross-country skiing are extremely popular pastimes, and means of transportation after the roads are covered in snow.

Kenai Fjords National Park Camping: Boat Tours

No trip to Kenai Fjords is complete without a breathtaking boat tour through the fjords. You have the chance to spot dolphins, humpback whales, killer whales, porpoises, and many more roaming the waters of Kenai Fjords. The best place to jump aboard one of these tours is in the town of Seward, which is near the park.

Wildlife at Kenai Fjords National Park

Harbor Seal at Kenai Fjords National Park
Harbor seal in Kenai Fjords National Park

As breathtaking as the views and sites are at Kenai Fjords National Park, the wildlife is just as amazing.

Birds

This national park is home to nearly 200 different species of birds, many of which you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, black-billed magpies, and many more have been known to frequent the park.

Land Animals

The list of land animals that you’ll find at Kenai Fjords is almost as numerous as the list of birds. The main ones to be on the lookout for, however, are the black bear, brown bear, beaver, coyote, mountain goat, river otter, snowshoe hare, little brown bat, lynx, hoary marmot, marten, mink, moose, meadow jumping mouse, northern bog lemming, porcupine, various types of shrews and voles, red squirrel, short-tailed weasel, gray wolf, and wolverine.

Marine Animals

In addition to the dolphins and whales that inhabit the park’s waters, you can also see otters, seals, and sea lions.

Landscape of Kenai Fjords National Park

Camping at Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses three main areas: Exit Glacier, Harding Icefield, and the coastline. Exit Glacier consists of a half-mile-wide river of ice and is also the easiest section of the park to access. The 700-square-mile Harding Icefield is one of only a few remaining icefields in the US and the largest icefield entirely within US borders.

However, the pride and joy of Kenai Fjords is the combination of glaciers, fjords, and mountains that you can’t find anywhere else within the United States. The landscape will have you feeling more like you’re in Iceland or Scandinavia than in the US.

Places to Visit while Camping at Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

There are many must-see spots during your visit to Kenai Fjords National Park.

The Fjords

Whether you choose to see the fjords and surrounding coastline via a boat tour, kayaking, or on a day hike, they’re a must-see attraction during your visit.

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier is one of the largest and most accessible glaciers in the country. You can drive right up to it or hike to it any time of year, outside of the winter months when you’ll need a snowmobile or dog sled team.

Harding Ice Field

The Harding Icefield is one of Kenai Parks’ most treasured and difficult-to-reach sites. It’s only accessible after a strenuous hike, but it’s well worth the trip. The field covers 700 square miles, and the only way to fully grasp its size and magnitude is via a plane ride.

Various Visitor Centers

The Kenai Fjords National Park Information Center and the Exit Glacier Nature Center are the two visitor centers you should hit up during your visit. They will tell you everything you need to know about the park, as well as the types of animals and sites you should be on the lookout for.

RV Camping at Kenai Fjords

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

Unfortunately, RV camping inside Kenai Fjords National Park isn’t one of the more popular things to do. Because there’s only one designated campground inside the park, and it’s text-only, your only option is boondocking. Boondocking is limited thanks to the amount of ice and snow that the park sees each year. However, if you’re willing to stay in the nearby town of Seward or one of the other surrounding areas, there are numerous RV options at your disposal.

Stony Creek RV Park, Bear Creek RV Park, Silver Derby Campground, and RV Park are some of the top designated campgrounds in the area. The town of Seward has also dedicated several miles of shoreline for boondocking or overnight parking, which gives you the chance to wake up to a sunrise over top of Resurrection Bay!

Tent Camping at Kenai Fjords

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

Tent camping, on the other hand, is much more doable in and around Kenai Fjords National Park. The only designated campground in the park is Exit Glacier Campground which features 12 tent-only campsites. These sites are first-come, first-serve, and they don’t require a reservation or camping fee of any sort.

These campsites are the definition of roughing it, however, so don’t expect any amenities outside of a communal vault toilet and water pump. Cooking isn’t allowed at the individual campsites, but there is a designated cooking and food storage area. Pets also aren’t allowed, so make sure you leave your furry companions behind.

If the 12 campsites are full, there’s also tent camping in the nearby town of Seward or Chagucha National Forest.

Cabins for Kenai Fjords National Park Camping

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

There are also several cabins and shelters available within the park. Aialik Cabin is on the beach and is a perfect spot for whale watching, and Holgate Arm Cabin is also on the coast and offers a spectacular view of Holgate Glacier. Each of these cabins is only available during the summer months, from June through August. The Willow Cabin, however, is located near Exit Glacier and is the only cabin requiring a reservation and is available to rent year-round.

Fees to Expect for Kenai Fjords National Park Camping

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the only national parks that doesn’t charge an entrance fee or a daily pass. There also aren’t any camping or overnight fees if you pitch your tent at Exit Glacier. The only fees you’ll come across are to rent one of the three cabins. Willow Cabin is $50 per night, and the two coastal cabins are $75 per night.

Wrapping Up Kenai Fjords National Park Camping

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who’s looking for adventure, Kenai Fjords National Park camping should be on your bucket list. There are sites and sounds you’ll experience at this park that you won’t find anywhere else. From icy glaciers to mountain peaks to fields of ice and magnificent fjords, there’s much to love about Kenai Fjords National Park.

Ready to strike out on more Alaska expeditions? Check out The Complete Guide to Katmai National Park Camping and The Ultimate Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Camping!

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