Major Parks & Forests on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

Vibrant scenery, abundant wildlife, pristine lakes and rivers, and hospitable communities are just some of the things that make Alaska's Kenai Peninsula a popular visitor destination. The mountain peaks are gorgeous. The forests, wetlands, and tundra are bursting with vitality. Glaciers are plentiful. No matter what direction you look, you'll find photo-worthy scenery.

Whether you enjoy experiencing nature actively or passively, the Kenai Peninsula is packed with locations and opportunities for any number of outdoor thrills. Surrounded by ocean and by mountain peaks, much of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula has been preserved for public use and/or as wilderness. There are several major national and state parks and forests on the peninsula, each offering it's own amazing outdoor experiences.

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    Picture of Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise Scenery ©Angela M. Brown
    Angela M Brown

    A Kenai Fjords boat tour is one of the Kenai Peninsula's best visitor attractions, drawing lots of daytrippers from Anchorage as well as those visiting the area's smaller communities. Departing from Seward, these tours provide amazing views of tidewater glaciers and of marine wildlife. Tours by Major Marine Tours take place on comfortable, climate-controlled vessels with food service and restrooms. Tours run from a half to a full day, with lots to see. The rugged rocky shores are home to eagles, sea lions, puffins, and otters. Jagged, snow-capped mountain peaks dominate the scenery. You'll get close enough to tidewater glaciers to watch them calve. Other popular ways to experience Kenai Fjords National Park includes kayaking, hiking, and flightseeing.

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    Brown Bear in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
    Getty Images/Milo Burcham / Design Pics

    Occupying much of the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to observe and photograph wildlife, from the trail or from the water. The refuge covers just under two million acres, with ecosystems that include alpine tundra, wetlands, and boreal forest. Visitors have a good chance of seeing large mammals such as bears and moose, along with beavers, swans, and eagles. The number of lakes and huge expanses of wetlands provide excellent routes for experienced paddlers. A new official visitor center for the Kenai NWR is located in Soldotna.

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    Field of Lupine Flowers in Chugach National Forest
    Getty Image/Jeff Schultz/Design Pics

    This huge national forest encompasses the eastern portion of Kenai Peninsula, extending east past Cordova to the Copper River Delta. The Eastern Kenai Peninsula section is accessible from Anchorage and offers awesome terrain for camping, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. The Russian River is famous for its huge salmon. During the winter, back country skiing and snowmobiling are popular Chugach National Forest activities.

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    Located on the northwest shore of Kenai Peninsula, Captain Cook State Recreation Area is a wonderful and remote place to savor nature. Reachable by motor vehicle (and a lovely coastline drive along Kenai Spur Highway), this state park is popular with beach combers. There are tide pools to explore and agates to hunt. There is lots of wildlife to watch, from bald eagles and Beluga whales to wolves and moose.

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    Occupying the southern tip of Kenai Peninsula, Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Park preserves over 400,000 acres of land. This is an excellent destination for independent travelers seeking wilderness solitude. There are no roads to get to Kachemak Bay State Park; visitors are able to reach its wonders by water or by air. Hiking and camping are popular park activities. Camping options range from cabins and yurts to undeveloped tent spots; there are many beach camping options as well as inland locales along rivers or lakes.