7 Day Alaska Itinerary – Road trip in the Kenai Peninsula
Undeniably known as the Last Frontier, Alaska is one of the last truly wild places on Earth. From the vast varieties of roaming wildlife to the snow-capped peaks that span the state’s borders, there is no end to the adventures you can experience here. It would take one year to explore everything this expansive region offers. Still, in a 7 day Alaska itinerary, you can see a lot, especially if you choose to visit one or two regions.
That’s why I’m here to share with you my ultimate Alaska itinerary, a 7-day road trip in the Kenai Peninsula. A road trip where you’ll get to experience the best of Alaska without having to travel for months at a time.
But before we talk about all the incredible things to do in the Kenai Peninsula, activities, and places to stay (there is a list of the best hotels in Kenai Peninsula at the end of this Alaskan guide), let me share a few travel tips essential for planning a road trip in Alaska and visiting Kenai Peninsula.
Travel tips for your 7 day Alaska itinerary
What is the best month to visit Alaska?
Whether you prefer to ski under the aurora borealis or trek through vast landscapes surrounded by wildlife, there is no bad time to visit Alaska.
But, depending on your preferences, there are a few things you should know when planning your visit to North America‘s 49th state!
First, you should be aware that Alaska only has two seasons: winter and summer.
Alaskan winters are tough, causing more than half of the people living there to retreat to the lower 48 (what Alaskans call the contiguous U.S.) at the sight of the first snowfall.
This leaves the state almost barren, with just a few thousand inhabitants (locally referred to as sourdoughs: those who winter-over in Alaska) around to enjoy the breathtaking snow-capped mountains and unparalleled winter sports opportunities.
Winter typically lasts from mid-September through early May, leaving only a few short months for summer.
The summers are often rainy and overcast with the occasional bright, sunny day. Alaskan summers are the best time to spot wildlife since most local animals hibernate during the long, cold winter months.
In the summers, tourists and locals alike relish in endless outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, wildlife tracking, and more! This means that your summer vacation in Alaska will be packed with activities.
Most people prefer to visit Alaska in the summertime to take advantage of the plethora of activities and photograph the local wildlife. Still, Alaska is a beautiful state to visit year-round.
So, if you’re planning to create the ultimate 7-day itinerary in Alaska road tripping the Kenai Peninsula, consider visiting in the summer if you prefer to do more wildlife viewing or in the winter if you want to participate in winter sports such as snowshoeing and dog sledding.
How to get around Alaska?
Did you know that the state of Alaska is actually one-third of the size of the continental U.S.? Its massive size can make it challenging to get around, especially if you plan on visiting multiple regions of the state.
The best way to get around central Alaska (and most of Alaska, for that matter) is to rent a vehicle (click here to check out the rates).
Alaska is home to primarily rural towns with only a few major cities offering reliable transportation options.
The Alaska Railway, for example, offers a wonderful experience through the mountainous landscapes of the state, but it is also quite expensive and can fill up quickly.
A rental car will allow you to travel both on and off Alaska’s road systems (a 4×4 will be required in some regions) and will provide you with the freedom to move around at your own pace.
Suppose you do plan on visiting different regions (i.e., central vs. southeastern). In that case, you will likely need to book a flight (Juneau to Anchorage, for example) unless you have several days available for driving in Alaska upwards of 24 hours.
Due to Alaska’s great magnitude, flights are the fastest way to get between the most popular regions. So, by using a combination of flights and rental cars, you can be sure that you can cover most of the amazing things to do in the Kenai Peninsula, and your 7 days in Alaska will be time and cost-efficient!
Where is the Kenai Peninsula?
The Kenai Peninsula is located in Southcentral Alaska, just over 50 miles south of Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska.
It makes up a small piece of the state as a whole, but it is packed full of adventurous offerings and has earned its name as one of Alaska’s best places to visit.
If you’re thinking about traveling to Alaska but aren’t sure where to visit, consider taking an Alaska road trip to the Kenai Peninsula where you’ll be rewarded with exceptional scenery and endless activities for every type of traveler.
Is the Kenai Peninsula worth visiting?
In short, yes! The Kenai Peninsula is absolutely worth a visit, even if you are low on time. This small piece of Alaska is overflowing with beautiful scenery, endless wildlife, fast-moving glaciers, tranquil fjords, and hospitable people.
Also, since this peninsula, in particular, is smaller in comparison to others throughout Alaska, you’ll be able to get around more easily and pack a lot of fun activities into a short amount of time!
If you can stay longer, this is the perfect palace for a 7 day Alaska itinerary or as part of a 2 weeks trip.
Can you drive on the Kenai Peninsula?
Yes, in fact, the best way to get around the Kenai Peninsula is to drive. Looking at the Kenai Peninsula map, you will see two major roads that run across the peninsula. The Seward Highway runs from Anchorage to Seward, and the Sterling Highway runs from Cooper Landing all the way down to Homer.
Since the Alaska Railway typically takes twice the amount of time to get from point A to point B and is far more expensive than the average rental car daily rate, the best way to get around Kenai Peninsula is by car.
It is pretty easy to drive around Alaska if you are well-equipped with an up-to-date map and a general sense of direction. This makes a Kenai Peninsula road trip one of the most popular Alaska road trip itineraries you can choose!
And don’t forget to buy your travel insurance before traveling to Alaska; you need it. We use World Nomads and SafetyWings, check their policies and choose the one that suits your Alaskan adventure. For long-term travelers, here is an in-depth comparison between these two travel insurances.
The Ultimate Kenai Peninsula Itinerary
For your Kenai Peninsula itinerary, plan to arrive in Anchorage the day before your journey begins. Many flights arriving in Anchorage land in the late afternoon or evening, so you’ll want to plan for an easy evening in the city.
Pro Tip: Head to Fletcher’s Restaurant or the 49th State Brewing Company for dinner! Located in the center of the city, you’ll be near to hotels, and they offer great food and drink.
After a good night of sleep, you will be ready to kick off your Alaska itinerary, 7 days of unforgettable experiences, and a scenic road trip.
Alaska road trip day 1: Anchorage and Girdwood
Your journey begins as you make your way from Anchorage along the Seward Highway towards the next major town of Girdwood. Along the way, you’ll come across the breathtaking Turnagain Arm and Beluga Point, where it is possible to spot… you guessed it – beluga whales, bald eagles, grizzly bears, moose, and other species of wildlife.
The Seward Highway boasts some of the most spectacular sights and has been called one of the most beautiful highways in the United States! Enjoy spectacular views of endless glaciers, mountain peaks, and sparkling ocean scenery along the drive.
Pro Tip: Take advantage of the pull-off points along this scenic highway heading south to capture some incredible photos. When you drive north to Anchorage from the Kenai Peninsula, the pull-offs will be on the opposite side of the road and are harder to get to.
As you make your way down the Seward Highway, you’ll come across the Chugach State Park, which is home to dozens of scenic hiking trails of all difficulty levels.
Pop into one of the many scenic overlooks for the chance to spot a wild bald eagle perched on the top of a tree before continuing your way down towards Girdwood.
Once you’re in Girdwood, you’ll be greeted with large signs pointing in the direction of Alyeska Resort and Spa (a great luxury accommodation in Girdwood).
Continue 15 miles south, where you’ll find the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Home to several species of animals that were filmed in world-famous movies including Into the Wild, visitors can learn about the conservation efforts of local Alaskans and their duties to protect and release injured wildlife.
Witness wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, foxes, reindeer, elk, porcupines, and moose up close and learn about how they survive in the wild! The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center makes for an excellent half-day trip from Alyeska and is the perfect Kenai Peninsula itinerary add-on for those traveling with children.
After a day full of exploring the state park and observing Alaskan wildlife, head over to one of the dozens of ski chalets, log cabins, or family-style resorts offering modern amenities and cozy campfires.
Alaska road trip day 2: Seward
Just under 2 hours from Alyeska, this charming fishing town is well-known throughout the state and is one of the most popular stops on any Kenai Peninsula itinerary.
Located on the stunning Resurrection Bay, the mountains meet the sea in this epic landscape. Visitors can take pleasure in outstanding wildlife spotting (especially bald eagles, whales, and sea otters), freshly caught seafood, and some of the most beautiful backdrops in the state.
Start your day with a boat tour through the Kenai Fjords – the tour leaves at exactly 8:00 am (there is also an 11:30 am option) in the summer mornings for a 7-hour cruise through the fjords in search of marine mammals and the breathtaking Aialik Glacier.
During these day cruises, you’ll get the chance to witness Dall’s porpoises, humpback, and migratory orca whales, stellar sea lions, sea otters, horned and tufted puffins, and seals in their natural habitat.
Watch closely as massive chunks of the glacier break off and crash into the ocean below due to its receding nature before returning to Seward Harbor in the mid-afternoon.
Though the boat serves a small lunch, I suggest picking up some fresh oysters and a hot plate of seafood pasta at Ray’s Waterfront Restaurant.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve satisfied your appetite, take a right out of the restaurant and head down the J-Dock – this is where the fishermen throw their filleted catch, so you can often find sea otters munching on mussels and fish carcasses!
The docks of Seward Harbor are buzzing with marine wildlife (whales have even been spotted very close to the shore). Spend an hour or so walking between the docks and looking at the catch the local fishermen have brought in from their day out at sea.
From the docks, make your way through the port and down to the southern tip of Seward town (about 1.3 miles; 25 minutes of walking or 5 minutes of driving). Here, you’ll find the Alaska SeaLife Center along with the sign marking the start of the Iditarod Trail!
There is also a small beach (known as Waterfront Park) home to stunning views of where the mountains meet the sea in this remote part of Alaska.
Pro Tip: Pick up a gelato at Sweet Darlings on 4th Ave and bring it down to the beach… This is where I spotted a mother humpback whale and her calf swimming through the bay.
Also, if it happens to be a rainy day in Seward, be sure to come back to Waterfront Park and keep an eye out for the clouds to clear… you’ll occasionally be rewarded with rainbows as beautiful as this one!
Other possible activities for your time in Seward include charter fishing trips, infinite numbers of hiking trails, and kayaking.
Alaska road trip day 3: Kenai Fjords National Park
On day 3, enjoy a hearty breakfast before driving 11 miles inland to the beginning of the Exit Glacier Trailhead. With plenty of free parking available at the end of Exit Glacier Rd., visitors can appreciate endless opportunities for short or long hikes through the marked Alaskan wilderness.
Pro Tip: To reduce the risk of a bear attack, always make noise while hiking (talking and bear bells work well), carry bear spray, and carry as little food as possible with you. In the event you come across a bear, be sure to speak firmly and calmly while walking as far out of their way as possible.
The trails within the Kenai Fjords National Park are very well marked and heavily trafficked in the summertime, so it will be difficult to get lost as long as you stick to the trail.
The Exit Glacier Overlook Trail is a short 2.2-mile loop trail offering exceptional glacier view for those looking for a less-strenuous viewing method than the Harding Icefield hike. It’s popular among couples and families, and it takes about an hour to complete.
For those looking for a full-day adventure hike, the Harding Icefield should be included in your Kenai Peninsula itinerary!
It offers wonderful panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountain ranges and the opportunity to hike along a mountain pass to the seemingly endless Harding Icefield. The route is quite difficult with a 9+ mile completion distance which takes between 6-9 hours depending on your pace. I found it to be one of my favorite hikes in Alaska, so I can personally say it will be well worth your efforts.
After you make your way down the mountain and freshen up, enjoy a delicious meal at The Cookery before turning in and hosting a roaring campfire at one of the many cabins located around the shores of Resurrection Bay.
Alaska road trip day 4: Soldotna and Lake Clark National Park
A 2.5-hour drive east of Seward along the Sterling Highway will bring you to the small city of Soldotna. Here, you’ll find a buzzing group of chain restaurants and stores, but the city is best known for its close proximity to the shores of Lake Clark National Park.
Soldotna is home to dozens of bush plane pilots with years of experience in landing on brown bear-infested beaches. While I’m sure many of them would make a great choice as a tour operator, I can personally vouch for Natron Air, Inc.
The husband and wife team, Tim and Janet, have been flying to the beaches of Cook Inlet for over 25 years and offer everything from bear viewing tours to fishing charters. Tim has years of experience in encountering wild brown bears and always ensures both your and the bear’s safety, so I can honestly say that you’ll be in for an adrenaline-pumping experience!
Along the journey, you’ll fly by two active volcanoes and find yourself surrounded by pure Alaskan beauty. Wildlife such as beavers, whales, bald eagles, wolves, moose, and brown bears are commonly spotted both from the plane and the beach making it the ultimate wildlife-spotting experience in Alaska!
In addition to Lake Clark adventures, Soldotna is also a common starting point for flights to the infamous Katmai National Park. Home to thousands of hungry grizzly bears and the renowned Brooks Falls, I can personally say this was truly the experience of our lifetime.
Pro Tip: If you want an opportunity to view grizzly bears in their natural habitat but are short on time, consider taking the Natron Air, Inc. tour to Cook Inlet. The trip lasts about 3 hours in total and is about half the price of going to Katmai National Park. A visit to Brooks Falls will also require a minimum of 12 hours of travel time, and spots can fill up 1-2 years in advance, so you’ll need to plan your travels accordingly if you plan to participate.
Alaska road trip day 5: Homer
From the city of Soldotna, a 1.5-hour drive will bring you to the fishing town of Homer. Globally recognized as the halibut fishing capital of the world, there’s no doubt that fishing charters here are plentiful and it is one of the best destinations to include on any Alaska itinerary.
Take your pick of one of the dozens of local charters and try your hand at fishing for salmon, halibut, rockfish, and other trophy-sized fish. Want to ship your catch home?
Most people do! Luckily for you, several companies offer vacuum-seal freezing and shipping right from the docks. They’ll clean and filet your fish, seal it uptight, and it’ll be delivered right to your doorstep following your return home!
If you aren’t particularly fond of fishing, don’t despair. Homer is perched on the shores of the stunning Kachemak Bay and is home to a charming seaside town bustling with shops and great restaurants.
Visitors can also enjoy sunbathing, kayaking, boating, shopping, and even some shorter coastline hikes. No matter how you decide to spend your day in Homer, be sure to head to the docks around dinner time to witness the enormous catch that the local fishermen bring in!
Alaska road trip day 6: Homer and Cooper Landing
If you choose to participate in a fishing charter on your first day in Homer, opt to spend some time in the morning strolling through town and photographing the beautiful scenery surrounding the Homer Spit. With a large population of bald eagles in the area, the Homer Spit is extremely popular on Southcentral Alaska road trips.
Following some time wandering the quaint streets of Homer, it’ll be time to hop in the car and head up to Cooper Landing a little over 2 hours north along the Sterling Highway.
Recognized for its numerous crystal clear lakes and waterfalls, Cooper Landing is a nature lover’s paradise!
Spend some time kayaking or fishing on Kenai Lake before choosing from the plethora of hiking trails dotting the area.
Pro Tip: Be sure to make noise, as grizzly bears are commonly spotted along the shores of these lakes during the summers and can become territorial, especially if they have cubs or are looking for food. If you are catching fish, have a cooler ready to reduce the scent and be ready to cut your fishing line in the event that a bear wants your fish!
Choose from the numerous lakeside cabins in the area to rest your feet for the evening, or continue your drive north to either Hope or Whittier for a change of scenery.
Alaska road trip day 7: Return to Anchorage
After a week packed full of exciting adventures, it will be time to return to Anchorage for your return flight home.
Most flights depart Anchorage in the evening or very early morning hours, so opt for one last Alaskan seafood dinner before beginning your journey home.
What to do if you have more than 7 days in Alaska?
If you happen to have more than one week for exploring, opt to continue your Alaska road trip north past the city of Anchorage! The two places I have mentioned below make for exceptional add-ons to your Kenai Peninsula Alaska itinerary.
You could also choose to take part in one of the two bear viewing tours (Lake Clark National Park or Katmai National Park) that were mentioned if you didn’t have time during your first week.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that these tours also leave out of Anchorage, so you won’t need to drive all the way back to Soldotna or Homer to participate. You may just need to research some other companies that offer Anchorage departures.
After leaving the city of Anchorage, you’ll head north on the Denali Highway where you’ll come across signs for a little town called Talkeetna about 2 hours into the drive.
The town is home to only about 1,000 people but continues to lure in travelers from around the world year after year.
With its convenient location along the Alaska Railway, visitors can access this town via personal vehicle or train, with the train being the more scenic of the two options. If trains are your thing, you should check the Alaska Railroad website.
Spend some time strolling through town and consider taking one of the available bush flights around Mount Denali!
Nearby, you can also find a short trail hike to where the Talkeetna and Susitna Rivers merge in a fast-flowing current underneath a beautiful suspension bridge.
Talkeetna may be small, but it’s packed full of quirky shops, good food, and the most hospitable locals.
Visit Denali National Park & Preserve
Continue your journey from Talkeetna along the Denali Park Road for about 3 more hours to the world-renowned Denali National Park and Peserve, located in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the US.
Home to thousands of species of animals, visitors can spot everything from golden eagles, grizzly bears, and wolves, to caribou, elk, moose, and everything in between. You’ll also be surrounded by some of the largest mountains in the contiguous U.S., with Mount Denali peaking at 20,310 feet (6,190 meters).
Since personal vehicles are only allowed to drive up to Mile 14 of the park, consider taking a camper or shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66.
This will provide you with increased chances of spotting rarer wildlife species and panoramic views of one of the last truly wild places on Earth!
Pro Tip: Hiking in Denali is popular among experienced hikers, but animal education is the key to a safe trek. Understand how to act with each animal you cross before departing on your hike to avoid any unwanted wildlife altercations. You’ll also want to be wary of altitude sickness (also known as Acute Mountain Sickness) – headaches, nausea, and dizziness are common symptoms of ascending too quickly. If this occurs, you’ll want to ensure that you begin your descent down the mountain immediately to avoid more severe symptoms.
We opted to hop on the Eielson Visitor Center bus with our bicycles and ride them out of the park from Mile 44 (the prime mile for spotting wildlife). If this sounds like something you would like to do, book your tickets in advance here and select one of the few bicycle spots they have available.
If you prefer to join a tour, here are a few options offered by GetYourGuide:
Where to stay on the Kenai Peninsula
When it comes to choosing your accommodations in Alaska, the sky is the limit. Airbnb’s are scattered across every nook and cranny of the peninsula, while high-end hotels and resorts are few and far between.
As for cabins, you can find everything from rustic walls with only the bare necessities to deluxe, family-style lodges with full baths and fire pits!
Along our travels, we’ve stayed in all of the above. So, depending on your preferences, these are the best places to stay on the Kenai Peninsula itinerary.
– Alyeska Resort and Spa in Girdwood
You’ll find the beautiful Alyeska Resort and Spa along the Seward Highway just past the infamous Turnagain Arm. This grand resort is lavish in every way and famous for its top-notch ski trails, private cable car, mountaintop restaurant, and luxurious amenities.
During our stay, we spotted a black bear right from our window! This resort provides the perfect combination of comfort and nature and is one of the best places to stay on the Kenai Peninsula for those seeking modern accommodation.
– Abode Well Cabins in Seward
Also known as the Ididaride Cabins, world-class dog musher Mitch Seavey (winner of three Iditarod Races and holder of the Iditarod Speed Record) and his family of championship mushers run this small group of modern cabins under 10 minutes from the town of Seward.
They provide the perfect escape from the busy downtown with their tucked-away location in the woods off Herman Leirer Rd. Fully furnished with a small kitchen, full bathroom, and comfortable queen bed, this is one of my favorite places to include on my Kenai Peninsula itineraries!
– Cusack’s on the Kenai in Kenai
A family-run lodge on the banks of the Kenai River home to incredible fishing and lovely rooms to suit your every need. This all-inclusive lodge offers everything from fishing and horseback riding excursions to home-cooked meals around a stone fire pit.
– Kenai Peninsula Suites in Homer
Perched on the cliffs overlooking Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Peninsula Suites are a small slice of Alaskan heaven. With only 5 cabins in total, guests can enjoy peaceful getaways to the tip of the Kenai Peninsula where they’ll be surrounded by wildlife in the halibut fishing capital of the world.
Guests can also enjoy a private hot tub, a large fire pit, and unequaled 360-degree panoramic views right from the property.
For more tips about finding and booking the perfect stay in Alaska or anywhere in the world, read this Accommodation Guide.
What to eat in Central Alaska
If you have ever watched any TV shows or movies or read any books on Alaska, you’ll know that they take their food quite seriously. In a land as wild as the Last Frontier, the locals prepare to survive year-round in a hostile environment.
Luckily for the modern traveler, however, incredible food is readily available in all areas across the Kenai Peninsula.
Owing to its entrapment by the Gulf of Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula is home to some of the best seafood in not only the U.S., but the world!
Various types of salmon, including the King Salmon (also known as Chinook), the Coho Salmon, the Sockeye Salmon, and other species, as well as giant oysters, halibut, rockfish, cod, mussels, Alaskan king crab, shrimp, scallops, and other fish species run amuck in these bountiful waters.
During your central Alaska road trip, I highly suggest trying at least one of the seafood varieties mentioned above. Even if seafood isn’t your typical food of choice, the seafood caught in Alaskan waters is ultra-fresh and free of added hormones – it’s truly some of the best seafood in the world!
On the Kenai Peninsula, you can also find elk (it’s especially good in meatballs), reindeer, and locally grown fruits (especially berries) and vegetables.
Alaska is also no foreigner to good beer and spirits, with dozens of breweries lining the Denali, Sterling, and Seward Highways. Between each of these breweries is a local coffee shack serving up strong-brewed espresso drinks and delicious coffees.
Additionally, be sure to buy a bottle of local fireweed honey and Alaskan birch syrup for your tea and pancakes back home!
How many days should you stay in Southcentral Alaska?
When planning your central Alaska road trip, it can be hard to decide how many days you should spend on the Kenai Peninsula.
Between the wildlife and the scenery as well as the infinite amount of activities, I suggest spending at least one week on the Kenai Peninsula! A 7 day Alaska itinerary is perfect.
This will give you enough time to take a renowned Kenai Fjords Boat Tour, go fishing in the halibut fishing capital of the world in Homer, and possibly even hop on a bush plane over to nearby Lake Clark National Park where you’ll have the chance to walk along the beaches scattered with wild grizzly bears!
With so much to see and do in this beautiful Alaska region, I highly suggest ensuring you have at least one week for a road trip on the Kenai Peninsula.
Creating the ultimate Alaska road trip itinerary can be overwhelming and daunting to say the least. But, by starting with a classic Kenai Peninsula visit, you can be sure you’ll witness some of the best sights and activities that the 49th state has to offer!
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Author: Emily Cuneo
Avid traveler, adventure-seeker, passionate animal lover… but, you can call me Emily! I’m the author behind the stories at Emily Embarks. In 2015, I got a taste for international travel and I’ve been jetting abroad ever since. Since then, I quit my 9-5 job and made it my ultimate goal to become a digital nomad who inspires people to get out of their comfort zones and never say “no” to new adventures. To join me on my journey, follow me on Instagram or Facebook!