There are many beautiful drives near Anchorage, but the Seward Highway has to be one of the most stunning as it winds alongside the waters of Turnagain Arm off the Cook Inlet. The Seward Highway is a National Scenic Byway connecting Anchorage and Seward and the perfect way to spend a day if you want to squeeze a variety of unique Alaska experiences into a day trip from Anchorage.
From Anchorage you should hit the open road early, grab a coffee at one of the many coffee huts Anchorage is famous for, and head down the Seward Highway (AK-1) South. The entire drive from Anchorage to Seward is two and a half hours so for a quick day trip a good option is to take your time driving to the Portage area about one hour south of Anchorage and enjoy some of these stops along the way before you turn around and head back to Anchorage.
Potter Marsh: Mile 115.6
This wildlife refuge is just south of Anchorage and worth a quick stop to take in the views of the marsh and your first look at Turnagain Arm – the inlet that you’ll be driving along as you continue down the highway. From the boardwalks at the marsh you can see many different birds and depending on the season may even find some salmon swimming in the streams below you!
Beluga Point: Mile 110.5
As you continue down the highway past Potter Marsh and start to round the bend to really get into Turnagain Arm you’ll come across Beluga Point, named after the whales that can often be spotted from this point in July and August. It’s worth a photo stop anytime though to take in the views. Be sure to also turn around and look at the mountain behind you to see if there are any Dall Sheep climbing around!
You’ll pass a lot of scenic viewpoints along the way with room to pullover and snap a photo. Seward Highway is a moderately windy two-lane road so the last thing you want to be is distracted trying to take a photo and drive. Focus on the road and take advantage of these opportunities to safely pull over and take it all in. Keep an eye out for eagles in the trees and along the edge of Turnagain Arm.
Girdwood: Mile 90
The town of Girdwood has enough activities to have a trip of it’s own, but if you’re passing through a fun stop is at the Girdwood Bake Shop for their famous sweet rolls (cinnamon rolls) and to check out the unbelievable flowers they have out front in the summer.
If you’re taking advantage of that Midnight Sun giving you extra daylight hours to squeeze a hike in you can try Lower Winner Creek Trail (http://www.alaska.org/detail/winner-creek-trail) from the Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood. It’s a fun and easy 3-mile forest hike that includes wooden bridges, some seasonal berry picking opportunities, and ends at a hand tram across a gorge! Yes, you get to pull yourself across a gorge in a tram using a rope.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: Mile 79
Once you’re back on the road from Girdwood head on towards the Alaska Wildlife Center. On the way you may notice there are a lot of dead trees sticking out of the ground in this area. These ghost forests are remnants from the 1964 earthquake that dropped the land here up to 12 feet in some areas exposing the trees to saltwater that both killed and preserved them.
Chances are you may have already seen some Alaska wildlife on your drive today, but in case you’d like to have some guaranteed wildlife viewing the conservation center offers exceptional opportunities to see moose, bears, caribou, and many other Alaskan animals up-close. The center shelters animals that were injured or orphaned and works to restore native wildlife populations by reintroducing Elk and Wood Bison into the Alaska wild.
Portage Glacier: Mile 78
It’s not a trip to Alaska without visiting a glacier! At Portage Junction at Mile 78 head towards Portage Lake and take a short boat road to see Portage Glacier. They can sometimes accommodate walk-up bookings but it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss out (http://www.portageglaciercruises.com/).
Delphia McCarty is the owner of McCarty Creative Strategies and brings 10 years experience in marketing and digital media for tourism, with an emphasis on Alaska Tourism. She is also the National Manager of Exclusive Benefits for Millennials in Travel. To learn more about Alaska and Delphia's services, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.